4 Guidelines For Helping Children Learn To Make Good Choices

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One of the best ways to help a child become independent is to let them make their own choices. You can teach your child important life skills and develop their problem solving abilities by allowing them to choose for themselves. However, there are guidelines to help this go smoothly for caretaker and child.

1. Only present acceptable choices.

Caretakers should only give choices that are acceptable. Often, there is more than one choice that would be okay. If a preschool child wants to choose their own clothes, encourage that, but keep some control by allowing the child to choose between two different pieces of clothing that are appropriate, rather than just turning them loose on the whole closet.

2. Give them time to make the choice.

Give the child some time to make their choice, rather than trying to hurry them along. However, let them clearly know how long you will give them to make the choice and then stick to it! When it is time to go to bed, let the child pick the story to be read.

Give them a time frame such as, “You have untiI I have the dishes loaded in the dishwasher or I will choose the book.” Do not let yourself get sucked into a “bargaining” situation with a child. State the choices clearly and follow through with the conditions.

3. Praise their good choices.

Make sure you praise and encourage the child when they make good decisions. Positive feedback is extremely important in the learning process!

Let them know you are happy with the decision they have made by choosing a specific action they took and commenting on it. For example, “Thank you for choosing your book quickly and putting the ones we are not using back on the shelf.” Deal quickly and firmly with inappropriate choices but give as little attention as possible to these.

4. Recognize when it’s not OK to let them choose.

There are times when a child should not be given a choice at all, especially when the child’s safety and well-being is involved. For instance, a child should know they are never to cross the road without a caretaker.

Choosing to disregard a rule such as this should result in immediate and firm consequences. A child needs to know that choices have consequences, good or bad, and when they make a choice, they also choose the consequences that go with it.

People are much happier if they have a choice rather than being told what to do, and this most certainly includes children! However, there are endless choices in our world, and decision making is a skill that is learned over time. The more we can do to let our children make choices now, the better they will be at it later.

little girl analyzes produce choices at grocery store
Courtesy of Light Field Studios (via Canva)

This story was submitted to Love What Matters  by Kari Taylor and Marny Hazeldine. You can follow them on Pinterest and purchase their preschool curriculum here. Join the Love What Matters family and subscribe to our newsletter.

Read more from Kari and Marny:

Preschool Teacher’s Advice For Raising Capable, Confident, Resilient Kids

How To Address Gender Bias With Preschoolers

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