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  • Teacher Stacey

So Many Choices..... So..... ALL the time!

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

If you are working with young children, have young children, spend any time at all with young children, giving them choices can be revolutionary.

Here's why: children LOVE control. When we give them choices, they think they have been given THE control. "Do you want milk in the blue cup or the green cup Aiden?" Aiden doesn't focus on the drink or that you haven't let him decide what he's drinking. All his attention is encompassed on the fact that you have given him the all important choice of drum roll please..... CUP COLOR!!!!

Because if we take a minute to put on our toddler light-up Paw Patrol shoes with Aiden and really think about it, children do not have much control in their little lives. We tend to tell them when they eat, what they eat, how much of it they have to eat (two more bites!), and what foods are appropriate at what times of day. We tell them where we are going and at what time we are leaving and what they need to wear. My point being: they have very little control over their very little lives so when we can give them even the tiniest snippets of control (read: choices!) they get thrilled. I've seen it over and over again.

I remember my own daughter was about 3 years old when she asked me for ice-cream for breakfast. And while in that moment that seemed like a ridiculous amount of sugar to start the day off with, I didn't want to dismiss her immediately either. So here are where the choices come in. One option was to give her a more acceptable breakfast choice like cereal and let her choose what color bowl she has it in. A choice that simple for a toddler can make all the difference. Another option (and the one that I took) is to make a smoothie and allow her to choose what fruits go in the smoothie. With frozen fruits and creamy yogurt, a smoothie is so similar to ice-cream that we all win! And of course I gave it to her with a spoon! So here she is thinking she has control and me knowing I truly won!

The younger the child the easier the choice can be like the examples I stated above. Color of pajamas, apple or banana for snack, Goodnight Moon or Brown Bear as your bedtime book, sparkly shoes or flip flops, you get the point. And do as many of these as you can. I know it seems time consuming, but trust me, you are actually SaViNg TiMe! In the long run you are picking your battles and allowing for less meltdowns with allowing them to have more control.

Once you get into the habit, giving choices will become second nature. So start handing out those choices like candy on Halloween!

Dr. Becky Bailey in her book Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline has a whole chapter on choices entitled Choices: Building Self-Esteem and Willpower. One quote from that chapter is this, "Giving two positive choices allows your child to comply with your wishes while also giving him the last word." Like I mentioned above: Everyone wins.

Don't miss that key word "positive." If you ask a child, Do you want carrot sticks or a cupcake for snack?" don't be surprised when no living, breathing child will go for the carrots. We must make sure we are giving two choices in which we are equally OK with both of the outcomes. And we also must follow through with the outcomes. It is not acceptable to say, "clean up your room right now or I will never buy you another toy again EVER!" Because that is just not something that is going to be possible.

Give the choices.

Be OK with either choice.

Follow through.

Watch the child revel in their power and control.

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