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A “Special” Lesson in Giving Choices to Our Kids

parent-choices-kid

Time for some parenting 101. Today let’s talk about giving our kids choices and learning how to never say no.

How often do you struggle as a parent to get your kid to do what you want them to do? How often does your little one scream, “NO!” And how often are you left scratching your head over how to handle it?

The answer is choices. Don’t ever say okay when they say “no” to you. Find a way to offer them a choice. Every time. And don’t ever say no when they ask for something they can’t have. Find a way to say yes. Every time.

Let me demonstrate just how easy parenting can be.

Dad: Noah, how about egg burritos for breakfast this morning?
Noah: Dad, I hate egg burritos!
Dad: Would you rather have an egg burrito or a poop sandwich? I’m happy to make either.
Noah: Grrrr. Egg burrito.
Dad: You promise you’ll eat it? Because I kind of would rather have poop sandwiches for breakfast now that I think about it.
Noah: I’ll eat it, I promise!
Dad: Okay, you want an egg burrito, you’ve got it.

See how easy parenting can be? Here are some more examples.

Noah: Dad, can I pleeeeeeaaasssee have this toy?
Dad: You bet! As soon as you reach down in your pocket and magically find twenty dollars, it’s all yours.
Noah: Dad! I don’t have twenty dollars, where would I get twenty dollars?
Dad: Don’t ask me, that’s why it’s called magic. You never know unless you reach in your pocket and look.
Noah: [reaches in his pocket]. Nope, nothing.
Dad: Bummer. Well, if you ever do find your magic $20, let me know and we’ll run right back here for your toy.

Noah: Dad, do we have to clean the house before we can play a game?
Dad: No, we don’t have to.
Noah: So we can just play the game?
Dad: We don’t have to clean the house first.
Noah: So we can just play the game then?
Dad: If you don’t want to clean the house first then we can find something else to do before we play the game.
Noah: Grrrr. Like what?
Dad: I don’t know, we could leave the house dirty and instead we could lie on the bed for three hours and I get to hold you like my teddy bear while I take a nap. It will take a lot longer, but I like holding you like my teddy bear. So I’d be okay with that.
Noah: Three hours?
Dad: Maybe four.
Noah: Oh fine, let’s clean the house and play the game.
Dad: Okay, if that’s what you want.

CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE

141 comments
singlemomlaughing
singlemomlaughing

You can choose to do letters for homework or you can choose to do numbers... each page earns you a gumdrop...

Integrated Child
Integrated Child

Choices within pre-determined, humorous boundaries. Love it! 

Lori A
Lori A

I'm afraid that my son would choose the poop sandwich.

AmandaK
AmandaK

The most common conversation I had with my dad would go something like this: 

Me: "My leg hurts!!!"

Dad: "We could cut it off"

Me: "NO!!! I need my leg"

Dad: "We could still cut it off if its still hurting"

Me: "No I'm fine."

MikeNantel
MikeNantel

MY wife has been following you for awhile, I finally just stumbled in here.  Great post.  Sounds almost exactly like our discussions with our kids.

cfenut
cfenut

That is funny!! I do that with my 3 year old, maybe not poop sandwiches - but that may come up the next time we have broccoli...

Kristina Alexander
Kristina Alexander

Interesting perspective...I plan on using this on my teenagers :)

Chrissy McDonough
Chrissy McDonough

These sound like very similar conversations to what I had with my dad growing up, at Noah's age and older ;) you might be a bit odd (at least he thinks so now) but you're a good dad and he'll appreciate it when he's older :)

cmt123
cmt123

Do you think this will work with my 17 & 15 year olds?  I'm just not that quick witted to stay ahead of them, but for a small fee, I will pay you to be witty for me!?  What an awesome way to deal with saying yes all the time!

Gay Dad Laughing
Gay Dad Laughing

The first example made me gag just a little. Just saying.

I have to wonder how long until he gets wise to you though. If I were in his shoes, I probably would have accepted the Oreo deal, I was a fanatic for them as a kid.

amberf79
amberf79

I just want to tell you you're Brilliant!!!!

Jes_Lynn
Jes_Lynn

Love this! I will definitely have to try the magic money one with my stepson, he's forever asking for things any time he gets taken to a store! Thanks :-)

roxana297
roxana297

Great advice! I love the one with the teddy bear :D

Pattie
Pattie

Love your blog...wonder if this will work with my 14 year old??  I'm certainly going to try.  :)

Kate S
Kate S

I hope this works on grandchildren! I'm going to try it tomorrow :)

sniptheelf
sniptheelf

Wow, such great advice! I'm going to try this in the morning. My daughter always wants a 'treat' for breakfast... now with options like these I'm sure she will choose an actual breakfast meal....thanks Dan!!

