Home » Three Ways to Use Choices

Three Ways to Use Choices

For this week’s blog post, we’re sharing some behavior tips from our Clinical Director! Keep reading to learn how to use choices in order to keep kids on schedule:

Choices are an essential part of everyday life. We make choices every time we decide what we’re going to wear, what we’re going to watch, and even when we’re going to get up to get that snack we’ve been craving for the last few hours. Sometimes we get a choice: I want to snack in ten minutes, or I want to snack now. Sometimes we don’t: the doctor’s appointment is in ten minutes, whether we want to go or not. 

As adults, we navigate these situations with a fair amount of autonomy whereas most children are subject to the schedules, and timers, their parents provide. Have you ever given a warning that it was time to leave? Or when tv time was supposed to end in favor of getting ready for bed? No doubt you’ve been told “one more minute” or “can I have ten more minutes!” in response to either of these requests, and then entered a long negotiation of exactly when to do the next task.  

How can we leverage choices to keep kids on our schedule? Try the following tips: 

1. Provide a choice where both answers are to your benefit

Rather than telling a child they have five more minutes of an activity, rephrase it to give them a choice. Tell them they can choose between three minutes and five minutes, even though you know that they’ll choose five. This lets them have control over the situation and feel like their input has an impact on the events, rather than feeling like they need to bargain for the additional time. 

2. Provide choices between two activities that need to be done 

Rather than provide a rote instruction “Go clean your room,” provide them the choice between two rooms or items that need to be cleaned. An instruction then becomes, “Do you want to clean your room or do the dishes first?” The answer still may be neither, but you’re less likely to get a rote “no” simply by offering them the opportunity to pick the task.  

3. Instead of “No,” provide a choice 

There’s always something that you have to say no to. A request that’s unreasonable, or an item that’s not available. No is a tough word for most kids. Hearing no immediately ends a conversation, or starts negotiations. Rather than saying no, skip over it entirely and give two options of what is available. For example, the next time your child asks for a candy bar in the checkout aisle of the grocery store, try offering them two things that are available instead. “You can have five minutes of screen time when we get in the car, or you can have some M&Ms at home.” Sometimes, this is enough to distract from the current item of interest (such as the candy bar) and refocus your child on the exciting things in their future.  

Leave a Reply