Offering choices is a parenting tool we can use no matter if we are parenting toddlers, high schoolers, or any age in between. Every day we are faced with big and little choices and teaching our children how to make choices before they leave is an important skill. Teaching kids how to make choices starts when they are young. Here are some helpful parenting tips for offering choices to little and big kids.

Parenting Tips for Offering Choices

Little Kids

Offering choices to little kids helps them develop a sense of autonomy and self. Many power struggles and tantrums are a result of learning that I have a will and desires that are different from other people. Using choices helps our little kids feel a sense of choice while keeping them safe. Helpful parenting tips to keep in mind when offering choices to little kids:

1 – Offer two options. More than two choices becomes overwhelming and makes it even harder to choose!

2 – Provide positive choices. The choice is not between doing the thing or getting punished. Rather focus on what you want accomplished and two options of doing that choice. Here are some examples:

      • You can choose five veggies or six veggies to try. How many do you want to eat?
      • You can ride your scooter or walk. Which would you like to do?
      • You can carry your lunch box or put your lunch box in your backpack.

3 – Get Creative. You can use choices in a lot of situations. When you face opposition or push back ask yourself, “How can I offer my child a choice in this situation?” Oftentimes offering the choice helps eliminate the opposition.

Big Kids

It’s easy to see the ways of offering choices to a preschooler. It can be a little bit harder as they grow. Sometimes the choices they make and the consequences that follow are more difficult to watch. How do we as parents of kids who are growing up continue to give them choices and stay sane on the other side?  Here are parenting tips for offering choices to older kids.  

1 – Boundaries. Making choices uses the rational/thinking part of our brain. Did you know that this part (the prefrontal cortex) isn’t fully developed until age 25? One of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is the ability to practice making choices within boundaries. As they grow older, we can offer the boundary and let them make all the decisions within this boundary.

For instance, a boundary in our household is screen time. Our kids have so much time each day. It is up to them to decide when and how they want to use that time. But when it’s gone, it’s gone.

2 – Be a Safe Place for them to Process Decisions. As kids grow and are faced with new challenges and decisions. Make a safe space for them to process some of their choices with you. Ask questions, brainstorm different opinions together, and talk through the possible outcomes of each option they have. Giving our children choices also means guiding them as they make the decisions. 

3 – Let them Make the Wrong Choice Sometimes. As a mom of older kids, one of the hardest parts for me as a mom is watching my kids make poor choices and not always stopping them. However, it’s important to me that they understand the consequences to their decisions.

I want them to learn how our choices impact us. If they chose not to study for a big test and as a result can’t play in the next basketball game due to their grades, it can be devastating for both them and us as their parents. However, I want them to learn from their good and bad choices. Sometimes that means letting them experience the hard stuff that comes from their choice.  

Want more parenting help? Check out our online parenting classes. Our course “Big Emotions and What Parents Can Do” gives you knowledge on the brain and emotions as well as practical tools you can start using in your home today.

How Do I Give My Kids Choices? 

Just like adults, children have a need to feel ownership and control. Feeling out of control can lead to big emotions both in adults and children. Offering choices helps provide kids with a feeling of control. However, offering choices to kids can be challenging! A common question I hear from parents is “How do I give my kids choices?”

How do i give my kids choices

Why Offer Choices

Before we answer “How do I give my kids choices?,” let’s talk about why offering choices is important. Many years ago I was feeling overwhelmed when choosing where to go to college. I remember my mom telling me, “I know you will make a good choice. We’ve been teaching you how to make choices for a long time.” 

Her comment stuck with me, especially when I started parenting my own children. We don’t automatically arrive at adulthood knowing how to make good choices. Learning how to make choices starts when we are young. 

Providing children opportunity to choose helps build respect, develops problem solving skills, and teaches making decisions skills. These skills are important both now and in the future. 

How to Give Kids Choices

I often hear “I do offer my kids choices!!! It doesn’t work.” How we give kids choices is just as important as why we give choices. Here are 4 tips for  success when offering kids choices.

1 – Offer choices within the boundaries.

Offering kids choices does not mean they get the power to choose whatever, whenever they want. Kids will naturally push against the boundaries we provide to test how firm and secure the boundary is. Let’s look at some examples: 

Boundary: Eating fruit is important for helping your body grow.

Choice: You may choose to have an apple or an orange with lunch. Which one would you like?

Boundary: Limiting the hours of screen use is important for physical and mental health.

Choice: You have 1 hour of screen time today. You may choose to use it now or after dinner. Which one works for you?

2 – Keep the choices simple and positive.

