act of choosing makes all of us, children included, feel powerful
and in control of our lives. This is particularly true for your child.
It's important for her self-esteem and for her development that she
learn to make decisions in situations where she has some control and
to learn to accept those situations where there is no choice.
NO CHOICE SITUATIONS
There are situations where your child has absolutely no say in the
decision-making process. These include all of those related to health
and safety. "You must wear a snowsuit and boots outside on a
snowy day because, if you don't, you may get sick "You may not
play with that knife because you could cut yourself."
There are many times when your child will have no choice about coming
or going. "We have to stay home this weekend." This is non-negotiable;
but you can soften the blow by adding, "But, I want you to choose
a game for the whole family to play on Saturday," or "We
will bake a cake together and you can choose the flavor."
There are also times when you are just too rushed or feel too pressured
to take time to discuss choices. Be firm and be sure to state a reason
for your choice. "I know you wanted to go to the zoo today, but
we're going to the playground instead. I promised Billy's mom we would
meet them there this morning." Then change the subject. It's
pointless to go on and on with explanations and excuses when you know
that you won’t change your decision. Your child should begin
to realize that she cannot have input into every situation.
Be sure to explain the reasons for your decision. This introduces
your child to an important thinking skill--cause and effect. Often
young children act and react without thinking about the results of
their actions. It is so important that you help your child think about
each result. Just saying, "Because I said so" may be a convenient
excuse, but all you are really teaching your child is that "might
makes right." She will sense the difference when you fail to
give an understandable excuse.
You can introduce your child to the skill of decision-making by offering
her choices from a limited number of possibilities. Often, you will
have to guide her in making the best choice. It may mean helping her
try out various activities before she finds the one that is most enjoyable
or the one that works best. Always encourage your child to tell you
why she made the choice she did. "I'll go on the swing now because
I want to feel like a bird flying."
Everyday is full of opportunities for your child to make choices as
long as you set limits--toys to play with, books to read, breakfast
cereals, afternoon snacks, clothing, weekend excursions, rainy day
projects, holiday decorations to make. "We can go to the zoo
or on a picnic, but it is such a lovely day that we are going outside."
If you find your child taking forever to make up her mind about a
decision, you can help her make a decision. "You may choose carrot
sticks or raisins to put in the picnic basket, or I will choose one
for you." Children are sometimes relieved NOT to have to make
When your child is feeling comfortable with the idea of limited choices,
you can introduce the idea of having an unlimited choice. This is
not as freewheeling as it sounds, and again, it provides practice
in important thinking skills for your child. You can tell your child
to choose any color blouse she wants to wear or draw anything on a
blank piece of paper or pick up any leaves that have fallen to the
ground in your yard. Some children enjoy the feeling of power and
control that comes with these unlimited choices; others may feel uncomfortable
without some direction from you. Know your child and, if necessary,
work up to this slowly..