When young children are allowed to make some choices for themselves they start to be able to think for themselves and this leads them to making choices about their own actions. Making choices about their own actions is the first step on the path to developing self-discipline.
Create an environment that offers the possibility for your child to make appropriate choices
- Everybody must learn to make choices in life. But not everyone realises that the capacity to get good at making choices can be nurtured during the first years of life. That’s why it is very important that we give young children opportunities to practise making choices. Of course we know that young children love to have things their own way and that making choices or accepting changes to their usual routine may be challenging for them which in turn, can be challenging for you. So if you are going to allow your child to have some practice at making choices, you need to think about the choices that you are prepared to give her. T hen offer the choices in a clear way, be prepared to accept her decision, and let her have her choice.
- Offer choices where you are happy for either outcome such as ‘Would you like peanut butter or cheese on your sandwich?’ or 'Do you want to wear your striped pants or your corduroy pants?' or ‘Shall we buy red apples today or green ones?’
- Don’t use choices to manipulate or threaten your child. For example ‘Do you want to eat your dinner or do you prefer to go right to bed?’ This makes your child feel that they are not really allowed to make choices.
- A few choices every day are enough for your child to cope with at first and as she gets used to making choices you can increase the number of decisions you allow her to make.
- Each opportunity to choose from two options and to make a decision increases your child’s sense of herself as a person who is responsible for her actions. It will take time, of course, for her to understand the things she can make choices about and the things that are non-negotiable. But as she starts to understand that she can be responsible for her own actions and she senses that you are prepared to trust her to make some decisions she becomes increasingly in control of herself. In this way each choice she makes is a step on the path to self-discipline.