Positive behaviour

Choose to avoid conflict

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Choices and children can be an explosive combination, one that is often fraught with traps.

So why bother with choices for young children, why not just tell children what to wear, what to eat, and so on?

Why is it important for children to choose? 

Important life skill  

Learning to make choices is an important part of your child's ongoing quest for independence.


The quest for independence is a strong innate drive within every child, as a parent this evolving drive can be frustrating and is often a source of conflict.  


Like many things which appear simple, giving a child choice is not necessarily as easy as it sounds.

Informed choice requires knowledge and understanding

If we agree that learning to make choices is an important life skill how can you go about it?

How can you maximise the positive outcomes and minimise conflict?

An important starting point is to remember that your small child has little experience of the world and therefore little understanding of the implications of any particular choice or action.

Understanding the consequences

To make an informed choice an understanding of the consequences is required.

You know (for example) why eating a nutritionally balanced diet, getting enough sleep, or taking medicine are important for well being, the child has no such understanding.

You know the impact of serious head injury, the child does not and can not.


What happens when you give your child an open-ended choice?

Usually, it goes something like this…. you ask your child what they would like for breakfast.

You probably do so thinking of all the usual breakfast choices, then when the child answers “ice-cream” you are surprised and then, unsurprisingly, you say “no”.

The result is that the child is confused and understandably really annoyed. You asked what they would like and they would like ice-cream and you said “no”.

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A tearful argument is the most likely outcome and the result is that everyone is unhappy.

Here’s the thing, your young child does not know when you said “what would you like for breakfast?” what you actually meant was “which of our usual breakfast foods what would you prefer this morning?”

They thought you actually meant “what would you like for breakfast?” and they would like ice-cream.

Clear communication

Clear communication is so important to family harmony that I devote one module of my Montessori Parenting - raising calm contented kids course to it.

It makes such a difference to the happiness of everyone in the family.

Limited choices

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Giving the child a limited choice, asking 'would you like porridge or yoghurt and fruit for breakfast?' makes it clear to everyone what's on offer.

If the child then answers “ice-cream” your response is much easier and far less confusing to the child.
”I understand you would like ice-cream however the choices for breakfast today are porridge or yoghurt and fruit, so which would you prefer?”.

The same principle applies to all choices 

As you are the adult you understand the consequences, avoid a negative outcome by limiting the choices to appropriate alternatives. 

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Clothing

Clothing is a common source of stress.
 Asking a young child what they'd like to wear often results in conflict as the young child wants to wear the sparkly party dress to play outside in the sandpit, new bathers on a winter day or a coat in the middle fo summer. 

Offering the child a choice between appropriate examples gives the child a degree of independence and helps develop an understanding of appropriate choices for particular situations.  

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Food

Just like the other examples when offering food choices always list the options or display the suitable options and allow the child to choose.

Honing the choice skill

As the child matures and develops a greater understanding of the world so the parameters of the available choices are widened.


This way choosing becomes a positive interaction between parent and child and at the same time furthers the child's understanding of the world. 

How to give your child what they really crave, calm simplicity.

What does your child really need?  

More experiences, more educational toys, more outings, more play dates, more, more...., more?

Perhaps what they really need, what would really make them happier and more satisfied is not more but less. 

Many adults are attracted to the philosophy of de-cluttering, and find that simplifying their life brings a sense of peace, the same applies to the young child.  

Less for most children would very definitely be more.

A simple Montessori-inspired approach to parenting has a lot to offer busy parents.

It offers practical, easy to understand strategies to simplify home life and when followed everyone in the family will be calmer, happier and more content.

How to start?

Step 1. Press the button

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Why telling your child to "have fun" is counterproductive

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Each day as we say goodbye to our children many of us impart our wish for them to have fun.

"Have fun" we say, each and every day. We do this because we want the best for our children and we want them to enjoy the things they do. However if you think about it, it's just not possible to have fun every day. And even if it were, is it really what you want for your children?

Creating the expectation that each day, each activity will be fun-filled sets the child up for failure and disappointment. 

Returning home, their experiences are then examined against the harsh, unrealistic measure of the fun scale. "Did you have fun?"

If children are taught to expect each and every experience to be fun they are going to encounter a great deal of disappointment and distress. 

Is that really how you want to teach your child to measure the worth of an activity? To teach them that fun (every day) is what we aim for, that's our main goal? 

What will happen if your child begins to reject anything or everything that's not fun to learn?

A lot of necessary skills and enjoyable activities take effort and perseverance to learn, they are not and can not be fun every step of the way.

Sending your little one off with the expectation of having fun every day puts everyone under so much pressure, the child cannot help but fail and by failing will often feel as though they are disappointing the parent who so clearly wants them to have fun. 

What can we do instead?

Surely there are many meaningful ways to measure the worth of our experiences? 

Using instead the phrase "have a good day" is very different to "have fun. A good day can be (and very often is) one where you achieve something worthwhile, you master a new skill, you persevere and make progress, you overcome a difficulty - it may not have been fun but it was satisfying and rewarding. 

When our children return home at the end of the day we could say something like, "Hi, it's great to see you, how are you?" and leave it to them to report their day as they wish (often you will find out much more by waiting than you will by grilling them).

"How was your day?" is far more open-ended than "how was your day, did you have fun?" which automatically tells the child what the parent wants to hear.

If you ask, 'how was your day?' please be prepared to accept, OK, all right, boring, horrible or good or any other words the child chooses to describe their day.

 Very often if you accept the child's answer, reflect it back and wait, children will begin to spontaneously talk about their experiences in their own way, in their own time. If no additional information is offered up it's a great idea if you offer some of your own, talking about your day. This then becomes a conversation rather than an interrogation.

Conversations, where we are free to discuss our experiences and our feelings, are the basis of a great relationship.

 

Holidays - your golden opportunity to evaluate family life

If you dread school holidays, thinking there will be more pain than pleasure, then it's time to have a long hard look at your family life.

If things in your family are not as you'd like them to be, what's going wrong?

If you could transform your family dynamics into what you'd like them to be, what would they look like?

It's likely you know how you'd like your family to function but not why it doesn't, or how to change it.

If you are ready to make some changes I would love to guide and support you through a process of evaluation. 

Neutral eyes see more clearly.

Together we can work through the available options and choose the path that's right for your family.  

Contact me for a free chat about what you'd like to change and I'll explain the ways I can help you to reach more of your parenting goals.