are so many things we must get our children to do and so many
things me must stop them from doing! Get up. Get dressed.
Don’t dawdle. Do your homework. Eat. It goes on and
on. We can get our kids to cooperate and at the same time
allow them to learn self discipline and develop good decision
making skills. How? By offering choices.
a choice is a very powerful tool that can be used with toddlers
through teenagers. This is one skill that every parent should
have tattooed on the back of his or her hand as a constant
reminder. Parents should use this skill every day, many times
a day. Giving children choices is a very effective way to
enlist their cooperation because children love having the
privilege of choice. It takes the pressure out of your request,
and allows a child to feel in control. This makes a child
more willing to comply.
choice is an effective way to achieve results, and when you
get in the habit of offering choices you are doing your children
a big favor. As children learn to make simple choices—Milk
or juice?—they get the practice required to make
bigger choices—Buy two class T-shirts or one sweatshirt?—which
gives them the ability as they grow to make more important
decisions—Save or spend? Drink beer or soda? Study
or fail? Giving children choices allows them to learn
to listen to their inner voice. It is a valuable skill that
they will carry with them to adulthood.
should offer choices based on your child’s age and your
intent. A toddler can handle two choices, a grade-school child
three or four. A teenager can be given general guidelines.
Offer choices such that you would be happy with whatever option
your child chooses. Otherwise, you’re not being fair.
For example, a parent might say, “Either eat your
peas or go to your room” but when the child gets
up off his chair, the parent yells, “Sit down and
eat your dinner, young man!” (So that wasn’t
really a choice, was it?)
are some ways in which you can use choice:
you want to wear your Big Bird pajamas or your Mickey Mouse
Do you want to do your homework at the kitchen table or the
Would you rather stop at the gas station or give me the money
to fill the tank?
Do you want to wear your coat, carry it, or put on a sweatshirt?
Would you prefer to let the dog out in the yard or take him
for a walk?
Do you want to run up to bed or hop like a bunny?
What do you want to do first, take out the trash or dry the
Do you want to watch five more minutes of TV or ten?
typical problem with choices is the child who makes up his
own choice! For example, “Taylor, do you want to put
on your pajamas first, or brush your teeth?” To which
little Taylor answers, “I want to watch TV.” What
to do? Just smile sweetly and say, “That wasn’t
one of the choices. What do you want to do first, put on your
pajamas or brush your teeth?”
your child is still reluctant to choose from the options that
you offer, then simply ask, “Would you like to choose
or shall I choose for you?” If an appropriate answer
is not forthcoming then you can say, “I see that you
want me to choose for you.” Then follow through.
Make your choice and help your child – by leading or
carrying him – so that he can cooperate.
mother in one of my classes reported using this skill with
great success at home. It was after dinner and she said to
her husband, “Honey, would you like to clean
up the dishes or put the kids to bed?” He responded,
“Hey! You’re using that choice this in me!”
(All the skills presented in my book will work with adults,
Excerpted with permission by New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
from Kid Cooperation, How to Stop Yelling, Nagging and Pleading
and Get Kids to Cooperate by Elizabeth Pantley (http://www.pantley.com/elizabeth,