The dreaded ‘no!’.
Every parent of a toddler knows this single syllable is what puts the ‘terrible’ in the ‘terrible two’s’. It turns out some of your child’s resistance and bad kids behavior could have to do with a lack of opportunity for choice. Toddler years are a very crucial time for trying to assert independence and learn autonomy. This quest for control can manifest into some serious struggles and manipulation at home.
We want to nourish our children’s independence and still reinforce a sense of rule abiding, and the best way to do this—choice.
Research suggests toddlers who are given simple choices everyday tend to be less combative and more autonomous. By letting your little one choose, you’re helping them develop a sense of their own identity and a feeling of self control. Not to mention helping them establish good decision-making practice skills which they will use for the rest of their lives.
The trick is to be deliberate about what choices you provide.
Here’s our easy choice guide for kids behavior boosters:
1. Authentic choices
If your child chooses the toy truck over the paint, make sure you let them have the toy truck. The decision manifests into a physical reward, this demonstrates the consequences of decision making and also gives your child a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
2. Simple and limited choices
When offering activities , food, etc limit the choices to 1-3, this way your child doesn’t get overwhelmed. Providing too many choices can be counterproductive and lead to frustration and confusion. Be patient if your child takes time to make the decision–in fact showing purposeful, slow thought-processing is a good sign when it comes to the skill of deciding.
3. Creative choices
Maybe certain situations have less flexibility but have some margin for choice making. For example, nap time is necessary but there might be a 15 minute window in which they can choose exactly when they nap. As a parent, it’s possible to assert your own authority while still letting your child feel independant.
When it comes to kids behavior, there are opportunities for choice everywhere in the wide world of toddler time– options for snacking (the food itself and also the quantity– one cracker or two?), toys, utilize children’s apps where there is choice via matching, colors, etc, or give your child the choice of which app they would like to play, outside vs inside time, where you play, to name only a few. And the benefits? Kids behavior is noticeably better. A happier, healthier experience for both you and your toddler!