Parenting - Giving Children Choices. Part I

Posted on: Tue, 07/20/2021 - 16:05
By: Richard Lange, Ph.D., LPC, LCSW


Image the daily life of a child.


"Elijah, you need to get up for school now.”

“Elijah, you need to brush your teeth now!”

“Elijah, stop yelling at your sister and get down here.”

“Elijah, do you have your bookbag?  Where is your homework?”

“Elijah, you need to hurry, or you will miss the bus."


When Elijah gets to school, it starts again.


"No running on the playground!”  

“Put your pencils away now.”

“No talking in the hallway."


From the time a child gets up to when they are ready for bed, children are being told what to do. So, it's no wonder some children will rebel against this. "Stop telling me what to do!"  "I know, I know!" and the famous "You’re not the boss of me!"

These outbursts are not meant to be rude; they are reactions to a life of being told what to do all the time.  While children still need directions (children cannot be left to make all their decisions, they are simply too young), there can be minor decisions children can make on their own, ones which give them the impression that they have some say in their lives and are not always being told what to do. 

In the next couple of articles, I will explore this topic in more depth, but to get us started, we can explore some straightforward choices that children can be given to help them feel that they have some say in their lives to feel more empowered.


Start by giving your children simple choices.

"It's time for bed. Do you want to wear your yellow pajamas or red ones?" 

"It's bath time. Do you want bubbles in the bath or not?" 

"It's time for homework. Do you to do it at the kitchen table or in your room?" 


Notice that these choices are simple, but more importantly, the parent is still in charge of the situation. Poor use of options would be "Do you want to go to bed or not?" That gives the child too much power.  Bedtime is not a choice.  Bedtime should be a regular set time (with some exceptions).  However, what pajamas they wear can be a choice.

Think about what simple things you can let your children choose. 


A shirt to go out and play: " "Do you want to wear the blue or yellow shirt." 

How to help around the house: "I need help. Do you want to sweep the floor or help me unpack these groceries?"


And schedules: "Do you want to do your homework right after school or wait until later?"


Check back soon for more parenting tips!