What Do You Fancy: 4 Ways to Effectively Give Your Child Choices with Limits

What Do You Fancy: 4 Ways to Effectively Give Your Child Choices with Limits

Rules Of Parenting - # - Young Girl Eating ChocolateEverybody likes variety, options, and choices. It is easy for parents to assume complete control over their children’s choices. However, while you are rightfully in control, it is essential to offer your child a sense of control over some things. Children who are regularly presented with choice are better equipped to make decisions in their childhood, and more importantly, in their adulthood. Here is how you can effectively present your child with choices:

1.    Limit the Options to Allow for Easy Decision Making

It is best to offer your child two choices just to make the process of decision making more meaningful to her. Whether you are dealing with a toddler, a tween or a teenager, giving too many options can prove to be overwhelming and the responses you get from your child may not be what you are expecting. It would be better to say “Sara, would you like to go to the beach or to watch a movie?” instead of saying , “Sara, choose between watching a movie, going to the beach, visiting your friends, going shopping or going for a drive.” The first option allows your child to feel in control of her weekend and not overwhelmed by a range of equally enticing choices.

2.    Give Choices That will be Acceptable to You

Focus on bringing out a positive outcome with each choice that you present your child with.  It is unwise to offer your child a choice that you are very likely to discount; your child will feel as though his choices do not matter to you or that he really does not have any control over the things he wants. For example, when you say, “Drew, do you want to play or to eat?” You are readying the ground for a conflict. What if Drew says he wants to play even though it is dinnertime and he needs to eat at this time? Will that be an acceptable choice for you? Most parents would rather that their child eats at dinnertime instead of play video games.

3.    Offer Non-threatening Choices

Essentially, choices present us with ‘either-or’ situations. But, some ‘either-or’ choices can feel threatening, forcing the child to become defensive or to fail to make a choice. “Go clean your room or switch off that TV”, is a threatening choice that may only elicit a negative response from your child. If you want your child to clean up his room, you may present him with a choice such as, “Clean up your room and you can play your video game for an extra hour” or clean up your room and you can bring your friends over to play with you.” Such a choice is not only non-threatening but it also offers your child and incentive to do something. Of course, it is not advisable to always reward your child to do something he should do. Nevertheless, sometimes, to elicit cooperation, an incentive might be necessary.

4.    Place a Limit on The Possible Choices

By offering your child options, you are allowing him to learn how to make clear decisions. As such, it is important to place limits on what he can choose. A good way to place limits is to make the choices you present less open-ended. An example of an open-ended choice statement is “Choose what you want to do this weekend.” The possibilities are endless. Your child might want to hike a far away mountain, visit her cousins out of state, or do nothing with her family and instead hang out with her pals. Her responses may not be feasible or acceptable to you, leading to irritation and perhaps conflict. In the end, you might have to impose a weekend activity that seems reasonable to you, with no real choice offered to your child.