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The Benefit of Forced Choice with Your Child

Posted by Sinead Cowins on February 07, 2017
Our children are little people. They have their own personalities and preferences, and like adults, hate being forced into things. Using yourself as an example, think about how you feel when you’re bossed around.  Does it make you want to rebel? Well the same thing happens to our children! While there are times when choices are simply not an option, you can definitely make opportunities for your little person to feel like they have a say in what they do. Forced choice offers this opportunity. 
 
What is Forced Choice?
Forced choice is simply providing a limited set of choices for your child to make. This can take the form of asking them whether they would like to eat pizza or tacos for dinner, or whether they would like to read a book, play a learning game, or study in the morning as opposed to the afternoon.
 
Why is Forced Choice Beneficial?
Because children need the opportunity to experience autonomy. With forced choice, your child can practice independence, make their own decisions, and even learn to deal with their mistakes. This is all done in a supportive context, with you as their encouragement.
 
How to Use Forced Choice
 
1.     Know When to Be Flexible. 
For little kids, such as preschoolers and kindergarteners, try not to provide them with too many choices, because they may easily become overwhelmed or get confused. Older children can be given more choices because they can process them.
 
2.     Be Realistic.
If giving your child the option to postpone their homework means that they are going to fall behind, then that is not a wise choice to provide. 
 
3.     Allow Your Child to Make Suggestions…Sometimes
Sometimes children have great ideas. If you give your child choices and they come up with a pleasant alternative, give it a shot. 
 
4.     Only Provide Choices That You Can Live With
You may feel pressured to provide choices based upon the wants of your child, but remember, wants should never come before needs. If the choice doesn’t sit right with you, avoid it.
 
5.     Remember Your Role as the Parent
If you provide your child with choices and they still refuse to decide, you may have to make the decision for them. Often, this can occur with little kids (but it happens with adolescents as well). Sometimes they dislike the choices you give them and refuse to comply at all. Don’t feel too bad if it comes to this. 
 
Forced choice can be empowering for both parent and child. 

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