Children crave independence. And yet, they are lost without direction. Parents love to tell children what to do, but are driven to distraction when children don't listen. This is an age old problem, so what how can it be solved? Two simple words: LIMITED CHOICES!
Using limited choices with your child allows him or her the feeling of independence and the positive experience of getting to voice an opinion. If your child usually fights you in the morning about what to wear, give him/her a choice..."would you rather wear the green shirt or the red one?" Involving children in decision making can also help to encourage them to eat their vegetables. Ask your child which one to cook for dinner "would you rather have broccoli or peas tonight?". When he/she has the opportunity to make a choice, he/she will "own" the decision.
The limited choice strategy can even help solve disagreements. If your child wants to do something that you are not comfortable with, you can offer two other choices and distract him/her from the original goal and still allow them to feel as if they are able to determine the outcome. For example, if your child wants to attend a sleep over at a friend's house but you don't really know the family very well. You don't want your child to attend the party. You can explain that you don't feel comfortable with your child attending the party and were going to say no, but if they would like to go and get picked up at 10:00p.m. you would agree to that. By giving your child the choice to either miss the party or get picked up early, you are allowing your child to feel as if he/she determined the outcome, even though you ultimately set up the situation.
Choices can help convince your child to do something that they might not want to do. He/she may not like wearing a bike helmet, but convincing him/her to always wear one is easier if you allow your child to help pick out the helmet. Letting your child have "skin in the game" usually can smooth out most arguments.
This strategy has served me well through my many years of parenting. I am sure that it will do the same for you. Remember to offer your child limited choices to help them grow in confidence and independence.
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