Parenting Basics: The Power of Choice

Parenting Basics Series (#1)
Geoffrey M. Gluckman, MSc

The Power of Choice

Does your young child resist following your daily directions?
Perhaps he or she does not listen to you at all?
Is it a daily struggle to get cooperation from your child in the morning preparing for school or for other simple requests?

Some parents will tell you that these are normal child behaviors and partly that is true. However, it is important to remember the power of choice.

For instance, when it is time to select clothes for the day for your child, lay out two (only two) outfits and ask your child to choose which one he/she wants to wear.

Why is this important? Because it empowers your child with a sense of control. Often that is the reason he/she fights with you during the day. This type of choice is not imporant to you, but the experience of getting to choose for a child is powerful.
The result: less battles throughout the day over decisions that are important.

When offering choices to a young child, they should be limited to two: option A or option B. That applies to choice on clothes to wear or what to eat for a snack, or other choices.
The reason: most young children have not yet fully developed logic or reasoning parts of the brain, so an excess of options causes confusion (overwhelm).

Any sense of overwhelm may trigger an alarm response (crying), or a shut down response (often refusal), which creates an uncooperative situation.

The most dangerous question to ask a child: why?
This is an open-ended question, and one that is oriented to higher level brain (cortex) functioning, which most young children have not yet fully developed. Again, the potential for the child to feel overwhelmed is possible.

The power of choice technique is a powerful tool for the parent to gain a child’s cooperation, as well as a means to produce improved behavior with your young child.

Give it a try and see if it produces the results you want.

Please realize that this technique will not resolve all issues with lack of cooperation, poor behavior, or not following directions. Often there are underlying neurological development deficiencies that may impede a child’s normal growth, behavior, development, and learning.

Best wishes to all families. (English)