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The Power of Choice

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Written By Gracie Revland
May 18, 2021

The power of choice was listed in the “rules” of parenting, but I felt like there is so much more to explain it. I briefly explained why using this method is beneficial for parents (asking what specific shoes they wanted to put on, rather than telling), but I wanted to discuss why and how that strategy works.

kid on sidewalk in rain boots

The biggest thing to consider when it comes to choice is age.

If you have tried giving your toddler choices, and it didn’t help, it is probably because you gave too many or too big a choice for their age. In my example, I suggested using two choices; this is typically ideal for a toddler because it gives them that power without overwhelming them. Your choices need to be specific and direct.

See, toddlers are the absolute most confusing humans in the world. Though they strive for power, they also need stability and security, which comes from you. You accomplish that by providing specific choices. The power is that they get to make a choice themselves. The stability and security come from easy choice options they can confidently choose independently. The complexity and number of choices will increase with age. So start with 2-3 choices and this number will grow alongside your child as they become more confident in themselves.

kid in bunk bed with rain boots

What else does the power of choice do besides help your child get dressed?

By allowing your child to make choices, you teach them how to be confident. When you accept their choice, it says, “I value and trust your opinion,” and to a tiny human that is constantly looking up to a big human (you), that is huge. Think of yourself in an important business meeting, and the CEO stops and looks at you and asks what you think; what would that do to you? Build your confidence? Exactly.

Choice with young children can go so much further than avoiding tantrums and getting things done, so don’t stop there. Asking your child to choose everyday decisions can also help with their responsibility and creativity.

How to use choices to aid in creativity

Example: You are drawing with your kid, and they say, “I don’t know what to draw.” If you tell them “draw the family,” what that does is tell them they need to seek help to have a creative idea. Instead, give them a few ideas along with prompts that help them understand they are capable of choosing for themselves, “well, you love dinosaurs, and princesses, and cupcakes, do any of those things seem fun to draw?” Even something this simple requires them to use higher-level thinking skills. This teaches them how to make connections and become confident about their creative choices.

How to use choices to aid in responsibility

Part of teaching choices is also teaching that choices come with different outcomes. Giving your child a few choices that affect their day (and sticking to that choice!!!) can help them when it comes to making decisions.

Example: Not long ago, my daughter got these bright yellow rain boots she fell in love with. She started to get very opinionated about her outfits, so I knew these would be a struggle. Of course, on a hot and humid summer day she wants to wear them. I knew that telling her “no” would be a huge fight. Instead, I explained that the boots and socks would be hot in the summer and are still a little too big for her, so they wouldn’t be good to run in. Then I gave her another choice. I explained the better shoe option and why. Then I let her make a choice. Sure enough, she chose the rain boots, and sure enough, she threw a fit at the park because they were too hot and she couldn’t run. Though this whole event was dramatic, and we left the park early, it taught her that her choices have outcomes, and sometimes we don’t like those outcomes. By discussing her choice after she calmed down, I helped her understand that even though we didn’t like the outcome of the choice, we can learn from it (and stop her from asking to wear those boots when it wasn’t raining, thank goodness.)

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Gracie Revland

Hi! I’m Gracie Revland •

One of the two mamas who created Supporting Chaos. It's hard to put into words how excited we are to grow this community of support! So all I can say is thank you so much for being here...