When offering choice as a parenting tool, it is not “do what I say or be punished.” Rather, we are providing two options that work towards the goal. Think about what you want and then offer two choices that meet that goal. Offering only two choices helps to keep everyone from being overwhelmed by too many options.

3 – Stick to the choices you have offered.  

Sometimes children will push back on the choices we have offered. It can be tempting to accept their option however, this can create its own problem. When we accept an outside option, we communicate that they don’t have to pick within the boundaries. If they offer a reasonable option, you can respond: “That’s a great idea. We can try that another time. Today your choice is to ride your scooter or your bike.” 

4 – Create routines around choices

Creating routines around offering choices  gives kids a feeling of control and lots of time to practice making decisions. Maybe they get to pick waffles or pancakes for Saturday morning breakfast or the movie of Friday family movie night. It might be a choice of brushing teeth before or after bath time or picking what cookies you are making. 

In our family, we take turns picking which game we will play together. Knowing that each person will get a choice has made it easier to play a game we might not like as much. 

Want more tools for parenting? Our online parenting class, “Big Emotions and What Parents Can Do” will give you practical knowledge of the brain and emotions as well as simple tools you can start using today to experience more peace in your home. And follow us on Instagram or join our Facebook Group from daily encouragement and tips.

Resilience is the ability to move through the hard thing and not get stuck. Life will always throw difficult curve balls. Resilience helps us recover from setbacks and adapt to challenging circumstances. Research tells us that some people seem to come by resilience naturally, but resilient behaviors can also be learned and improved.  It is a skill that we can not only teach our children but one we can continue to grow in ourselves! Learn how to build resilience as an adult with these simple tips.

How to build resilience

Keep Moving

When faced with a difficult situation many of us just freeze or wait for the struggle to pass. Instead of getting stuck, make small attainable goals. Develop realistic goals with simple actions steps you can take to move towards your goal. Having a sense of purpose during a crisis can help move you forward. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking yourself “what is my next right thing” and then just doing that next right thing. 

Encourage Connection

Just like kids, resilience grows in adults through connection. Finding a space where you can share life’s difficulties and feel supported is important. Connecting with others who understand the struggles you face lets you know you are not alone. The caring and supportive people around you acts as a protective factor during times of crisis.

Flexibility

An essential part of resilience is the ability to be flexible and accepting of change. By learning and practicing flexibility you will be ready to adapt to changing and shifting situations.  When life doesn’t go exactly as planned, take the opportunities to make changes, learn new things, and potentially head in a new direction. 

Take Care of Yourself

Another important part of building resilience is taking care of yourself. When we are going through rough times it’s easy to try and ignore what our body needs in order to power through. Rather than working against your body, figure out  a way to work with it. Get sleep, move your body, talk to a therapist, have a good cry, do whatever you and your body needs to have the energy to bounce back. This is also a great area to involve your community in. Work with your community (partner, family, friends) to help carve out time to take care of yourself. What can they do to support you? 

What Resilience Isn’t

Being resilient doesn’t mean life won’t knock you down sometimes, that just isn’t realistic. Resilience isn’t a personality trait, instead it involves behaviors, habits, connections, and actions. Just like building a muscle, increasing your own resilience takes time, effort, and focus but as it grows it will serve you well in the end! 

Resilience is our ability to bounce back from hard or challenging situations. Many different factors play into our ability to bounce back. The great news is that resilience can be developed, no matter our age. In the short video below, Jessi offers Tips for building resilience in older kids. 

Want more tips for building resilience in older kids? Check out our online parenting class, “Big Emotions and What Parents Can Do.” In this self-paced class, you will learn about the brain and emotions as well as practical tips for helping our families learn to feel their emotions in healthy ways.

Resilience is our ability to bounce back when we encounter hard or challenging situations. As much as we would like to protect our children from anything bad happening to them, the reality is, that is impossible. Our ability to bounce back is both influenced by our biology as well as our experiences. During the foundational early years of life, there are lots of simple things that we can do to help grow our children’s ability to bounce back from the hard and challenging situations they will encounter today and in the years to come. Here are six tips for building resilience in young children. 

Tip #1 – Relationship is Primary

Stable and secure relationships are a basic need of all humans. We are not meant to do life alone and this is especially true in young children. Babies are completely dependent on their caregivers to meet all of their needs. As children grow, they start to go off and explore the world around them but need a safe, secure person to come back to. Watch your preschooler and you will notice how they will go off and explore but circle back to check-in with you. Knowing that you are there gives them the confidence to go out into the world.

