Friday chat: How much choice do you give your kids?

January 22, 2016

giving your child choices

I recently read an article (I can’t remember where) that talked about raising happy kids. All of us want happy kids, right?  One of the things the article mentioned was the importance of giving your child choices, especially younger kids (say under 10) who have little or no control over their lives.  This point really stood out for me.  Kids really don’t have much control over their lives, do they?  They are told what to eat and when, at school everything is structured and decided for them, they attend extra curricular activities that perhaps parents choose for them. They are told what time to go to bed, what time to get up, when to shower, when to do homework and the list goes on.  While some of this stuff has to be decided for them (if I left mine to decide when to shower, it would be never!) I’ve realised it is possible to give them more control.

The more traditional way of parenting tended to limit choices.  The parents usually decided and that was it. But I don’t think it has to be this way – what do you think?   Obviously giving your two year old too many choices is not going to end well but for slightly older kids I think it’s a healthy thing within reason.  I’m not saying you should give your child choices all the time and in every area of their lives and even when giving choices, we need to limit them and make sure they are age appropriate.   But I can absolutely see the benefits of giving your child choices – kids will feel more in control, they will feel a sense of responsibility for what they choose and it shows we as parents trust them and respect their wishes.  I can totally see how this will ultimately make for a happier child.

I decided to start doing a few simple things to give Anya more choice and more control. Here are five things that too you can do (if you’re not already) to give your kids more control (without losing control!).

1. Dinner
One night a week our daughter gets to decide what we’re eating.  Junk is off the menu but apart from that she can choose anything.  The other week she came up with the idea of a pasta dish that we hadn’t eaten for ages but we all love.  And not only did this idea of her choosing dinner make her happy, she ate her food with far more relish than she normally does. Win! Win! (especially if you have a fussy eater).

2. Homework
If your kids are anything like mine, they will never willingly rush to do their homework.  But giving them the choice of when to do it, gives them some control and responsibility.  We like to get homework done on Saturday rather than leaving it till Sunday evening.  This hasn’t changed but now I let Anya decide when on Saturday she would like to do her homework and in what order.

3. Days out
Our fun days out on weekends tend to be planned by us as parents.  Of course we plan them based on what we think our kids would enjoy.  But then I thought why not have one day a month (or whenever you can manage) where the kids plan the day or an afternoon.  They’ll end up coming up with stuff that never even occurred to us and it will be fun for everyone.  I’ve asked Anya to come up with 2 or 3 things she would like to do over the next couple of months and I can’t wait to see what she thinks of.  

4. Extra-curricular activities
This is one area where I have always given Anya choice ever since she started school.  I have found that she is much more likely to enjoy something she has chosen to do and because she has chosen it, she is far more likely to stick to it.  There are of course activities that I would like her to do that she may not be as keen on but we discuss them so she understands why it’s important to give it a try at least.  It’s never a case of you have to do this and thats it!  By discussing it, she becomes part of the decision making and that is where she has a sense of control and choice too.

5. Pocket money
Do you give your kids pocket money?  It’s great way to teach them about money but also about making choices.  I give Anya a small amount each week and when it comes to spending we go to a favourite shop of hers and she gets to choose whatever she wants to spend her money on.  I don’t influence her, it’s entirely her choice.  There are times when she wants more than one thing but her money won’t stretch far enough so she has another choice to make.  Allowing kids to spend their savings on whatever they want is another way to give them some control in their lives.

Do you think giving your child choices and more control is a good idea?  When I did a bit of reading on the benefits of giving kids choices, I came across many articles that had the opposite view – giving them choices confuses them or gives them too much control.  More reasons like as a parent you need to maintain control otherwise over a period of time your kids will be in charge.  But I disagree – the key for me is age appropriate choice.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

{Anya wears bear knee socks from the ebabee shop}

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  • Kankana

    Brilliant article and quite helpful for a new mom like me! I think everyone should have the freedom to choose. I would like to bring that to my son too but yeah, as a parent we should be there to guide, give advice if they pick something that might not be right. 🙂

    • ebabee likes

      Thank you and absolutely – we are there to guide and help. But also for young kids you can always give them options where both outcomes are fine with you. This may sound sneaky but it’s not 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  • Mirka Moore @Fitness4Mamas

    A very interesting post! I am a control freak (probably for others), and agree we should let our children to have a bit more control of their lives. Not sure about the HM as have tried that with isabelle, and then she left it till very late in the evening and was too tired to do it…. but agree on the others 😉

    • ebabee likes

      Ha, ha, – me too, I can be a bit of a control freak. But I am learning to let go! With HM maybe give a 3 or 4 hour window – but I do agree sometimes these things can backfire! Therefore best to give small choices and not loose all control 😉

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