boulder Hiking

Your child is at the precipice of a tantrum and you have a great tool at your disposal: give them a choice.

Many parents are aware of the benefits of offering your child choices, but not everyone is sure how to do it, or has all of the tools to have it go smoothly.  

A young child is learning independence and they need to have a say in their life.  So your job is to offer a choice.  But there is a very wrong way to offer a choice:

“Do you want to clean up your mess?”  “NOOOO!”

Or a better way to offer a choice:

“Would you like to use a rag or a dustbuster to clean up your mess?”

“No you!!”

“Rag or dustbuster?”


How to Offer Choices

The basics of offering choices is that you offer two options within what the child is allowed to do. 

So, for instance, if a child wants to play next to a dangerous river (where they are not allowed) you can offer the choice to climb on the rocks, or to dig for worms.  This will give the child a sense of independence and responsibility while taking away the need for a power struggle.

This technique works especially well with situations that often are difficult.  If it is time to leave the house, and your child is dawdling, you can ask them if they want to wear their shoes or their boots (instead of yelling, “Hurry Up! Let’s Go!”). 

If it is time to go to bed, you can ask them if they want Mom or Dad to read a story.  Or you can ask them which stuffed animal they want to take to bed with them.

It isn’t the choice of whether or not they get to leave the house or whether or not they get to go to bed, it is how all that is done.  

Once a child starts to learn to make decisions for themselves, there will be fewer power struggles.  A person (or child) who has a sense of control over their lives will feel more secure and have better self-esteem.