This is a post that has been bouncing around in my mind for a while, hope you enjoy this trip into my brain.
Life is about making choices. This is something that is hard for many to understand, especially children.
Making choices is something that I started early with my children. When my children were less than 2 I’d already started working on understanding how to make choices. This began with simply talking about choices aloud. When I would make meals I would talk out loud about choosing what to eat and why I was making the choice I made. When I would dress them, I would talk about why I was picking one outfit over another. I wanted them to hear and see the process of making choices.
The next step was to have them choose between two options. This was I was controlling what they were picking, but they still saw that they had ability to choose. Before they were 2 they were already helping pick out the outfits they wore, what they had for snack and other things like which book we would read first. They were not able to articulate the reason for their choices, but they were able to make the choice. I would often say “That’s a good choice.” or “I would have picked blah blah blah, but it’s your choice.”
When they were able to begin talking more the choices became more independent. I began with having them pick out the shirt that they wanted to wear, and then I would get the other items to match. I also began giving them 3 or 4 options for breakfast and lunch. They were able to pick out their own snacks and I would portion them out for them. They also got to choose the activities they wanted to do with or without help. At this point I would often ask them why they decided to pick what they did. I also started to have something different from what they chose. They were not able to switch after they made their choice. Nope, you picked Cheerios, you may not have some of my oatmeal. This showed them that they had to deal with the choices they made. If they choose to swap snacks before they started eating that is fine, but once something has been made, too late… you picked.
By the time my children started school, they were already picking out their own clothes, breakfast and lunch. Now, I will tell you that I have veto power over things. They also have school clothes and play clothes. But, they choose. They decide what they wear, what they eat. I wanted them to have this control. What is it hurting them? What do I gain, but controlling these items in their life?
By the time they entered first grade they were already making their own breakfast and lunch. They helped plan dinners and helped make choices about what we did as a family. They learned that they can voice their opinion. They also learned that they won’t always get what they want. They learned that everyone has a voice, but sometimes you have to make decisions based on what is best for the group, not for the individual.
My sons are pretty independent thinkers. They love to ask questions. They love to debate with people. They know that they will make mistakes, and that’s ok. They have learned that choices can be made, and that choices have consequences. (this is the topic of my next blog post on choices)
So what if you haven’t started giving your child choices as early as I gave mine? Start! As a teacher I’ve seen so many children who walk into my classroom and they don’t know how to make choices. They wait for permission to do anything. They even struggle with questions like do you want red or blue? Children in schools today are taught methods and strategies. But, the child has to decide which works best for themselves. They need to pick the books they read, the friends they make, the way they play and most importantly…. the way they think.
Choices…. they are so important in childhood help your child learn to make choices instead of making them for them.