As parents, we make the majority of decisions for our young children. We decide what to eat, where to eat, when to eat, and even how to eat. We dictate which night is bath night.
We are the enforcers of bedtime. We manage their schedule, plan activities, and control when the TV is on and what to watch. With this amount of parental micro managing, it comes as no surprise that our young children start to challenge our stranglehold of control and power.
And you know what? We come by it honestly. Right from day one, we are expected to keep this little human happy and healthy. We hold the key to their life. Then what seems like in the blink of an eye they are two years old, demanding control of every minuscule detail of their life. And as a first time dad, this has been a challenge. I mean, I’ve been dressing her, feeding her, changing her, carrying her, bathing her for the past two years and she thinks that she can do a better job? Pfft!
But alas, at some point we need to let them lose and let them make their own choices. So what is a controlling parent to do?
Offer your young children choices. Then sit back, watch, and be amazed.
Instead of commanding, give options:
- Would you like the red cup, or the green cup?
- Would you like to wear your puppy or kitty pajamas?
- Do you want an apple or an orange?
Instead of forcing your child to follow routines in your predetermined order, give choices:
- Should we have snack first or bath?
- Which should we brush first, teeth or hair?
- Would you like to sleep with your doll or teddy?
Giving kids choices has several benefits:
Giving kids choices helps prevent power struggles. The ability to choose is a natural human need. Quench their thirst for control and watch the power struggles fade.
- The ability to make choices is what gives our children a sense of purpose. They are no longer helpless babies. They are functioning human beings that are fully capable of making their own choice. With a little parental guidance of course…
- Giving kids choices encourages cooperation. Which is what we are trying to get in the first place, am I right?
- Finally, and maybe most importantly, empowering our kids with choices gives them more independence. It teaches them the relationship between their decisions and outcomes. And with more practice, their decision making skills will grow into a valuable lifelong lesson.
Now, that we are convinced that giving up control is a good thing (take a deep breath) here are a few guidelines:
- Limit options to two or three, especially for younger children. Giving your toddler or preschooler the choice between 10 different pairs of pants is going to cause more harm than good. Save your sanity, and only give a couple choices.
- Make sure the choices are age appropriate. Three year olds are great at picking out their own pajamas, and favorite color. Don’t expect them to choose the next family vacation.
- Give specific choices that you are comfortable with. If you don’t feel like cooking spaghetti for dinner, don’t offer the choice.
- Don’t forget to add the words ‘you choose’. “Would you like to play with blocks, or your color while daddy is cooking? You choose.” This will make it next to impossible for the power hungry toddler to pass up!
What choices do you let your toddler decide? Was it a success or did it backfire?
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