Who doesn’t want a well-rounded child who is happy, healthy, cooperative, compassionate and responsible? One key to achieving this goal is to build self-esteem. Giving your child opportunities to make decisions can help achieve this.
The Gift of Choices
Giving your child choices is a powerful way to teach him/her how to make decisions. Offer a few reasonable options that create decision-making opportunities for your child, while limiting the possibility of a power struggle.
Make sure the choices you present are positive, age-appropriate, and options that you find completely suitable. Retracting a choice after the child has made the decision is counter-productive.
Ultamatum vs. Decision
Decisions that reflect punishment for actions are not actually decisions. They are ultimatums.
For example, if Rebecca has decided to climb on the table, Mom might tell her to get off the table or go to her room. While it may sound like Rebecca has a choice, in reality, she does not. She either stays on the table or goes to her room. There are no positive options for her.
A positive, self-esteem-building approach would look differently. For example, Mom could say, “Rebecca, you can get down on this side of the table or that side of the table.” This gives Rebecca the ability to choose from two positive outcomes that the adult is hoping to achieve– for Rebecca to safely be on the ground and out of any danger of falling. Aside from being safe, Rebecca also feels good about making a successful choice.
A few years ago, a friend of mine and her two daughters came over to play with my grandson. They loved climbing in our Jeep and jumping out. When it was time to go, one little girl would not get out of the Jeep. I gave her the choice to jump out on the one side of the Jeep or jump out the back. She chose to jump out the side that was not a choice I had given her. As she ran to their van to leave, the mom looked at me and said, “See. I told you choices don’t work for her.”
However, while her daughter hadn’t chosen one of the options I had given her, it was still an appropriate choice and it achieved our ultimate goal which was for her to get out of the Jeep to go home.
When I explained this to her, the mom smiled and shook her head in agreement. As children grow older, we must let them have ownership of their choices to continue the practice for when they are off on their own without us to guide them.
By giving your child choices, your child will feel that you have faith in his or her decision-making skills. This process also gives your child a sense of power over his or her own life and trains your child for the big decisions that will come later in life.