Broccoli or beans? Snow White or Bambi? Dance class or art class? Let your child decide. Giving children the freedom to make small choices today is probably the best way to prepare them for the world tomorrow.
In our society, this is a phenomenon that is rarely exercised. As children, we were told by our parents what to do and what not to do. They in turn followed their parents’ instructions. But times have changed! And with the changing times our parenting techniques should change as well.
We want our children to grow up to be responsible adults who make smart choices in life. We want them to know the difference between right and wrong. But, if they have always been dependent on us to make any choices in life, then how can we suddenly expect them to become independent?
External influences are plenty. The pressure of smoking, drinking, doing drugs and bunking classes all come with teen life. Without being groomed to make the right choices, when the time comes to make unsupervised decisions, children usually give in to peer pressure or end up making the wrong choices.
Did you know you can actually even avoid the angry outbursts of the ‘terror teen’ years…just by encouraging your children to learn smart decision taking early on in life! For example, let your toddler pour his/her own glass of juice. Don’t reprimand him/her for spilling the juice if they do. Gently suggest that maybe next time they could figure out a better way of doing the same task or ask for your help. Either ways a choice exists and knowing that he/she has a say makes a world of difference!
When you give your child choices, it is not a carte blanche to let your children do as they please. As a parent you should monitor those choices for them. This way, with your guidance, they will learn what is right or wrong for themselves.
You will soon see, that encouraging your children to decide for themselves, instills confidence and a sense of responsibility in children which stays with them forever. Let them make mistakes early on – let them make the wrong choices. When they make the choice they have to take the onus of the consequences as well. As adults they will be equipped enough to make the right choices tomorrow when it comes to important issues.
Children should know that when it comes to certain issues they have no choice. For example, ‘Don’t play with fire’, ‘Don’t talk to strangers’, ‘Eat your veggies’ or ‘Bed time is 8:00pm’ are things that children don’t have a say in. As a parent you definitely know better! Letting them choose what pyjamas they want to wear to bed when they stick to their bed time is permissible.
Having choices means having control – turn your frustrated or angry child to someone responsible and motivated. Tomorrow, when they are away from you, they won’t feel helpless and at a loss not knowing what decision to take or what choices to make.