Sunday, April 11, 2010

Weekly Column: Let Them Choose

Awhile back, I wrote about the importance of making instructions clear by not phrasing them to sound like a question. However, it’s just as important to let your child regularly choose their own paths. To invite them into decision-making. Besides making day-to-day living simpler, it teaches your kids that their choices matter and have consequences.

There are opportunities scattered so fully over every day that you shouldn’t have to search for times to let your child make their own decisions. It can be your default position to not make every choice for them. In our house and within our guidelines, we try to let our kids choose such simple things as what to have for breakfast and what to wear – things that reinforce logical consequences to their actions. If she decides not to wear a jacket on a cool day, she’ll learn from being chilly.

With full disclosure, I can tell you that I struggle with this. I want to help my child make the best decisions, but that can be done without forcing my own preferences and personality on her. If my daughter wants to wear red tights with pink shoes and an orange skirt, I’ll do my best to compliment her creativity, and not worry about it. Why should I guide her towards my preference if it doesn’t really matter?

This isn’t a move towards letting your child have the final say on everything. Although your little one might plaintively wish it were so, it just won’t work. You’re not going to let your child choose something dangerous or hurtful just to allow them their autonomy, but letting them make choices in simple situations will provide them with practice for when a more serious choice comes up in the future.

Like choosing the perfect Mother’s Day gift. Now, THAT’S serious.


  1. I'm so glad I'm not the only mom who allows her child free reign over fashion! As long as it's at least moderately weather appropriate, I let Katherine design all her own outfits. And yes, that means I regularly go to the store with a child who's wearing two skirts, a pair of jeans, a ruffly t-shirt, 3 necklaces and 36 sparkly hairbands.

    I'm going to have a hard time letting Penelope put her own styles together though. When people look at Katherine and then glance at me like I'm crazy, I always try to gesture toward Penelope--in her jeans or romper or something else Mamma-approved and super cute--so they'll know I'm the one putting Katherine's looks together!

    Great article!

    (Another example, because apparently I just can't stop with this comment: today I let Katherine choose orange and green for her birthday party colors even though I SO wanted to steer her toward pink and purple flowery pastels. It's sad that sometimes I have to fight with myself to let her be the sweet, funny kid she's trying so hard to become...but, I did it. Friday at my house, a dinosaur party in orange and green. Want to come?)

  2. You KNOW I want to come :) Mia would love it! We've been pretending pirates all week and I'm just waiting for her to announce her next birthday party as a pirate party. But I won't suggest it...

  3. Can you collect all of your parenting tips and send them to me in a little spiral bound book around, say, September 19?


Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?