I have often noticed that kids aren’t relegated the task of making choices in their early lives. We make all of their choices for them. A lot of us continue to do this well into their teen years. Why then are we astonished when teens start making bad choices? If they have never had the opportunity to learn to make choices in their lives (and from choices come consequences), how would they automatically know what choices to make and how to choose? (or are they really choosing or just going along with their friends, again because they don’t have experience making choices).
Learning to make choices is a muscle. If we can let children start making them at an early age, when they get to their teens it will be an inherent part of them. It won’t seem like a foreign language. Even at age 2 and 3 they can make choices. Would you like to wear this or this? (don’t give them the whole closet to look at unless you have all day – as a brilliant marketer I know once said : A confused mind always says No).
Look around at what your kids are doing everyday and where you are making choices for them that they could make for themselves. If they are young, give them 2 options you can live with, but let them decide. As they get older, give them the options and let them know what the consequences are. I remember telling my youngest daughter that she could choose to stay up as late as she wanted on a school night. I wasn’t going to force her to go to bed. I also told her that she did have to get up for school the next morning without complaint about how tired she was. She stayed up until 11:30 and was tired the next day. She didn’t complain, and I never again had to tell her that it was time for bed (she told me the next evening after school “I am never doing that again. I was so tired today at school”.)
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Kids are really smart these days. The world is much more fast and furious than when I was a kid. Kids need that choice muscle younger than ever. Start noticing when you can give your kids the opportunity to make choices and let them become aware of the cause and effect. Once that choice muscle is strong, it will take a lot of worry out of your hands and put it into theirs, where it belongs.