Think about how many times you ask or tell a child to do something throughout the day…
I bet it’s a lot.
Do you ever think they get sick of hearing you tell them what to do all day?
A lot of times we can just lay off on all the orders and let them be, but sometimes you really need them to do something. And for those times, there’s a quick and easy solution that helps. It’s simple.
Give them a choice.
Would you like to brush your teeth using the blue toothbrush or the red toothbrush?
Would you like to wear the green shirt or the pink shirt?
Would you like mummy to put you in the car, or would you like daddy to put you in the car?
Would you like to ride to the playground on your bike or ride your scooter?
Do you want to take a shower or a bath?
Do you want to walk this way home, or go the other way (if you have the option).
Notice how you’re not asking if they will do something. You’re only asking them HOW they would like to do it.
If I simply ask my nearly 5 year old daughter if she has to go to the toilet before we leave the house, sometimes she’ll say, “No!” even if I know she’s busting. But, if I give her the option of how she would like to do it and make it just a little bit fun (would you like to race hoping on one leg or walk), then she feels a sense of power in the situation. She still gets to the toilet, but in her own fun way. Then, I’m not stopping twenty minutes later on the way to where we’re going because she never went to the toilet before we left.
It’s important to not overwhelm them with choices. Two options is plenty for a younger child. For an older child you can let them come up with their choices and maybe add in some more. You also don’t have to drive yourself crazy doing this every single time you need to get a kid to cooperate, I might use this method only once or twice a day and only for non-negotiable things. It’s just another tool up your sleeve.
This method works so beautifully because there is no bribery, no punishment and no rewards. It’s simply fun and gives the child that tiny taste of power that they so desperately want. It works so well for us adults, because our own needs get met as well without using too much energy.
There are some times when this method might not work. Sometimes a child might be feeling disconnected from you and will resist this choice thing, even though it’s something fun. At these times, a child would probably benefit from some serious laughter games to get communication pathways working better. If they are still resisting, they also may need to release some stress or tension in the form of tears or a temper tantrum. More on that here. There may also be times when they really don’t want to do what you’re suggesting, and it’s good to just let them say “no“, if the situation allows. Or sometimes they’ll say ‘neither‘ and have them make up their own option. Also be sure to give explanations when needed. Sometimes I’ll ask my 2 1/2 year old to choose her shirt and she says “No, I want my tutu!” Well, ok, of course, wear your tutu! I let her make her own decisions when I can.
More often than not, offering a choice really works. Try it and see!