One of the best ways to empower children is by providing them with the ability to feel in control. That sense of control leads to fewer tantrums, more confidence, a sense of responsibility, problem-solving skills and it cultivates a sense of value. But it can be difficult to provide your child with choices all of the time, and parents often don't know where to start, especially when schedules are crazy.
Here are six go-to strategies to build choice into your child's daily routine, without sacrificing on your time:
1. Make the choices small.
Too many choices can be overwhelming for a little one so keeping choices small is key. Asking, "Would you like an apple or banana?" or "Do you want to put your shirt or pants on first?" can provide choices without taking too much time.
Two is typically the optimal number of choices for most kids. When we start to give kids more than two choices, we lose structure and kids become overwhelmed. Minimal choices provide children with a sense of control without bombarding their decision-making skills.
2. Build choices into your daily routine.
Schedule in choices throughout your routine to create a consistent sense of control for everyone. For example, the evenings can be the time to let your little one decide what vegetable they will eat for dinner, or every Sunday you can allow your child to choose between two restaurants for dinner. It is important that, even if routine changes, you acknowledge the change and, ideally, let your child choose whether to be a part of the change.
3. Offer "this or that" choices.
This or that choices are easy to build into almost any time of the day or situation. If your child is having trouble getting in the car, allow them the choice to sit behind the driver or passenger seat. If they can't decide on what shoes to wear and you need to get out the door, offer a blue sneaker or a red sneaker. Simple choices are an easy way to empower a child and avoid a potential tantrum.
4. Stick to their choice.
Sometimes your child is going to want to change their mind, but it is important to stick to their original choice. Being consistent with choices teaches responsibility, builds problem-solving skills and reinforces your child's value in the family. When you begin allowing kids to change the choices they make, it can break the structure and lose the benefits of offering them that power.
5. Give positive reinforcement.
Acknowledge that you recognize what a good choice your child made and how much you appreciate her helping to solve a problem. This will help to build your child's confidence and make her feel confident to make more difficult decisions in the future.
6. Provide only options you agree with.
This might be one of the most important things to remember. If you are not okay with an option, do not present it to your child. Following through on your child's decision is the key to success.
For example, when making your daily schedule, you can allow your child to choose between nearby playgrounds, but don't mention an option you want to avoid, such as a playground that is too far out.
There are many ways to empower your little one and giving a few small choices throughout the day is just one simple way to help raise strong, confident and capable little humans and avoid tantrums.