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Giving Children Choices

There are times when children need to wear certain clothes, like when it’s cold, but you may be able to let them choose, say between a coat or a sweater, or between their red or blue overalls. Making even small decisions can give children a sense that they can be in control of some things. That way, they may not have to struggle so much about things they can’t control.

Asking a child, “What do you want to wear today?” is so open-ended that it may invite a child to make a choice that is clearly inappropriate and has to be overruled.

Instead, it may be more helpful to offer limited choices such as, “Would you like to wear your red sweater or your blue one, your brown pants or your green ones?” That way, a child is presented with realistic alternatives where there is no question of “right” or “wrong.” When parents help their children learn that there are such things as limited realistic choices, they’re also giving them an approach to choice-making that will be valuable throughout life.

Choices Give a Child Some Control
By avoiding situations with right-wrong decision making, parents can help their children learn to make choices with confidence and with the knowledge that although some choices will work out better than others, there will always be new ones to make.

But why not avoid all these problems by making our own, grown-up decisions for our children until they’re grown-up enough to make them for themselves? For some parents, that might seem the easier path to take. But a child is more likely to become a realistic and optimistic choice-making adult having grown through manageable choices offered by loving caregivers. We all have a deep-seated need to feel we have some control over what happens in our lives.

Produced by: Support from:
Fred Rogers Productions logo Corporation for Public Broadcasting logo Rite Aid Foundation “529 “Vroom”

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