Behold the Power Of Choice

As parents, we make most decisions for our young children. Learn how the power of choice can limit the behaviors and defiance and give 

Cherylyn Feierabend
3-minute read
Episode #81

This week’s guest writer is award-winning author Stacey Kaye. I am excited to share Stacey’s writing with you.

My kids and I have truly enjoyed her two books, Ready for the Day! A Tale of Teamwork and Toast, and Hardly Any Foot Dragging and Ready for Bed! A Tale of Cleaning Up Tucking In, and Hardly Any Complaining. You can find more information about Stacey and the wonderful information she’s sharing at parentsmartkidhappy.com. In this episode, she’s going to talk to us about the power of choice.

Ah … behold the power of choice.

Think about this: As parents, we make most decisions for our young children. We dictate when meals are served and often we pre-select the menu.  We manage their schedules, imposing specific social outings and extra curricular activities.  We determine when the TV is on and off and which programs are appropriate. We even force our own personal sense of style and fashion on our kids.

Would you dress like your mother? I rest my case.

As a result of all of our parental micro-managing, kids feel powerless. Can we blame them?  Being able to choose for ourselves is an innate human need. So, what is a controlling type-A mom or dad to do?

Offer your child choices … sit back … watch and be amazed.

Instead of commanding your child to get dressed, try:

  • Would you like to wear your red striped shirt or blue truck T-shirt?
  • Would you like to wear your dinosaur or fire engine underwear?
  • Would you like to brush your teeth first or your hair?

Instead of coercing your child to submit to your pre-planned bedtime routine, try:

  • Would you like to take your bath with or without bubbles?
  • Which would you like to wear, your stripey pajamas or your race car pajamas?  
  •  Would you like to sleep with your bunny or teddy?

Giving kids choices has several benefits.

  1. First, giving kids choices often helps prevent power struggles. The child who is presented with a choice will embrace the chance to choose and save defiance for the times you make demands.

  2. Giving kids choices defuses power struggles. When in the middle of a heated tantrum, try offering a choice and see if that takes the air out of the power struggle so you can get things done without a battle.

  3. Giving kids choices often results in cooperation, the very thing we are trying to gain in the first place. Ah ha!

  4. Giving kids the opportunity to choose makes them more independent, more skilled at making decisions, and more aware of the relationship between their decisions and outcomes; a lifelong lesson worth teaching now instead of later.

  5. Finally, and maybe most important, having choices makes kids feel good.

OK, so now that you are convinced that giving up a little control is worth it, here are the guidelines:

  • Limit options to two or three, especially for pre-schoolers. “Do you want cereal or toast?” works. “Do you want cereal, toast, waffles, yogurt or oatmeal?” makes you a short-order cook!

  • Make sure the choices are appropriate. Three-year-olds are capable of choosing pajamas but not their own bedtime.

  • Give specific choices. If you ask your child if she wants to clean up the playroom now or later, chances are later will never come.  And perhaps she’s feeling overwhelmed with the idea of cleaning the entire playroom. Try, “Would you like to clean up your dollies now or in 10 minutes?” And then be sure to set the timer.

  • Be sure the choices are acceptable to you. If you don’t want to make homemade pancakes for breakfast this morning, then don’t offer ‘em up.

  • When possible, add humor and add entertainment value.  “Would you like to fly like an airplane to the bath tub or giddy up like a horse?” Giddy up!  

  • Adding the phrase, “you choose,” makes the choice even more enticing to a power-hungry toddler!  “Would you like to play with your truck or your blocks while mommy is on the phone? You choose.”

Thank you, Stacey! I’ve been reading Stacey’s books with my kids and giving them fewer options. I was definitely giving my kids choices, but like Stacey mentioned, I was feeling like a short-order cook. Please be sure to visit Stacey’s website at parentsmartkidhappy.com. You can find the transcript of this episode at quickandirtytips.com/mightymommy.

If you’d like to request a topic for the Mighty Mommy you can email me directly at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com.

Happy girl image courtesy of Shutterstock

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.