How to Give Your Child Choices
It’s important for parents to give children age-appropriate choices, even at a very young age. This is true for a number of reasons:
- Making choices help children feel competent, which builds their self-esteem.
- Choices introduce children to responsibility.
- Choices help kids practice their problem-solving and decision-making skills.
- Later in life, children will face much more difficult choices with more serious consequences, so it’s good to start practicing these skills now.
If you’re unsure how to start giving your child choices, follow the guidelines below.
Don’t overwhelm your child by suddenly letting him make all kinds of choices, or by putting big decisions in his hands right away.
Kids do need structure and guidance from their parents, so it’s best to start small.
For younger kids, start by offering them simple choices with only two options: Do you want waffles or pancakes for breakfast? Do you want to wear your red shoes or your blue shoes? Should we do an art project or play outside?
Making these decisions will help your child feel responsible, capable, and confident, and it’ll provide great practice for later in life.
When you give your child choices, it’s important to be consistent in what you let your child decide.
For example, if you let your child choose what to wear one day, and won’t let him give any input the next day, he’s likely to be frustrated and confused. He may then behave stubbornly or try to argue with the outfit you’ve chosen.
For these reasons, try to practice consistency. Decide on a few decisions you’re willing to let your child make on a regular basis, and stick with them.
Acknowledge Your Child’s Choices
After your child makes a choice, it’s good to provide some acknowledgement or praise to reinforce the behavior.
The most effective praise is specific, so say something like, “Thank you for choosing pancakes for breakfast. They were delicious!”
Comments like these will make your child feel proud, capable, and responsible, which will have a major positive impact on his self-esteem. He’ll also realize that he likes taking responsibility and making decisions.
Even if your child is very young, start giving simple choices now to teach him responsibility and build his confidence.
Decisions a young child could handle include what to eat, what to wear, what toy or snack to buy, where to go on an outing, what movie to watch, what books to check out from the library, which toy to play with or activity to do, whether they want a nightlight or not, which present to purchase for a friend or relative, etc.
Remember to be consistent in what decisions you allow your child to make, and praise or thank him for his choices. You should see major benefits for his self-esteem and sense of responsibility.