There are plenty of occasions where parents need to govern and provide oversight, but there is a lot to be said for the many opportunities where young children benefit from having a choice. Providing choices is an important component when fostering independence and can be rewarding for both you (as parent) and your child.
Here are a few examples what it means to give a toddler or preschooler choices:
Keep in mind, there are plenty of occasions where the parent [or adult] must direct the schedule, meal, or planning. Likewise, it is possible to overwhelm a young child with too many choices, which means reasonable parameters should be set (e.g. the adult make two or three options available) and children do not need to have a choice in every situation. The formula for including choice in your child's life is a personal decision and one that must take your own circumstances into account. Just as our goal is to prepare our children to make choices in life, each family will need to use it's own autonomy to identify what will work best.
If you would like to read more on this topic I encourage you to look at the following:
Choices for Children (Alfie Kohn)
Using Choice and Preference to Promote Improved Behavior
Giving Children Choices (Penn State Extension)
Why are choices an important part of your child's overall development? When we make choices we feel more in control [this applies to both children and adults like] and a healthy sense of control is part of what shapes our personalities. Likewise, the best way to learn how to do just about anything in life is through practice. This means we need to provide the opportunities for our children to practice making good choices.
Yet another important element to the notion of choice is problem solving. In providing our children with choice we are also stretching their thinking to consider possible answers and the consequences that go along with those choices. An even deeper element of this is the notion of responsibility and taking ownership over our choices. While selecting whether or not to have a blueberries or raspberries for dessert may seem simple, it is these meaningful choices that will help our children later make responsible choices with important issues.
ABOUT CHRISSY K
I am mom to three boys (one with several life-threatening food allergies) who will never own too many picture books or create Pinterest-worthy snacks. Simply Chrissy K is a place to find helpful tips on parenting that stem from my work with families and design ideas based on our adventures building a home from the ground up.
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Based on a work at http://www.strongtots.com