Parenting Tips: When to Give Kids Choices

describe the image As early childhood educators, we are often asked for tips- how to get kids ready, in the car, to brush their teeth- just the ordinary day-to-day stuff that can lead to meltdowns.  Our most helpful answer is “choices”.  You hear a lot about the importance of giving children choices. And we agree. After all, letting them choose their clothes is fairly simple way to ready them for bigger choices later when you may not be around to help.  Don’t laugh; choosing appropriate clothing takes the ability to factor in a few data streams (parent wishes, weather, comfort, need to fit in vs. the need to be an individual) with very little danger if the wrong choice is made! That’s great preparation for choosing to get in the car with a friend, going to an activity or not.  Think about it. But the topic that you may not hear much about is it when to avoid choices.  Is it really a choice to get in the car seat or to go to school in the morning?  Then do not say “Are you ready to go to school?” or “Do you want to get in your car seat”.   Don’t ask your child if he wants to clean up unless you feel like doing so alone.  All of those choices leave the choice to say “No” and if you aren’t willing to roll with “no” then it’s time to rethink the choices you offer. Your typical day can be improved by getting into the habit of offering only REAL choices.   You aren’t really going to leave your crying toddler in the store if he doesn’t stop crying.  Sometimes you just have to be tough an either let him cry as you shop, or walk out until he calms (See- viable choices- even if they are not choices you may prefer)   If you are particular about outfits that match, then set out 2 that you approve of.  Then let your child choose between them.  When it’s time to go to school, just tell them it’s time to go.  Unless you love your dentist, tooth brushing isn’t optional, but which tooth brush, or what time brushing takes place can be. If the command isn’t optional, you can get higher compliance by doing a little countdown.  For example, you can say, “in 10 minutes we are leaving for school”. Then tell them at 5, 3 and 1 minute so there is no question about what’s happening next. Or you can offer choices around necessary actions.  There’s the tooth-brushing example above.    And trust logical consequences of some of their choices.  Being forced to be cold or miss outdoor time altogether because she refused a coat is a great lesson.  The weather is the bad guy and next time she’ll choose a jacket. We’ll talk about logical consequences and other things in later posts.  In the mean time feel free to stop by one of our centers to see this kind of behavior management in action.


Thomas Learning Centers provides NECPA accredited preschool and childcare at the most affordable rates in the Denver Metro Area.  Check us out at , click on the offers below, drop in for a visit to get to know more about us. We’d love to meet you!

Call  877-938-1442 for general info

Lakewood 303-237-0917 or Westminster 303-427-8831


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