With Mother’s Day just around the corner, it’s hard not to dream of that one day a year when you can take a break and your family takes care of you. You may be looking forward to being served a special meal or going out to your favorite place with well behaved, cooperative children. Are you thinking…not likely? Here’s the secret: Children are more cooperative and willing to do things for others when they feel they have some control over their own life.How does that happen? Offer choices! A great tool, offering choices makes children more agreeable and accommodating so you can have those family outings and special times without a lot of whining, fussiness, or acting up. Make sure you’ve given your children lots of little choices throughout the day so they feel powerful.
When kids feel powerless, you might see some of this behavior:
- Doing the opposite of what you ask.
- “Can’t remember” what you just told them to do.
- Suddenly lose their hearing when you ask them to listen.
- Rude or disrespectful behavior.
- Giving orders to pets and/or siblings.
When children are offered choices it makes for a happier moment. Who doesn’t enjoy the power of making a decision for themselves?
Here are six tips on how to offer effective choices that result in a more obliging and agreeable child.
- Choose moments when life is calm. When everyone is happy (not tired or hungry), consider asking the following questions of your children:
- “Would you like to play a game or go outside?”
- “Would you like to hear this song or that one (in the car)?”
- “Would you like to brush your teeth with the pink or blue toothbrush?”
- “Would you like a drink from the kitchen sink or the bathroom sink?”
- Limit choices to two options—either of which you are indifferent. Don’t blow your chances at compromise by offering a choice that you don’t want them to take; in fact, the less desirable option may be the one they choose and then you will kick yourself! Some examples include:
- “Are you going to wear your brown or your pink shirt?”
- “Will you pick up your toys now or in five minutes?”
- “Would you like a salad or peas as your veggie tonight?”
- “Would you like me to read this story or that one?”
- “Are you going to put your pajamas on first or wash your face first?”
- “Are going to take out the garbage now or after dinner?”
- If your child is indecisive and doesn’t choose within 10 seconds or less, you choose for him/her.
- When your child learns that a quick decision gives them the power to make a choice, you’ll avoid having to wait forever for them to make a decision. For example, you say, “Would you like a chocolate or vanilla scoop?” Your child hems and haws while other people are anxiously waiting to place their order. You then say, “Oh, you didn’t decide quickly so Mommy gets to choose–you are having chocolate!” If your child argues, you offer empathy: “Oh this is so sad. Maybe next time you will decide more quickly.” Or you go Brain Dead: “I love you too much to argue. I’m sure next time you make the choice before I have to.”
- Never use threats or offer a choice with sarcasm or anger.
- Choices delivered in this manner are not really choices. Instead, when your child makes a decision, encourage them by saying, “Good decision.”
- Offer choices before your child misbehaves….not after.
- If you offer a choice after a child is fussy, you have trained them that fussiness gets results. This is not the message you want to send.
- When tempers flair or things go awry, it is time for you to make a choice.
- First, calmly say, “Haven’t I given you lots of choices today?” Then mention some choices that you offered during the day with regard to clothes, food choices, playtime, chores, etc. Finish up with, “Now it is my turn to make a choice. Thanks so much for understanding.”
Try these six tips and enjoy the results. I think you will see greater cooperation and happier kids. And a happier Mom too. Happy Mother’s Day!
Janada Clark, MA teaches Love and Logic at Stanford, and public and private schools. Her parent education classes are a well-respected resource for parents. Class information is listed on her website www.janadaclark. com.