As adults we understand how important it is to be able to make ‘good’ choices in our lives, and how these choices can impact the experiences we have on a day-to-day basis. Helping your child to feel comfortable with making choices for themselves is an important part of their development.
If a child comes into a classroom setting having always had things done for them they can become confused. Each child needs to have the opportunity to make choices and experience mistakes to feel confident in their own abilities. The parent can increase the opportunities to learn independence in the safe and caring environment of the home. (excerpt from ‘Teaching Parents How To Teach’)
The options you present to your child need to be at a level they can understand and respond to. They should be age appropriate. With young children you should limit their options to just two things, any more than two can create confusion and frustration. If your young child is pointing at the books on the shelf you can ask them which story they would like you to read, but not by offering the whole bookshelf, by selecting two of the books and asking them which book they would prefer. When it’s a mealtime you can ask your child to select something from a choice of two foods you know they like, ‘do you want carrots or peas?’ When you are offering them a snack, ‘would you like some apple or some pear?’
If you know you are visiting a friends house it’s not a good idea to ask your child, ‘do you want to visit Sam’s house today?’ This isn’t something they have a real choice in, what you can ask them is, ‘which toy would you like to take to Sam’s house today, the elephant or the train?’ ‘We’re visiting Sam’s house, do you want to wear your red shirt or your blue shirt?’
As your child gets older and used to making choices you can increase the amount of things they get to choose from, always making sure it’s at a level they can understand and be successful with. We can help our children to develop independence and self-control, along with feeling that they have some say in what goes on in their world. We can help them develop their ability to choose between ‘the right thing to do’ (using their brain), and ‘what they want to do’ (using their emotions), and recognize that there are consequences and sometimes disappointments with both. Remember ‘mistakes are opportunities to learn.’
If your child experiences making choices in the safety of their own home they are more likely to carry these tools into the classroom and through their school years into adult life.