If you are parenting a young child, you may find yourself always saying “no” to what your child wants or having to deal with more power struggles as your child starts to assert his independence. Spanking and using harsh discipline tactics have been increasingly researched to be not beneficial for a child’s development, and if used excessively, is correlated with lower self-esteem and poorer social skills.
One parenting tool that is often recommended is giving choices to a child, in order to create a win-win situation where he feels empowered and the choice made is one which you are agreeable with.
Let’s look at 6 strategies on how to give choices to your child!
#1 Give choices that you agree with
It is pointless to give a child a choice, for instance between finishing his food or going hungry, if you know that you will not be able to let your child go hungry. Should your child really choose to go hungry, likely in defiance as the choice would likely have first been given as he is not eating, you may then have to either go back on your word and force him to eat, or cater to his demands as you do not want him to be hungry. A better choice to give could be either to choose to eat half of the dishes prepared, or finish any one of them. This gives your child a real choice, to feel empowered and less likely to say no.
#2 Do not give complicated choices
Your child may get lost or disinterested if you start to explain the various “terms and conditions” of each choice; avoid getting into complicated situations whereby you start to go into “if you do this, then you get this”, and “if you get this, then you can do that”. Keep it simple, for instance, “do you want to go pee first or get dressed?” in order to get your child ready to leave home.
#3 Do not give unlimited choices
This is especially true when it comes to food; make it clear that the choices are limited, and not unlimited. When a child is not clear about boundaries, there is a higher tendency to use meal time to test your limits and start asking for one new food after another.
#4 Give real choices
The choice shouldn’t be “Eat your food or stand in the naughty corner!”; that is, one of the “choice” should not be a punishment. This is possibly worse than not giving the choice as the very phrasing of the choice (with a punishment) will elicit a negative response and more likely to create a defiant action.
#5 Give choices that motivate
Instead of choices that include punishment, give choices that are motivating; for instance, you can let your child know that if the toys are packed before you start to prepare dinner, you can play with him outdoors for a while. This gives your child the choice to stop procrastinating cleaning up in order to have more fun time with you.
If your child refuses to choose, you can follow-through by making a choice and then your child has to comply with the choice being made. This will let your child know that opting out of the choices and remaining defiant or disobedient is not an option.
How not to let choices lead to entitled children
With a higher income level and a growing middle class, more children these days do not experience living in an environment when resources are scarce. Even if you can afford it, it is helpful to remember that “passing on” the abundance to a young child is not helpful to his development. Therefore, choices should not be unlimited nor rewards built into a choice to bribe a child.
Here are 3 tips to raising assertive but not entitled children!
#1 Rewards that involve work
If you want to give your child a reward, you can take the opportunity to give a choice that involves a small reward versus a bigger reward that involves work on the part of your child. For instance, he may want a S$30 toy and you can then give him the choice of completing his homework promptly for the next week in order to get that toy, or he can have a S$3 toy.
#2 Choices that include delayed gratification
Instant gratification makes a child feel entitled; instead, children should be taught delayed gratification when appropriate. For instance, completing chores may earn your child some points and these points must be accumulated before they can be “redeemed”. Even when the child has earned enough points, it doesn’t mean that you have to rush out of the house to get the reward.
#3 Set a budget to teach making wise choices
A budget for buying non-necessities should be set; for instance, if your child is able to understand the concept of money, you should set a budget (from the budget he has for spending in a store for a young child, to a budget for the month that he can decide how to spend). If your child makes a poor choice, for instance purchase a magazine for the free gift which he soon found out is not fun, he should know that his budget has been used up or has reduced. Just because he cries over his poor choice, you shouldn’t relent and increase his budget.
Parenting is not easy and you will likely make some mistakes along the way. Do not beat yourself up if you have not handled a certain situation wisely, but instead, keep on learning and trying!