I’ve noticed something about Baby Girl lately. She’s seeking independence and her power to choose. Anyone got kids like that? It’s not that these things have been taken away from her on purpose . . . it’s just that sometimes we forget she wants to decide for herself.
Let me ‘splain . . .
Last Monday, I got out of bed and checked to see if Baby Girl was up and awake for school. There she lay, sweetly snoozing and looking like a perfect angel. I hated to wake her. I decided to give her a few more minutes to sleep, and that I could help her by getting out her school outfit. So I laid out one of her school uniforms at the foot of her bed. Finally, I gently woke her up and told her it was time to get up and that her outfit was right ready on her bed. I then left to check on my other kidlets.
Well, 10 minutes later I came back to see if Baby Girl was dressed. Nope. She was not. She was sprawled out on her floor and looking very angry. “Hey, time to get ready. Why aren’t you dressed?” I asked.
She replied to me in a very tantrum-like-yelling-sort-of-way, “I don’t want to.”
Okay. Deep breath. What were we dealing with here? I was thinking she must not want to go to school or maybe she’s still tired (and it could have been those things too). I reminded her in a very parent-like manner to get dressed right away.
She refused again. Not like Baby Girl to do that. She’s usually quite obedient and helpful. So I decided to dig deeper.
I asked her what was wrong. To which she replied, “I wanted to pick out my own clothes.” Ohhhh. My eyes were opened. It didn’t matter that she wears a uniform at our school and that there are limited options–she wanted to have the power to choose it. And I don’t blame her one bit, even though I just was trying to help her.
Well, later that week I noticed another happening. It was so subtle that I may not have realized it if we hadn’t already had The Clothes Incident.
Baby Girl and Little Son were playing Wii together. At the start of the game they each were supposed to pick their own character. Little Son picked his and then said to Baby Girl, “I’ll pick yours for you so we can just get started.” Whoa. Baby Girl protested, but Little Son insisted he should do it. Luckily, I was there intervene and let her choose.
Baby Girl was not even getting to choose simple things. No wonder she’s angry. It’s hard to realize sometimes that a young child is capable of choosing AND wants to choose.
I was reminded again of something I learned early on in my mothering. CHILDREN NEED TO MAKE THEIR OWN CHOICES. They are here to choose. Sometimes we expect them to do what we want–ALWAYS. It’s hard to give them the power to decide sometimes, especially when we know they’ll choose something we don’t want them to.
As parents we are to guide them to make good choices. We help them learn to obey rules. And sometimes they still choose not to obey those rules. But we can teach them that each choice comes with a consequence–a good one or a bad one. For example, “If you don’t hold my hand to cross the street, then you go to time-out.” Sometimes though other choices don’t matter as much, and so with those kinds of choices children should be given the opportunity to decide for themselves.
So here’s some CHOICE ADVICE:
1. Let your child have many opportunities to choose, especially on the things that don’t really matter.
2. Teach them the rules that DO matter. Help them know the consequences–the good ones for following the rules as well as the bad ones for NOT obeying.
3. Pick your battles. Does it really matter if they wear mis-matched socks to school? But it IS IMPORTANT that they stay by you in a crowded store or do their homework.
3. Show by example the joy of choosing good things.
4. As they get older, guide their choices, but let them decide within the rules you have set. Sometimes they have to make mistakes and learn on their own.
Any other “choice advice” you can share? Let us know in the comments . . .