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Trying to be a Good Parent!

Being a Good Parent -
What to do when your child just doesn't understand about choices


A reader writes -

I'm trying to be a good parent by following the giving choices advice, but it's not working at all and I'm at my wits end.

What to do when your child refuses to go along with the choices given?

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Being a Good Parent - Offering Choices

Many parents believe that giving young children a variety of choices will help them make good choices in their growing independence.

However, many youngsters are just miserably confounded by all that is on offer. They want everything when it is offered and have little understanding around only this or that but not both. Children will usually want the lot!

Here is a question from Melinda asking about help with making and giving choices.

Hi Helen,

good parent

I give my 3-yr old limited choices (choose b/t these two shirts; choose turkey sandwich or a hot dog, etc), but it doesn't work!

She either refuses both options or comes up with a third (wanting to wear a shirt that I haven't offered; wanting pasta when given the options I stated above).

I'm trying to be a good parent by following the "giving choices" advice but it's not working at all and I'm at my wits end. What to do when your child refuses to go along with the "giving choices" plan??

Thanks,
Melinda

Being a Good Parent

Hello there Melinda,

Yes, it does feel like wits end to have a three year old with their own plan around choices!

good parent

Giving children choices helps them feel they have some control over their lives. However there are also times when there are no choice situations. These are the decisions that call for parents to have full and final say.

Remember that the kindest word you can say at times is no!

Then there are times when the child is given limited choices as you suggest, such as choose between these two items.

It is at this point that being consistent becomes necessary. If you ask her to make the choice between two items, and then allow her to dictate with a third, then she will always choose something different.

good parent

It is difficult at first to remain calm and consistent, but if you approach this with clarity within yourself and determination to remain consistent, then you will find it easier as time goes by.

There are several aspects to your question.

Firstly, have you only recently begun to implement 'giving choices'? If so, it will take some time and patience for you both to get it right.

Secondly, are you making it clear that a choice of either this or that means just this or that and not anything else? Once your child understands that there is another option available then it is not a limited choice.

Maybe it will be easier to have a consequence to begin with such as this sandwich or a hotdog or nothing at all I'm afraid. I would try not to make a big deal out of it and some distraction will help as you establish this as a new routine.

Offer the clear explanation, offer the choices and then become involved in something that removes you from hovering over her. Try being very busy getting food for yourself, for instance. If you stand over her then it becomes a command and not her choice, and she will be quick to see the difference.

good parent

It only takes a few times of you standing firm for your daughter to understand that you mean it.

Aim for a clear explanation, the two choices and no further negotiation. It is certainly helpful for a three year old to realise that you mean what you say.

When you think about it, children do seize on opportunities to be contrary and we help promote that if we aren't firm, clear and consistent in our approach.

There are also times when our children are relieved when we make the decisions for them. You can suggest, "You may have the banana or the yoghurt, or I could decide for you".

Three year olds learn really quickly and you will find that the clear, firm, consistent approach works miracles in many other situations too.


I encourage you to read about the consistent approach, and warmly commend you for trying to be a good parent.

Consistent Parenting
How to Discipline Children the Consistent Way
Discipline Children


Thank you for this valuable question about being a good parent and choices.


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