Parenting Tips and How To Give Choices
Parenting Tips and ending the power struggle once and for all!
Do you often give your kids choices as a way to foster their independence and problem solving skills? Or maybe you’ve been operating on the other end of the spectrum setting all of the rules, expectations and making all the choices because well, it is you, the parent, who is in charge. The good news is that whether you give choices or make all of them yourself you are already on the right track.
When it comes to offering choices – finding a middle ground that works for you and your family is the option that will yield the best results. To end the power struggle be sure to stay clear of permissive parenting. Giving your kids all of the choices and control will not warrant a positive and respectful parent-child relationship. On the other end of the spectrum is authoritarian/disciplinarian which is essentially ordering them around 24/7.
The key is to find the middle ground of offering enough choices, while simultaneously keeping the important ones for yourself. Being too permissive instills a sense of entitlement in our kids. It is also crucial to understand, that from the developmental perspective, your children make choices based on their needs only. The prefrontal cortex of the brain is where reasoning and rationalizing occur. All children, and yes, even teenagers, have brains that are not yet fully developed. In plain terms this means they think of themselves first.
Parenting Tips and Where Is The Middle Ground?
Start with offering choices for things that don’t matter. The simplest way to empower your children by offering them choices is to offer those choices when the outcome has no bearing on you, the family or anyone else.
Here are some examples of what kind of choices to give:
Do you want to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt?
Would you like to take a bath or a shower?
Do you want to play with this puzzle or color?
Be careful not to offer choices that alter the course of the day in a way that doesn’t work for you. Let’s say it’s a beautiful day and you’d like to have your children play outside. You might offer a choice such as this: Do you want to kick the ball around in the backyard or go for a bike ride? Both are activities but what the activity requires from you as the parent might be different. Depending on the age of your children do you have to go outside with them for the bike ride, go along with them, or even take them somewhere appropriate for bike riding? You want to ask yourself if having one option over the other has an effect on you and if that matters. Before offering the choice, consider your wants and needs. Do you also want to move around and be outside? Connect with your children by kicking the ball around. Would this activity be more inclusive for everyone if you have children of different ages? Or maybe your kids are older and they can safely ride around the neighborhood on their own for a while, leaving you to do something for yourself or tackle a chore.
The point is that before you offer a choice to them you need to first evaluate if the options matter to you in any way. This choice could be an acceptable one as long as you are happy with either outcome. These parenting tips are very useful.
Parenting Tips and Danger Zones To Watch Out For
- Numbers Matter
The number of choices you give matters. Only offer 2 verbal options for younger children. If the options are visual you could consider increasing the number to 3 or more. Use their response to determine what number works for them. If you offer 4 and they seem to get stuck and are unable to choose, then 4 is too many. Older kids can handle more verbal options. However there is a benefit to keeping it simple and only offering a few vs. an unnecessarily endless list.
- How you offer matters
You now know how to evaluate what kind of choices to offer next is to be certain you aren’t setting yourself up to fail. Here is a seemingly harmless but dangerous way to include them in the decision making process:
What do you want for breakfast?
Let’s think of some activities you want to do this evening?
What game would you like to play?
When do you want to take a bath?
These seem harmless but if you’ve asked these questions before you might be nodding your head as you recall how poorly the outcome transpired. While your kids do need to make the choice to feel empowered, they also need structure. They need to know that you are the one ultimately in charge. And sometimes that means they embarrassingly share their dismay that you’re not going out for ice cream at 730pm on a school night.
- Considering Alternatives
What if you offer two choices like in the examples above and your child makes a third suggestion? How you respond will depend on a number of factors including the age of the child/children and if that third option is a viable one for you. First make sure that you verbally acknowledge that they’ve offered an alternative idea. Even if the idea is ridiculous, do respond with language depicting that you are considering it. For example, “Ok, so you’re saying you’d like for the cat to take a bath with you?” I do see how that could be fun…” Consider it verbally with them before offering the rational reason why it’s not an option on the table. Then go back to your original options.
If their recommendation is a viable one still go through the motions of “considering it” before automatically responding with a yes. Confirm that you are part of the decision making process – “Hmmm, I do see how that could also work. Yes, I agree that is a good option as well.”
This last step of exaggerating that you are considering the other options is often a hard one to master. It requires that you play along for a moment. Maybe you’re in a hurry and you really don’t want to spend 30 extra seconds playing along. But those 30 extra seconds could save you from 30 minutes of a meltdown. Children do need some power and control, but you as the parent get to be the one guiding it. If your child is overly argumentative, or says and does the opposite of everything you want them to do – chances are they are lacking in the area of feeling their own power. End this power struggle by introducing choices slowly. They might resist at first, but as long as you stay consistent they will consider it.
Parenting Tips and Seeking Professional Help
At High Expectations Counseling we are here to help support and guide you through these tough times. Parenting is one of the hardest jobs you will ever perform. Don’t fall into blame or guilt if you are struggling. Call us today at 407-867-1327 and speak with a therapist of your choices. Meet the team and get a free 15 minute phone consultation today.