Saturday, December 15, 2012

Limited Choices

Maria Montessori said, "Choice and execution are the prerogatives and conquests of a liberated soul."

When we give children choices, we empower them.  Choices give children control over their lives and teaches independence.  Choices free up parents from ordering and nagging.  Choices free children from our constraints.  Choices make life interesting.

While giving choices to children is a wonderful tool, it only works if you limit the choices that you offer.  The extent of the limits is based on the age of the child.  The younger the child the narrower the choices.  For example:  You would like your two year old to put away his toy car.  You say, "would you like to carry your car to your room in your hands or in your clean up basket?"  To ask your six year old to complete the same task you might say, "would you like to put your car in your room now or after dinner?"

As you can see, there is no choice given to not do what you are asking them to do.  You are simply giving them the opportunity to choose how they would like to accomplish the job.  Notice that you don't give them the opportunity to say no, their only choice is to do what you want them to do, but at the same time they feel as though they are in charge of that decision.  

Not only do you limit the spectrum of the choices, but you limit the amount of choices as well.  A two year old may be able to pick between two shirts to wear in the morning, where as a four year old can choose between three or four, and a six year old can choose from her closet full of clothes.  

When you offer choices rather than open ended questions you allow your children to learn how to make successful decisions.  If I ask my toddler what he wants for lunch he will say "umm".  He will then either choose yogurt (every single day), or continue to say "umm" until I give him a couple choices.  

Choices can also make not so fun tasks more fun.  For example:  To get your four year old to put his toys away you might ask "Would you like to pick up while we sing the clean up song, or while pretend we are monkeys."  Adding a silly choice will almost always ensure buy in and make things more fun for everyone.

While it may take more time for you to think of a couple creative choices the next time you would like your child to do something, why not give it a try.  In the end it will most likely save time, and make parenting easier and more fun.

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