November 8, 2023
It can be overwhelming to have to make a lot of choices for anyone, much less a little one! Do you realize how many times a day you offer your kids choices? What cereal do you want this morning? Do you want to wear the red top or the blue one? Sandals or closed-toe shoes? Coat or sweatshirt? McDonald’s or Chick-fil-a? Hamburger or chicken nuggets? Does offering your child a choice bring peace or conflict in your home? When a child seems indecisive or discontent with any of their options, most likely they are just not ready to have the freedom to choose.
How and what type of choices should you allow your child to make? It totally depends on their age and if they are good decision-makers. If they take forever to make a decision then can’t decide if they made the right one, most parents won’t want to give them a lot of choices. If they quickly make a decision and stick to it, that’s different. If your child is under 6 yrs. they still make take a long time no matter what and end up telling you he/she doesn’t care and is content for you to decide.
A good rule of thumb to hold to is: If your child can accept the “no” from mom or dad without complaining (fussing, crying, arguing, whining), then they may be ready to make an age-appropriate choice. Parents can help minimize frustrations in their child (and for themselves) by keeping the choices or decisions their child is making within a range that is acceptable to you.
For example: Instead of asking a 2-year-old whether he/she would like ketchup with his chicken nuggets, just get some in the packets that fast-food places offer. Instead of asking your 3-year-old what he wants to wear that day, try laying 2 outfits on his bed and say, “Which outfit do you want to wear today?”
When a child cannot be content with a choice made by mom or dad, whom they are to obey, they are not ready to be in charge of that choice. Remember, it is your job to help them learn how to obey in a happy way, not just be happy when they get their own way.
When there really isn’t a choice, like when it’s cold outside and your child needs to wear a jacket, parents can help by just making the announcement, “It is time to put on your coat.” If you ask your child if they are ready to put on their coat, it gives them the impression that a choice is on the table and they can say “No”. It can be very frustrating when a child thinks he has a choice when he really doesn’t have that freedom at all!
For your older children, helping them consider related information can help them learn to make wise, appropriate choices. Consider this…it is snowing and beginning to ice outside and you live in Texas. Ok, it does snow and ice in Texas on occasion! Here are 2 ways how it could play out for a 7 year-old who should be learning how to make good choices:
Mom: “Get your coat on, it’s cold outside.”
Child: Sticks his head out the door and says, “It’s not that cold, I’m not wearing a coat.”
Mom: “Oh yes you are. Get your coat on now!”
What you have now is a power struggle and this isn’t the way either of you should start your day. How about this instead?
Mom: “What does the weather look like outside?”
Child: “It’s cold out there!”
Mom: “What do you think you should wear to school then?”
Child: I’m getting a sweatshirt on and I need to get my coat out of the closet. Do you know where my hat and gloves are?”
Asking questions is the best way to deal with your kids especially as they age. Your 16-year-old just got her driver’s license and wants to go to the movies with friends that night.
Newly driving teenager: “Mom, may I pick up Shayla and Brittney and drive to the movies?”
Mom: “No, are you crazy? it’s snowing and starting to ice!”
Teenager: “But Mom, I’ll be careful. Don’t you trust me?”
Newly driving teenager: “Mom, may I drive to the movies?”
Mom: “Well, I just heard the weather has gotten worse. Do you know what it is going to do as the night wears on?”
Teenager: “I’ll find out.” A few minutes later: “Mom! The roads are going to be icy by the time the movie is over. I think I’ll stay home and watch a movie with the family tonight.”
Mom already knew what the weather was going to do, but this mom also knew if she let her teen figure that out for herself, the chances she would make a wise decision for herself would be greater. Allowing your older child to work through decision making even when you may know the obvious answer helps them to learn how to make wise choices and feel a sense of independence.
Ultimately, we are each called to honor and obey the Lord. We do this one choice or decision at a time! May the Lord bless you with the wisdom to know when and how to offer the choice to your child to choose!
“For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.”