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Giving Choices - The Simple Way to Improve Behavior

Children do not have much control over their daily lives, and it can be frustrating for little ones trying to gain some independence. Luckily, there is an easy solution to this problem, and it is one that will help with overall behavior as well: Offer choices to your children instead of always telling them what to do and when to do it.

A powerful parenting tool

Giving your child more choices throughout the day can be a very powerful tool to gain cooperation and limit struggles. It is simple, quick and can be applied to children of all ages. It may take a bit to get used to the idea, but once you establish the habit of offering your child simple choices, they will continue to respond positively.

When/how to offer choices

Take both your child’s age and your own intent into consideration. Be sure to offer choices where you will be happy with whichever option your child chooses!

Here are a few examples of choices:

“Do you want the blue cup or the red one?”

“Would you like to wear your jacket or a sweater?”

“What do you want to do first: brush your teeth or put your pajamas on?”

“Would you like to run to the door or hop like a kangaroo?”

“Do you want a snack while you do your homework now, or after you’re done your homework?”

“Do you want to watch 10 more minutes of TV, or have 10 extra minutes for story-time?”

“Do you want to put gas in the car, or do a couple loads of laundry for me?”

In each of these situations, your child is still doing the desired behavior they might just have control over the timing, order or particulars of a situation. It might not seem like a lot to you, but it is a big deal to a two-year-old and can similarly be applied to a teenager.

Common problems

Sometimes you may run into issues when your child wants to make up his own choice rather than selecting one of your choices. For example, “Do you want to put on your pajamas first or brush your teeth first?” Then your son answers, “I want to play with my cars.” Your response back can simply be, “That wasn’t one of the choices. Pajamas first or brushing teeth first?” If your child still won’t choose, then you can calmly state, “Would you like to choose or shall I choose for you?” Your child may still refuse to choose so it is time for you to follow through, calmly let him know of your choice and help lead your child to that activity. You can remind him, “Remember, I gave you a choice. Next time you can choose which one you want to do first.”

Your child will become more familiar with this process as you stay consistent. It may seem like an added battle when you first introduce the concept, but once they get accustomed to it, children often enjoy having choices within boundaries. This consistency and gentle form of parenting brings peace to the family environment.

Elizabeth is a mother of four, and author of the bestselling No-Cry Solution series on topics such as sleep, discipline, picky eating and potty training. She is known worldwide as the voice of practical, respectful parenting. For more information, visit her website, These tips are from The No-Cry Discipline Solution by Elizabeth Pantley.

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