Carina McDonald
Carina McDonald

im just glad someone else offers poop sandwiches in place of already planned meals :)

Nikk
Nikk

Okay... well if they're my choices, I think I'd prefer to leave a comment.

JenKeiko
JenKeiko

can't. stop. laughing. ^_^  very good dad!! in the day to day grind of it all, i forget these fun little ways to avoid conflict with my monkey. THANKS for the reminder!! lil girl better watch out... silly mama is coming back ;)

gtwerd
gtwerd

I learned this in a crash course of child psychology. Always give a child options so they feel in control, all while controlling it yourself so it is a win-win.

Also known as manipulation.  Best parenting tactic ever.

Richard Ault
Richard Ault

Someday Noah will turn that same logic against you...maybe not tomorrow, or next year but someday...

Kimberly Dagenais
Kimberly Dagenais

This works but it is not always that easy. Some kids (I can think of one in particular) will almost always choose no choice just to be difficult to maintain control. One day it will dawn on him that when he refuses to choose and has a tantrum instead it still doesn't get him what he wanted.........right?

MonicaRodgers
MonicaRodgers

I'm so completely trying these! Thanks for the laugh! Pooor Noah!

Jessie Just
Jessie Just

Lol, it really is about saying Yes, if we always tell our kids no, then what are they going to start saying back? NO! It has been proven that giving children little choices such as red shoes or blue shoes, purple pj pants or black with stars is a much more effective way to get your child to do what you want them to without the tantrums, I think it is important to say Yes as much as you can, and by doing what it says above you are creating a child that will always say yes. Little Timmy, do you want to go to go to college? NO! That wouldn't be good. Just my 2 cents, but if that woks for you great!

AtheneNumphe
AtheneNumphe

You are such an amazing dad!

I've found that giving my toddler a choice -- Your brown shoes or your blue shoes, your right arm in the jacket first or your left arm -- really helps to cut down on the NOOOO tantrums.

modernmom23
modernmom23

I have a special needs son (Asbergers and Opositional Defiance Disorder).  I usually use methods similar to these when talking to him.  He always says no, but when presented with other choices, he says yes to what I want him to do.

FranklyKTP
FranklyKTP

The Montessori way is to offer choices whenever possible. Sometimes it's just not feasible so sometimes the conversations go like so:

"I want juice with my lunch."

"We only have milk today. You can have a full glass of milk or a half a glass of milk. I can pour it or you can pour it. Your choice."

For the first 4 years or so it seems to completely distract them from ever having wanted juice.

Shelby Lessary
Shelby Lessary

This never ever works with my 3 yr old boy. But my husband ( John Keola Lessary) is the sales guy so I bet he could make it work.

Ramie
Ramie

We do this with our kids too! Then sometimes I'll cave, and they usually reply with "You're the best mom ever!" and all is right with the world! ;-) Great work!

kimbelina
kimbelina

I particularly love the last example! Made me laugh. 

I always try and give my 2 year old choices to help him feel independent, but they usually go more like this...

Me: Would you like to go to playgroup today?
Him: No! Play toys all day long!
Me: Ok, well you can't stay at home on your own, and we're all going out, so are you coming or not?
Him: No!
Me: Ok then. Here's your coat. *Puts on coat with no argument whatsoever, and we leave*

I'm definitely taking a leaf out of your book though - I need to think of the alternative options to offer...

mindlelindle
mindlelindle

My sister parented in a similar way. Good job.

lillulu84
lillulu84

I giggled through this whole post. It sounds a lot like the conversations I have with my daughter. :D Though I can't say I've ever offered a poop sandwich for breakfast...

ChalyceTrunnellJohnson
ChalyceTrunnellJohnson

You're absolutely right!! When we don't give our kids choices, and just tell them what to do ALL the time, they feel like they have no say in their life. Because they don't. When I give my daughter choices rather than just tell her what to do she always makes good decisions. The whole point of parenting is to raise people who can take care of themselves, isn't it? Not just make them totally sick of us, and want to do the opposite of everything we ask them. :)

DafeyChafey
DafeyChafey

My mom did this all the time. Usually, I had to pick between 2 chores. Like making my bed, or doing the laundry.

KristaIrwin
KristaIrwin

Awesome! I totally need to remember this for when my daughter is a little older. That kind of choices don't work as well with a toddler.

liahonagirl
liahonagirl

oh dear . . . I wonder how my almost 13 year old would react to some of those choices . . . LOL thanks for the laugh today, Dan! :)

BevinNeko
BevinNeko

Wow, I feel like some of the conversations with my 5 year old were just recorded. I will tell him no since kids need to understand 'no' is going to happen more often than not, but most of the time I give options such as the examples above. It usually ends in a laugh because for a second there, he actually considers the other option no matter how crazy it may be. I always make the other outlandish option a possibility just in case he picks it (poop sandwiches would be out), but so far he hasn't.