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Parenting Tip of the Week - Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Posted by Amanda Jacobs on

Parenting Tip of the Week - Decisions

So many decisions, so little time! Should you be letting your little one make decisions and is it really that important? Actually yes. Decision-making is a much used skill that is needed throughout their lives. It's not just about what toppings they want on their pizza. It's about teaching their brains how to process decisions and how to make hard choices. So, today's parenting tip is about giving your child choices, but not just any choices. The right choices!

Parenting Tip - Select Your Choices Wisely

The question often asked is, "how many choices?" Of course the answer is, well, it depends (helpful, I know :))


The number and scope of choices will depend on your child's age, the appropriateness of the activity and your child's temperament. Too many choices can overwhelm a child as well as cause a big headache for the parent!

The point of giving your child the ability to decide certain things for themselves is to increase their self-confidence, and not to diminish it. So, with younger kids especially, the number of options should be limited.

Asking open-ended questions (with limitless possibilities), can lead to unexpected replies! So when offering them a choice, make sure that they don't feel overwhelmed by the decision they are faced with making. You also don't want to be put in the position of having to deny their request (because when you asked them what they wanted to do today, they asked to go to the moon, when you were thinking more along the lines of the park).

Giving young children the freedom to make a few small decisions for themselves on a regular basis will help them to develop a sense of autonomy and self-control. It's important that children feel independent (relatively-speaking) and are seen as individuals in their own right. 

Parenting Tips
Try framing your question so that you are limiting their choices, making it easier for them to reach a decision and still feel in control. So instead of asking them what they'd like in their sandwich (and run the risk of them choosing something you don’t have/don’t have time to make/don't want them to eat), narrow down their options: “Do you want a ham or turkey sandwich?" The answer is relatively unimportant to you (assuming you don't really mind which they choose) but it's significant for them. 

To recap, it's important at this age, to remember to only give choices that you can agree to. It still gives them the feeling that they are in control and emboldens them to think and make a decision, without causing you too much drama.

 

Types of questions include:

Do you want to wear the blue shirt or the green one?


Would you like to take your bike or scooter to the park today? 


Which three books do you want to choose for us to read today?

 

Parenting Tips

At this age, they're still very "me-centric" and can be quite strong-willed and impulsive. So offer them choices you think they can handle and that make them think. It'll be great practice for other occasions when they have to make decisions on their own (like whether to take turns on the slide or to just bust their way through the line).


Types of questions include:


Teddy is too big to sleep on the bed, where do you think he should sleep?


What small toys do you think we should take on the car trip?


Dinner won't be ready for a little while, how about you go choose a snack from the fruit bowl.

 

Parenting Tips

For a slightly older child, you might want to widen your selection of choices and start to offer open choices but still limited in scope. Giving them well-understood, defined choices is a very important part of their development but also helps them learn about the consequences of their choice.

Types of questions include:


"It's raining out, why don't you put on your rain boots in case you want jump in the puddles at the park" - here they are needing to make a conscious, well-informed decision about whether they want to be able to jump in the puddles or whether they'd rather wear their favorite shoes. 


"Let's tie the ballon to your wrist or it might blow away" - here there's a direct consequence to their decision - they are either guaranteed come home with the balloon, or run the risk that it'll be donated to the sky when they accidentally let it go. 


“Please choose a long-sleeved dress and sweater to go to the park”

 
Giving children the ability to make decisions for themselves is a huge developmental skill and helps them feel respected and that their contribution to the family and society matters. There is enough that is dictated in their daily life, especially when young, that a few choices go a long way in helping kids gain the confidence they need to make more important decisions later in life.

To view last week's previous parenting tip, click here.


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