Tips for Building Resilience

Tip #2 – Be Present not Perfect

Raising and caring for a human is one of the most challenging things most of us will do. I don’t know about you, but there are many times I feel incompetent and know that I didn’t make the best decision or react in the optimal way to my child. However, parenting is not about perfection. In fact, continuing to show-up for our kids, even when things aren’t going well or going back and repairing our relationship when we have overreacted helps to build resilience. When we do this, we are helping our kids learn that showing up is more important than always getting it right.

Tip # 3 – Rhythms and Routines

At Action Parenting, we talk a lot about being intentional with developing healthy rhythms for your family. Rhythms and routines provide structure and stability and they also help our children build their executive functioning skills. Executive functioning is a set of mental skills that include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. Developing strong memory, flexible thinking, and self-control skills help us manage our feelings and responses when we encounter hard or stressful situations. 

Tip # 4 – It’s Okay to Ask for Help

Independence is often seen as a sign of strength and in many situations it is. We want our kids to learn how to dress themselves, clean-up their rooms, and go to school on their own! However, we also want to know how to ask for help when they encounter something they don’t know. Life is full of new experiences and learning how to ask for what we need to move through the new experience is important. 

Tip # 5 – Build the “I can do hard things” Muscle 

Keeping with the theme of asking for help, building the “I can do hard things” muscle helps build resilience too. With preschool age children, you can do this by highlighting characters in books or shows that do hard things, recognizing their efforts to try hard things, and maybe even make-up a song or frequently repeat the phrase “I can do hard things!” Make it fun to tackle the hard stuff!

Tip # 6 – Practice Reframing

It’s easy to see what’s going wrong or what is not working. Help your preschooler learn to see both the hard and the positive in a situation. You might say “It’s really hard when we don’t get to play with the toy we want and we can be patient and wait our turn.” By doing this, you are helping build internal dialogue that will help them navigate all of the challenges life brings.

 

Want more tools for building resilience in your family? Our FREE online course, “Parenting in a Pandemic: Secrets for Survival” has practical tips for not just surviving but thriving in times of adversity. 

What is Resilience?

Resilience is our ability to cope with stress and hardship in a way that allows us to move forward rather than getting stuck and wallowing. Psychologist refer to it as our ability to “bounce back” after life has “knocked us down” and be even stronger than before.   

What is resilience

2020 tried to knock us to the ground! Life was very different just one year ago. Nobody anticipated a global pandemic disrupting every part of our lives, the inequalities  that would be profoundly exposed, or an election full of division and unrest. We did not know the challenges that would come our way.

And that’s how challenges work. We never know when they will come. Rarely can we anticipate the traumatic experience or chaos that will shake our worlds. And resilience is not anticipating or protecting ourselves from hardship. Rather its cultivating specific strategies that increase our capacity to withstand and learn from difficult and traumatic experiences. Resilience is strengthened by our self-awareness, mindfulness, self-care, positive relationships, and by seeking purpose and meaning. 

Why is Resilience Important In Families?

When my children were younger, a favorite response to any unsafe options was, “because one of my number one jobs as a parent is to keep you safe.” And yes, it is my role to do my best to provide safety and security for my children. However, it is impossible for me to protect my children from every danger or stress. 

One of the best gifts we can give our children is the ability to “bounce back,” even when they experience difficulty or trauma. Resilience improves learning and academic success, increases immunity, reduces risk-taking behaviors, increases family and community involvement, and boosts physical health. 

The challenges of 2020 will not be the only challenges we or our children will face. Just as we could not anticipate what 2020 would hold, we cannot anticipate 2021 or any other year. This is not meant to cause feelings of anxiety or stress but rather to encourage us. We’ve made it through a year like no other in recent history. We can do hard things! 

What Can Parents do to help?

Over the next few weeks, we will be exploring how to grow resilience in our families. Each week will offer tips and encouragement for fostering resilience not matter our age or previous experiences. That’s the great thing about resilience, it’s not just something you either have or don’t have. Resilience can be learned and cultivated so that no matter what challenges we face in the future, we have the resources to “bounce back.”

If you’re ready for more now, our online parenting class, “Big Emotions and What Parents Can Do” is full of knowledge and tools for helping foster emotional health, one of the key components of resilience, in your family. Get the course today for just $75 and start your family’s journey to building more resilience.

 

What are your parenting goals for the new year? Maybe you are recognizing that things are just not working and you want to make some changes. It might be that you find yourselves yelling more often than you would like or bribing your child to get them to pitch in and help around the house. Maybe you have noticed that everyone is reaching for the cookies and chips more than the fruits and veggies. What’s it for you?

