We will talk about the third principle of discipline in today’s column: Offer children choices only when you are able to abide by their choice. The reason behind this principle of discipline is that children take us very seriously when we ask them or tell them something.
For example, if you are running late in the morning and only have time for Cheerios or toast and peanut butter, you should offer your child those specific choices. “Would you like Cheerios or toast and peanut butter for breakfast?” You'll run into trouble if you ask, “What would you like for breakfast?”
Here's another example. Which scenario could give a difficult start to the morning when the dirty laundry is piling up? “What do you want to wear today?” Or, “do you want to wear your blue jeans or sweatpants today?”
Why do we give children choices that we don't really mean? Sometimes, it could be because we are not clear in our own minds of what choices we can live with. Other times, it could be because we want to treat them as if they are older and more capable. When you are at the home of a friend who you know very well, and your friend asks you, “what would you like to drink?” You take into consideration what you believe they have at home to offer before answering. You are an adult who can take another person's perspective and knowledge about that person before making a decision. Young children do not operate that way. They take what we say at face value.
This week, when you take a walk with your child to pick up trash along the roadside I would suggest asking these kinds of questions: “Would you like to wear the yellow gloves or the pink gloves to pick up garbage with me? Do you want to pull the wagon or carry the bag? Where should we take the picture of you working hard? (Then remember to send the photo to me with your name and telephone number and I will contact you with information on where to pick up your wooden musical toad!
(tune: Frere Jacques)
It is springtime
It is springtime
Sometimes it is windy
Sometimes it is raining
It is spring
It is spring.
Sign language for spring, flowers, windy, raining.
Carolyn Lichty, SLP