Giving Children Choices - a Tip from our Nurturing Parent Program

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Offering choices is a great way to help children improve self-esteem, enhance listening skills, feel heard and reduce power struggles.

The key is to offer limited choices (two usually works best) where you are okay with whatever they pick.

Below are some examples of things children are asked/told to do that can easily turn into a battle when they feel forced to do them. When parents introduce choices children are much more likely to comply.

  • Getting dressed: “It’s time to get dressed—do you want to wear your red dress with the flowers, or your blue dress with the polka dots?” “Would you like to get dressed by yourself or would you like me to help you?”

  • Taking a bath: “It’s time for your bath. Which toys would you like to bring in with you, the duck or the boat?” “Would you like to take your bath with music playing or singing by ourselves?”

  • Meal/Snack time: “It’s time to eat—do you want to sit by mommy or by your brother?” “Would you like a banana or a cheese stick?”

  • Going to bed: “It’s time for bed would you like to pick out the story or would you like daddy to pick it?” “Should we walk like robots to your room or waddle like penguins?”

  • Saying goodbye to a friend or family member: “It’s time to go now, how do you want to say goodbye?” (High five, fist bump, verbal goodbye, hug, kiss.) This one will require talking with your child beforehand to narrow down what they are comfortable with.

Give choices as much as possible while staying clear and consistent on what the available choices are. When children have choices they feel more in control and are more likely to listen. If your child refuses to make a choice, calmly warn them that you will have to make the choice for them and then follow through. Gently move forward looking for the next opportunity to offer another choice to your child.

We know parenting is hard – especially during these difficult times – and we are here to help. If you have specific questions, need some extra support, or just want to talk things through, please contact us through our new form and someone from the Nurturing Parenting Program will reach out!

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