It’s not uncommon to think of our goals in the negative. “I want to stop…” Instead of focusing on what we want less of, it can be helpful to focus on what we want to experience more in our family. Here are 5 parenting goals for the new year that will set you up for success as a parent no matter what!

Parenting Goals for the New Year

Parenting Goal 1 –  Practice Presence over Perfection

Social media can be great for connecting us with friends and keeping up with our favorites. But if we are not careful, it can set us up for unrealistic expectations. A quick scroll through Facebook or Pinterest can lead to feelings of disappointment and discouragement. Suddenly my kids, house, and baking are not at the same level of perfection that everyone else seems to be attaining. 

When I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed, it’s often because I’m living in the future. My mind is racing with thoughts of what others will think, what tasks I need to do, or how something will work out. My anxiety usually leads to chaos  in myself and in my family. The moments of “perfection” will not be remembered but rather the moments where we were present together, connecting over a shared experience or memory. 

Take a moment to stop and pay attention to what is right in front of you. Can see the beauty, even in the mess?

Parenting Goal 2 – Practice Gratitude Throughout the Year 

Did you know gratitude can help shift your attitude! It’s true. Research shows that people who regularly practice gratitude feel more hopeful emotions and enjoy more positive experiences. In addition, they overall experience better health, deal with adversity in positive ways, and build strong relationships. All of those sound like positive reasons to develop a regular gratitude practice as a family. 

Here are some ideas to help get started:

  • Set aside a regular time to share 1-2 things you are thankful for. Maybe during a family meal or as part of a bedtime routine.
  • Gratitude Jar: collect things that happen during the year in a jar.  Regularly take time to review what’s in the jar. 
  • Start writing thank you cards or intentionally verbally thanking people who have done something nice for you. 

Parenting Goal 3 – Practice Playing Together as a Family

Doing something fun together builds connection and safety within the family. It is easy to get going with all the things on our “to do lists.” Often play can get forgotten. Making playing together strengthens the family. It is easier to regulate and navigate the ups and downs of life when we feel safe and secure in our relationships. 

A great way to do this is to be intentional about finding some things to do together as a family. Maybe brainstorm some big things like a special trip/activity but don’t miss out on the small things like a dance party while making dinner or a quick 15 minute card game after school work is done for the day. These small moments of laughter and play can go a long way in our relationships with our kids. 

Want more? Register for our online parenting class, “Big Emotions and What Parents Can Do.” The self-paced online parenting class is rich with research-based teaching on the brain and emotions as well as practical tips for meeting the emotional needs of all your family members.

Navigating the holidays with tweens and teens is not for the faint of heart. This time of year, it’s easy to find ourselves and our families in a swirl of emotions, conversations, and activities. Many of these conversations can lead to big emotions in our tween/teen and us as parents. As we look forward to the upcoming holidays, get some helpful holiday tips for parenting tweens and teens this year.

First holiday tip to keep in mind is that tweens and teens emotions are no joke! Their bodies and brains are in a constant state of change and growth. They can go from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in a very short amount of time. Add in the strangeness of this holiday season, changing plans, holiday sweets, time with or away from family and friends and sometimes it can be overwhelming.

Here are some holiday tips for parenting tweens and teens to bring more peace and calm to your home. 

Tips for parenting teens and tweens during holidays

Talk Through Expectations

Everyone knows that things will probably look a little different this year, including much loved traditions. You may not be able to go to The Nutcracker or throw the big holiday party that you usually do. As an adult, you may have mixed feelings about these changes and chances are your child will too. Sit down and have a conversation about what will be different. Figure out what traditions are your child’s favorite. Talk about  alternative ways to make them happen. Allow them the space to be sad or excited about the changes.

Focus them Outward

Involve you children in focusing outward this season. Help them identify family members or friends to send some extra love to. Maybe they can pick out and wrap Christmas gifts for family members far away. Or take a day to bake cookies and drop them off at  friends houses. What about working together to come up with a unique way to thank their teachers this year. Including them in this process helps them focus on what they do have and can give rather than what they don’t.

Be Flexible 

As a parent of tween/teens this year I am learning to be just a bit more flexible, because everyone needs a bit more grace and breathing space right now. This might mean letting them stay up extra late for another movie night or letting them sleep in, even if it doesn’t fit your schedule. If they ask to try their hand at cooking (and possibly destroying the kitchen), maybe this is the year to allow them. Sometimes letting go of our own expectations can lead to beautiful moments of connection.

