The Power of Choice

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Would you like your kids to cooperate easily, effortlessly and without shouting?

Would you like to stop the daily battles?

Would you like to teach your kids valuable life skills while developing their independence?

If the answer is “yes” then read on !

I have just written an article for National Family Week’s Fun Magazine and it got me thinking about what we continually say to our children – “ Get dressed” “Eat your vegetables” “Wash your hands” “Tidy your room” “Pick your shoes up” “Don’t touch that” “Turn off the TV” “Do your homework”

The list goes on and on and on…….

But I believe we can get our kids to cooperate quite easily in the types of choices that we offer them.

By offering a limited choice kids feel in control of themselves, independent and more autonomous and they learn self discipline and good decision making skills.

Giving a choice is a very powerful tool in your parenting toolkit and it can be used to great effect from toddler to teen. It’s one of the key skills I think all parents should have up their sleeve as you can use this simple tool all day, every day and many times a day!

Giving children choices is a very effective way to enlist their cooperation because children just love having the privilege of choice as it takes the pressure out of your request and allows your child to feel in control so it makes them more willing to comply and obey you.

Using choice is an effective way to achieve the results you are actually looking for and if you get into the habit of always offering limited choices you are giving your children a great life skill.

As children learn to make simple choices from – milk or juice? blue or green tee-shirt? two pairs of earrings or a necklace? to study or to fail? beer or lemonade? save or spend ? – they get the mindset and practice they will need in life to make decisions for themselves easily and confidently.

Giving children limited choices allows them to listen to their inner voice, trust their own judgement and to trust their intuition. Leaders in life from Barack Obama to CEO’s of Industry make decisions quickly and easily. So by allowing your children to practise over small things they will find making bigger decisions easier later on in life.

It’s also important to offer choices that are based on your child’s age and maturity. A toddler can have two choices, a school aged children three or maybe four and a teenager can have a more general guideline but still have a limited choice chosen by you.

The secret is to offer choices that you are happy whatever option your child chooses – you are not giving away your power just opening up some limited possibilities.

So be clear in what you think is acceptable in the first place!

It’s not about plaintively pleading with your child and negotiating about when it’s time to leave their friends house, or put on their shoes,  or come home at an hour that they decide. It’s about limited choices chosen by you.

It’s also about using this little technique

“Do you want to run up to bed or hop like bunny?”

“Do you want to do your homework before or after your tea?”

“Do you want to stop at the petrol station or give me the money to fill your tank?”

“Do you want to put your pyjamas on before or after you brush your teeth?”

“What do you want to do first empty the dishwasher or empty the bin?”

This little technique implies that there is no choice unconsciously as you still expect them to go to bed, do their homework, get petrol, brush their teeth, and empty the dishwasher!

A typical problem I find with parents that I coach who are new to this technique is for example….

“Sean, do you want to put on your pyjamas before or after you brush your teeth?”

“I want to watch TV”

To which you just relax, breath slowly and mean business in a nice, but firm way and say…

“That’s not one of the choices – do you want to put on your pyjamas before or after you brush your teeth?”

If Sean still won’t make up his own mind or is testing you out just say,

“Oh I can see that you want me to choose for you…..”

Stay calm, be clear in what you want to happen and lead him, or carry him, or dance him up to bed…….!!!!

You must always follow through on what you want to happen and in time your child will start to enjoy their sense of choice, autonomy and independence.

A mum from Spain I have recently coached over the telephone has told me this little technique has dramatically transformed her household with her kids ranging from 2, 7 and 14 and she even found herself saying to her hubby….

“Do you want to cut the grass before or after you’ve read a story to Sophie and George?” !

 So have fun exploring this little technique and if you’d like to discover more strategies , techniques and tips take a look at my CDs and ideas books.

Let me know how you get on …..and feel free to pass this blog on to other mums and dads who may find my daily blogs helpful.

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About the author

Sue Atkins is a Parenting Expert who offers practical guidance for bringing up happy, confident, well behaved children. She is also the author of “Raising Happy Children for Dummies” one in the  famous black and yellow series published worldwide and the highly acclaimed Parenting Made Easy CDs. She regularly appears on BBC Breakfast and The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 and her parenting articles are published all over the world.

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Sue Atkins the Parenting Expert
T: + 44 1342 833355   M: 07740 622769

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