Helping Children Learn To Make Responsible Choices
One day at the store, my five year old was helping out by getting yogurts off the shelf and into the shopping cart. As he removed two yogurts from the shelf, another two yogurts toppled down onto the lower shelf. Before I could even worry about the little mishap, my son re-stacked the yogurts back into place.
Later as we were settling down for the day I told him I really appreciated seeing him place the yogurts back on the shelf. “Of course I put them back” he said “I’m the one that knocked them down!”
That Was Responsibility in Action!
I know, it’s just two yogurts, not a huge deal, but the thing is, my five year old bounds with energy, he is often distracted and ever so curious, he gets into a bit of mischief now and again and yet he had taken responsibility for those toppled yogurts and didn’t even hesitate to make it right.
One of the goals of parenting in a positive and peaceful way is to raise children so that they are able to make good choices and feel responsible.
In a previous post I shared the importance of letting children make choices. Here I am sharing some of the ways we as parents can guide children in that process:
A Little Bit of Power Goes A Long Way
Children delight in making choices that affect their lives, from what to dress to what to eat to what to play with. The more they can participate in the decision making process in every day life the more likely they are to cooperate and learn to make appropriate choices.
Give Space For Your Child To Make Mistakes
Children learn to make good choices by making their own choices. Children need the chance to make choices and yes, they may make mistakes, stumble, need help or another chance but that is ultimately how they will learn the skills that they will need to navigate life later on. Sometimes we might be quick to think about a consequence for a “bad” choice but often, giving a second chance will be the best way to really have the child learn from their mistake.
Model What you Wish to See
Children are watching us for information on how to handle choices they will be making. The way we choose to treat others, deal with our frustrations, how we spend our time and so on shows our children what we value and how to make choices. Choose well and chances are your child will too!
Respect Individuality & Set Limits with Kindness
Sometimes what children choose is not to our taste; however, respecting their unique style and wishes, so long as it is safe or appropriate, is important so their sense of well being and self-esteem is maintained. If you must disagree or limit a certain choice, strive to do so with kindness.
Recently my three year old daughter wanted to eat a lolly instead of her lunch. “The lolly sounds delicious AND it doesn’t give you the healthy energy your body needs for growing. So, the lolly is not a choice for lunch.” “Can it be a choice after lunch?” She asked. “Yes” I answered, “it can be a choice after you ate lunch!”
Set Your Child Up For Success
Too many options are confusing and this is where our guidance as parents definitely comes into play: limit choices so that they are acceptable and feasible for your child. This will change over the years to be more and more broad and flexible to match the child’s age and ability. Make sure the choices that you offer are really ones that you are ready to say YES to!
Adopt a No Resuce Policy (While Still Being Encouraging)
It’s tough as a parent to see our kids make bad choices, fail, get frustrated or stumble, but it’s detrimental to their well being for us to always step in and save the day. Instead, encourage the process, offer hugs of support but don’t necessarily rush in to fix each and every problem. Learning often happens in moments of frustration and that is really alright. (affiliate offer) The book Encouraging Words for Kids is a wonderful resource for learning more about this.
Take A Step Back and Trust
If we really want to know if our children are learning to make good choices we need to step back and let them make those decisions. Letting children make choices daily is a great way to raise confident and competent children. These little choices now, like what shirt to wear, what color shoes to buy, when to share with a friend are all opportunities that will help build confidence for when those bigger choices come around! Try to keep realistic expectations, support the falls by providing the space in which the kids can find, make & create solutions, remember to encourage and keep boundaries so they can succeed! When we give our children choices we are letting them know “I trust you and your ability to choose well.”
In what ways do you involve your child in making choices about his life? Do you worry about your child making good choices?