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How to Give Your Child or Teen Choices

Updated on May 31, 2013
Give your child choices at a very young age.
Give your child choices at a very young age. | Source

Children learn by experience. When we give them opportunities to make choices, they are learning to make decisions. By making these early choices (decisions) children learn to deal with expected and unexpected consequences. Some experiences are good; others are not so good. So, children begin the process learning to make choices by trial and error.

At the point that you can communicate well with your child through gestures and talking you can give your child choices. Start with little choices. As your child grows, the choices they make will also grow and increase in both importance and magnitude of consequences. When you child is grown you will want him or her to be prepared to make all sorts of decisions for themselves. So, start these lessons early by offering choices.

How to Give Your Child a Choice

Rules for Giving Choices to Children

Giving choices to children is as easy as you make it. As a parent what you don't want is a power struggle. The easiest way to avoid a power struggle and also give your child some control of his own situation is to offer two choices. The key is that both choices should be choices that you can live with. What that means is when your child makes his choice you know in advance that you are ok with the outcome.

Basic rules for giving choices to children:

  • parents provide the choices;
  • make the choice between two options that you can live with; and
  • the child takes responsibility for the choice and any consequences.

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Giving Choices to Toddlers and Young Children

Toddlers are learning so many new things every day. Their little minds are always racing with the possibilities of what they will do next, how will it feel, can I taste it, etc.... These 2-4 year old children are also beginning to understand that they have a voice and can both agree and disagree. Getting in the high chair can be a struggle. Going to bed at night and clothing can be challenges.

To bring some peace to your household, help your child begin to make choices. Offer choices like:

  • Do you want to go to bed now or after a story?
  • Which vegetable do you want today? Carrots or corn?
  • Do you want to wear a sweatshirt or a jacket?
  • Would you like a sandwich or macaroni for lunch?

The beauty of these simple choices is that you can live with any selection your child may make. And that takes so much stress away from the situation.

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Teens can do very well with choices.  Offer choices that you can live with no matter what the choice.Teens are older children and still need guidance and support from parents.
Teens can do very well with choices.  Offer choices that you can live with no matter what the choice.
Teens can do very well with choices. Offer choices that you can live with no matter what the choice. | Source
Teens are older children and still need guidance and support from parents.
Teens are older children and still need guidance and support from parents. | Source

Giving Choices to Teens

Teens are definitely on their way to adulthood, and they have some great ways of letting us know it! They are so ready to be independent and own their own. They fully believe they can make decisions and take care of themselves. But, as good parents we know that our teens are older children who continue to need our guidance and support.

Offer choices to teens like:

  • Are you coming home from the party by 11 or shall I pick you up at that time?
  • Which would you rather do tonight? Play video games or use the internet?
  • Will you do your homework tonight or in the morning before school?

Parent with Love and Logic

My husband and I married in 2000 and brought together his 3 children and my 2. We were newlyweds with 5 children; the 3 oldest in their teens. One of the best things we did for ourselves was attend a Love and Logic Parenting Class.

The class was an eye opener. We learned so much about how we were reacting to anything the kids were dishing out. We learned to give them choices that we could live with and to allow some things (like staying up late on school nights) to provide their own natural consequences. Our stress level decreased so much once we learned to communicate with our children in a way that allowed them to grow, gave them some control, and allowed us to be comfortable no matter what choice they made.

The class was a 6 week series and met once weekly. When it was over, I made sure to pick up the Love and Logic books to have on our shelf. At the time our children were 19, 17, 13, 12, and 8. Because of the support we had from this great class and the books as reference material our blended family was able to form a strong, healthy bond.

If you have not had the opportunity to read Parenting with Love and Logic, I strongly recommend it. It can transform the relationship you have with your children!


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    • kansasyarn profile image

      Teresa Sanderson 4 years ago from Rural Midwest

      Sue Bailey, I totally agree. Too many choices can be so confusing for children. Kids also tend to start coming up with their own options when given too many choices. Best to keep it simple. :-)

    • Sue Bailey profile image

      Susan Bailey 4 years ago from South Yorkshire, UK

      I sometimes have to remind my daughter not to give her little one's too many choices. I personally think two choices is enough for a three year old. I don't think you can give them a list as she sometimes does