Stress-Free Discipline Part II

Offering Choices Leads to Cooperation

There are times when “I-messages” don’t always result in cooperation. But this doesn’t mean yelling or getting mad is inevitable. Giving choices is the next logical step to getting your child to listen.

When we come home from school, I expect my son to put his shoes and socks away, wash his hands and come to the dining table for lunch. But sometimes, he flings his shoes in different directions of the living room, his socks are astray and he begins to play.

After my “I-message” has fallen on deaf ears, or I hear a “mom, but I want to play with my trucks first,” I resort to giving him choices rather than losing my cool.

“Would you like to pick up your shoes and socks and go to the bathroom on your own, or would you like me to escort you to the restroom after I help you put your socks and shoes away,” always does the trick.

Giving choices is intrinsic to the Montessori Philosophy that focuses on raising responsible, independent children. Children tend to readily accept choices because they feel in control.


However, it is essential to offer choices that are acceptable to you. “Would you like to wear your blue shirt or your yellow shirt today,” allows my son a certain degree of autonomy, while I get to ensure he doesn’t wear his ratty dinosaur shirt outside the house. It’s a win-win situation.

Authors of The Parents Handbook, Don Dinkmeyer, Sr., Gary McKay, and Don Dinkmeyer Jr. consider giving choices a “democratic style of parenting.” Giving choices helps set limits for children and gives kids “choices within those limits.”

However, offering choices should be used for more than just discipline. When children are given choices about family decisions they feel like they are raised in an environment where their opinion counts. It could be as simple as “do you want to go to the library or the park today?”A child who feels he contributes to family-related decisions feels valued and cared for.

Adults respond well to choices,  too. “Honey, would you like to do the dishes or would you like to take the kids for a bath,” has never failed me! See what I mean when I say win-win situation?


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