What if I told you you could decrease the struggle by putting the control back into your children’s hands? If you were able to give them guided “choices” to make your life easier, and allow them to feel like they have a voice, an important one. Now I know what you’re thinking; I’ve done this before, I give them choices all the time. You probably do, but I’m going to put a spin on it for you.
Here are 6 simple steps to giving guided choices that work!
- 1 Always come from a place of love. We often get mad and say things like “Mommy is really mad that you aren’t listening to me right now, you’re in a timeout, you’ve been bad. You need to think about what you’ve done mister!”. Instead try this: “If you want to make the choice not to listen to Mommy when I say it’s time to go, that’s your choice but tomorrow we won’t come to the park, so you let me know, should we leave in 2 minutes, or should we go now?”
- 2 Don’t set them up in an impossible situation and expect them to succeed. If they are tired, or hungry, taking them to run errands is not a great choice on your part. If you have to drag them to the store, make it something you do before the fun activity, and give them a healthy snack to avoid burnout. This gives them something to look forward to, while they are trying to be patient, and it might help curb the tantrum if they know it’s almost time to have some fun.
- 3 Give lots of warning and get them involved in the decision making. Let’s say you’re making dinner, putting a plate down in front of a 3 year old will usually create one outcome, NO! Now, as much as I agree your kitchen is not a restaurant; you are going to be way ahead of the game if you get them involved in the meal prep. We often give choices like this: “Do you want carrots? NO! Okay, how about celery? NO! Cucumber? NO! NO! NO! I WANT CHIPS!” Sound familiar? Try this: “Would you like carrots, celery or cucumbers in your dinner tonight? It is your choice.” The way this question is framed, ‘no’ is not an option. If they choose not to answer you, you can simply say; “No problem, did you want me to choose for you?” If they don’t make the choice, then they’ve made the choice to let you make it. Read that sentence over again.
- 4 Follow through! This is likely the most important thing I’m going to say. If you are uttering idol threats (we’ve all done it) you become obsolete. In a situation like the vegetables mentioned above, you must follow through and choose for them if they aren’t responsive. Validating at the same time is also key. “I understand you’re frustrated, next time you can choose, no problem!”
- 5 Attention is attention, negative or positive. How are you spending most of your time with your child? If they are constantly acting out, it’s likely they get a lot of attention around it. We all need a minute sometimes, so when our little babes are playing quietly, we often ignore them and hope it lasts for more than 3 minutes. I’m all for independent play, but I also believe we are in a time where we don’t engage the way they need us to. Yes, put that iPhone away, and close the laptop. Get on the floor and play!
6 It’s okay if they flip out! Do you really want little robots walking around on eggshells, unsure about who they are because they’ve had their little spirit squashed, no thanks. I’d rather have a strong willed defiant monster once in a while who knows what’s up, and isn’t worried about telling you what’s up! This is where we validate and hold the space for them in a supportive loving way. Screaming, yelling and crying is going to happen. “I understand you’re upset, you let me know when you’re all done crying and you are ready to use your words and talk about it.” “Did you want to cry for a few minutes, no problem. Sometimes that really helps, you let me know when you’re all done. I love you very much.”
This can be a little wordy at first I know, by once you get into the swing of using new language with guided choices, you’ll never look back. Keep up the good work, you are awesome!
Desiree Cluff is the founder and operator of Rockababy. Born and raised in beautiful Vancouver, B.C, and educated at Erickson College. Desiree studied Life Coaching and Neuro Linguistic Programming, an approach to Psychotherapy based on the awareness of the power of language to affect behaviour and stimulate the mind.
Inspired by her desire to help others, Desiree knew from a young age that she wanted to work with children. She brings to the table superb communication skills, warmth and empathy and over a decade of experience with newborns, infants and toddlers. Her satisfied clients (well rested mamas!) claim she possesses magic pixie dust that she throws on their screaming and sleepless babies transforming them to great sleepers, sleeping 12-hour nights. The real key to her success has always been her personal touch. She spends quality time with each family and puts together a customized training program for them that she knows they can succeed with.
Desiree also acts as a child product consultant and teaches baby sign language. She assists families with other stressful times including transitioning toddlers from crib to big bed, potty training, and behavioural issues. In addition, she has extensive knowledge of healthy nutrition for babies and toddlers and helps her clients get off to the right start developing well-rounded, healthy eaters. Her greatest satisfaction comes from mentoring parents to become their own child’s expert.