Want more help with big emotions any time of the year? Our course “Big Emotions and What Parents Can Do” is full of research-based teaching on the brain and emotions as well as practical tips for the whole family on understanding and responding to our big emotions. 

 

Most often the words peace and preschoolers don’t go together, at least not when the preschooler is awake! The preschool years are frequently marked by intense emotions both from the preschooler and even their parents. 

Add in the anticipation of a holiday season full of presents, candy, and more and emotions can EXPLODE!

3 Tips for More Peace This Holiday

Let’s start by understanding a little bit more about how a preschooler both experiences and expresses their emotions and why. 

Language is rapidly developing during the first five years of life. By the age of five, children typically have an expressive vocabulary of 2,100 words. Take into consideration that the average adult knows between 20,000-35,000 words and it becomes obvious that younger children are still learning vocabulary and it’s not their primary form of communication. 

With words still a developing skill, children ages of 2-5 most often experience and express their emotions physically. If they see a toy at the store they really want, they fall to the ground crying rather than saying, “Man, I really want that toy. Maybe Santa will bring it. I can wait patiently.” Or if their brother or sister grab their new toy on Christmas morning, hitting rather than asking is the most “natural” response for a preschool child. Feeling excited by a new toy or relative coming for a visit and they may run crazy around the house, screaming at the top of their lungs rather than calming saying “This toy is so cool! I’m excited to play with it.”

It makes sense when we see it written down but experiencing it day after day as a parent can feel tiresome. It wears down our own emotional reserves leading to chaos and not a lot of holiday spirit. 

Here are 3 tips that can help bring more peace and less explosions to your home this holiday season.

1 – Prepare Your Preschooler 

Just because you have a preschooler doesn’t mean you have to give up the fun that doesn’t fit in a “normal” schedule. However, life can be much happier if you help prepare your preschooler for the changes. 

Talk about the new “thing” before it happens. If you are going to a special light display, talk about what they can expect before you go. Surprises can feel out of control so help by preparing your child for the “new thing” will help them feel more in control and know what they can expect.

You don't have to give up normal just because you have a preschooler

2 – Talk About Big Emotions.

As we talked about above, kids are learning a lot of vocabulary right now so the more we can give language to what they are physically expressing, the more likely they will be to use those words in the future. Before you try to stop or teach a more appropriate response to an emotion, name the emotion. It’s instinctual as parents to respond with “Stop that” or “No! Don’t do that.” It’s more helpful if we help our children understand what they are feeling by providing them language for it. You might say something like “You are feeling really frustrated that your sister isn’t doing what you want her to do.” or “Wow! You are feeling really excited about going to look at Christmas lights!”  

3 – Offer Choices

It’s common to feel big emotions when we are feeling out of control. Whenever possible, offer your preschooler choices. This can be something like asking, “Which Christmas PJs do they want to wear, the green ones or the red ones?” Or if your family is trying to enjoy a holiday meal with limited “preschool approved foods” and you might offer them a choice like “Do you want to try 2 bites or 3 bites?” or “Do you want to try turkey or mashed potatoes?” Choices help our preschoolers feel more in control of what is going on.

Want more help with parenting and big emotions? Our self-paced online parenting class, “Big Emotions and What Parents Can Do” will help you understand more about how the brain and emotions work together and gain helpful tools you can start using today to bring more peace to your family. Sign-up today for our sale price of just $75 or play our “Holiday Family Fun List” Contest to win a free class!

With the holidays around the corner, it’s a great time to set aside some time to play together as a family. Yes, you heard me. Play!

Play is an important part of health not just physically but emotionally and intellectually as well. And it’s not just for kids!. Did you know that play releases an important hormone oxytocin both in us and in our kids? Oxytocin is an important chemical that plays a major role in bonding as well as social and emotional regulation. Play helps us not only feel good, it strengthens our connection and relationships!

To help you and your family create some special memories this year, we’ve put together a “Holiday Family Fun Bucket List” for you. It’s full of fun and simple ideas for play and making memories together with your family. In many of our cities, the typical holiday experiences are limited or cancelled so we’ve focused on activities that you can do at home. If any supplies are needed, they are easily found around the house or during a quick trip to the store. We encourage you to pick one, two, or more activities to do together as a family. 

BONUS!!!!!TAKE a picture of you and your family playing together, POST it by December 31, and TAG Action Parenting (@actionparenting) in the post and you will be entered into a contest to WIN a FREE registration for our new online parenting class “Big Emotions and What Parents Can Do.” Yes, we want to see how our online community of families play and we want to reward you for playing! I think there might be some extra benefit for play with a reward?!?!