The benefits of offering kids a choice

Enabling your child to make decisions about parts of their own day is a brilliant way to instil a sense of self-confidence and independence in them.

Feeling in control is a basic human need and quite often, this is the reason behind many children’s urge to resist parental authority. Being a mother or father often involves telling little ones what to do which can exclude the possibility of them having a voice. Understandably, this may lead to a build up of resentment and create feelings of not having any power, which is where problems and issues can arise! Instead of simply telling your child what to do, it can be useful to instead practise the habit of  offering a choice – one where you’re comfortable with both outcomes. This way, your little one feels like they’re making the decision for themselves, but in fact, you are subtly guiding them towards doing something that works for you.

What you can try

Here are a few examples of different scenarios where you can apply this handy parenting trick.


The next time you’re making breakfast for your child, consider offering them the choice of two options. You could ask, ‘Would you like scrambled eggs on toast or porridge and berries?’ There is a real sense of autonomy that comes with choosing what you’re going to eat, and providing your child with the opportunity to make this decision can make them feel like a little grown-up!


Choosing what to wear is another way to impart some feelings of independence to your little one. You get to decide how much free reign they have here – whether they can choose exactly what they want to wear or, more narrowly, if they’d like to wear the white t-shirt with red stripes or the plain yellow one for example. If you give your child complete freedom to wear whatever they want, be warned, they may come up with some pretty wacky and outlandish costumes! It’s important to find a balance here because you don’t want to ask them to pick whatever they want, only to force them to wear something else.

Navigating push back

When given the power of choice, some children will try to push the boundaries. This isn’t necessarily bad behaviour. It’s usually the case that they’re just trying to figure out the rules of this new system that you’re presenting to them. If you offer a decision between ‘Option A’ and ‘Option B’, some kids may try to ask for a combination of both, or even invent an ‘Option C’. While creative thinking is admirable, it’s helpful to limit them to the original choices here, unless they have a valid reason. Doing so also teaches them the basics of compromise and opportunity cost, for example missing out on the benefits of ‘Option B’ by selecting ‘Option A’.

Giving kids a choice can be a challenging learning curve for them, so do be sure to support them through making these new decisions and, if they are completely stuck and can’t make up their mind, reassure them that you can ultimately choose on their behalf.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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