Giving kids choices is a helpful parenting strategy, but if you’re struggling with making it work for your child, it may be because you’re missing one of the hard-and-fast rules for really making this strategy successful.
Check out my video below and read the blog for these quick tips for giving your child choices.
1. Give your child reasons for your directions
Have you ever had a boss tell you to do something without an explanation? Ever have the experience of asking him or her “Why?” and your boss said “Because I said so”? How did that make you feel?
Yes, you would think your child should know why you’re are asking him to do certain things. Still, you wouldn’t believe how helpful it is to explain yourself. Trust me, the rate of compliance will increase!
Example of an effective explanation: “I need you take out a shower because keeping clean and taking care of our bodies is important.” This is sooo much more effective than “Get in the shower!” or the shaming statement “Take a shower, you stink!”
2. Put parameters on giving choices, no free-range parenting!
Remember: YOU are the authority. YOU get to set the limits. If you need your child inside the house within 20 minutes because it’s getting dark, don’t offer him the choice to stay out later than that. Tell him he has a choice of 10 minutes more or 20 minutes more. He’ll say 20, which is just fine, because it meets your parameters of what you want.
Similarly, if you need your child to eat his vegetables you won’t offer cotton candy as one of the choices. You would offer him two different kinds of vegetables (see Rule #3 for more creative ways of offering choices.)
3. Get creative with your choices
So say you need your kid to eat his vegetables but it feels like a battle to the death at the nightly dinner table just to get that accomplished? What are some ways you could give your kid a choice, but still stick to the rule of “eat your vegetables”?
Try one these:
“Would you rather have carrots or lettuce? Italian or caesar dressing? Chopped or grated? Do you want to put them on your plate or do you want me to pick them out?”
Get creative! The more ways you find to give your child choices, the more you are giving your child a sense of control. And the more ways he gets to feel control of himself, instead of you controlling him, the better!
4. Follow up with one reminder–that’s it!
If what you are asking for is not done after one reminder it’s time to offer your assistance AND follow up with a consequence. Why just one reminder? Because if you remind your child four or five times, he is going to learn that he has four or five times before you start getting frustrated and he finally has to comply. Teach your child how you want to be treated!
5. Praise, praise, praise your child
Your child does not like putting in hard work (which at this point in his life any direction you give him is hard work) and not even get a “thank you” out of it. And you wouldn’t either. Do your child one better, and give him specific praise that will help acknowledge the work he’s put in and reinforce that he’ll likely do it again.
Bottom line: If all this seems overwhelming don’t panic! Parenting is hard. The work that you’ve been putting in to making your child an intelligent and well-rounded human being is taking effect. Your child, especially in the school age and teen years, will try to outsmart you and won’t make it easy on you. But please, take this as a strength that all your efforts are paying off. Giving your child rules and guidelines won’t damage them. In fact, it will strengthen them and make your life easier.
If you want more information on giving your child choices check out this blog post.
If you’ve noticed that you’ve tried these strategies and your child is still not listening to you and it’s creating tension in the home, please reach out for help. Don’t hesitate to give me a call at 909-232-2935 or click the red button below to schedule a free consultation.
Jenmarie Eadie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. She received her Master’s in Social Work from Arizona State with a dual concentration in Children, Youth, and Families; and Behavioral Health. Her proudest accomplishment is following her dream of opening up a practice that is designed to focus on the whole family. She currently serves families in Southern California.