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.  

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