You Have a Choice

Written by Christy Whitman September 29, 2011

As parents, it is so important to teach our children, regardless of what age they are, that they have choices in everything they do. My husband and I have always used this language with our boys since they were newborns. We always tell them that they have a choice in every moment and then we lay out what their choices are.

When our oldest son Alex was just a year old, he would fuss about eating his food. I told him, “Listen. You have a choice. You can kick and scream and cry about eating and make it a horrible experience for all of us, OR you can eat and enjoy your food and have a nice time with Mommy.” I was amazed. He stopped carrying on, started to eat, and put a big smile on his face.

This tactic is so effective, and it helps your children know that they have the power to choose. It makes them feel powerful and in control. Even if there is something that they have to do and they don’t want to do it, such as taking a bath, you can say to them, “You need to take a bath. Do you want to take one now or after dinner?”

When Alex was 2 years and a few months old, I was tucking him into bed and when I walked out of the room, he started screaming and crying. This was unusual because he is great about going to sleep right away. I walked into his room and rubbed his back, calmed him down, and told him to have a good night’s sleep. As I started to walk out of the room, he started screaming again. I walked back into his room and told him, “Listen. You have a choice. I am going to walk out of the room. You can either scream and cry and carry on, OR you can put your head on your pillow and go to sleep. The choice is yours. You decide.” Just then he put his head on his pillow, smiled at me, and closed his eyes. I never heard a peep out of him again that night.

Even if you have older children, giving them choices empowers them. You can always lay out what their choices are in any given situation. Let them decide and let them know that there are always consequences to their decisions.

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