This is my Leila. Cute, huh?
This is what she chose to wear to her sister Temple’s soccer game. She’s sitting in her doll stroller– not because she doesn’t have a fabulous chair, but just for fun.
Now let me not give you the impression that this was an unusual day. Below is an ensemble she chose on an earlier, cool winter afternoon. (Pay no attention to the messy room she should have been cleaning, instead of the accessorizing she was doing. I was kind enough to crop out a good deal of it.)
Let’s just say she has a mind of her own, specifically when it comes to her wardrobe. Other things too, but definitely her clothes. I am already dreading her life in school uniforms, but that is for another day, and another post.
There was a time when I probably wouldn’t have allowed such costumes to leave the house. A time when I would have forced her to change into something a little more standard–you know, something that matched. After all, I’m in charge here. I say what is and isn’t acceptable wardrobe, right?
But, alas, those days are gone. As the youngest of four girls, my Leila has the great pleasure of reaping the rewards from years of child rearing. I have learned what is and isn’t worth fighting over. Clearly, I won’t be letting Leila run out in the snow in a swimsuit, but I have discovered the number one way to avoid power struggles with kids: give your kids power to make good choices. Every chance you get.
The truth is, as much as we think kids are controlling our lives, they often feel the exact opposite. Things like bedtime routines and organized snack time, which are completely necessary, sometimes leave kids feeling like they never get to be heard. Finding simple ways of letting kids assert some control will allow them to feel good about their choices instead of looking for ways to get more power. (I’ll spare you the picture of a screaming toddler, but you know the visual I’m going for here.)
I hear parents all the time say things like, “You have to let kids know who’s in charge,” or, “If you don’t let them know who’s the boss, they’ll run all over you.” Ok, maybe I’ve heard myself say that.
And I agree. Kids need to respect their parents’ authority. But kids who feel more confident in the small decisions they make will be less likely to act out and make bigger mistakes as time goes by. Kids who work through their own choices–with a parent’s guidance–are more likely to make better choices in the future.
I know it can be challenging, but here are three choices your kids can safely make (most days) and tips for implementing them in your life today.
- Wardrobe: Remember my Leila the next time your little princess wants to wear her tiara to church. You may get a few strange looks, but who are you hurting? Want to start a little smaller? Even the youngest toddler can choose between a red shirt and a blue. Worried about time? Pick out clothes the night before. Then you might even have an excited child getting dressed in the morning. Follow up with a compliment about the choice, and suddenly you have the trifecta of parenting delight!
- Food: I know this one is loaded, but hear me out. No, I don’t expect you to fix chicken nuggets every night just because your kids ask for it. Instead, if you are a meal planner, let the kids pick from the cookbook once or twice. Or if you’re standing in front of the fridge feeling uninspired, pull one of the kids in and let them help you with the choice. I’m seeing at least a few extra bites of dinner down the hatch when the kids see their choice on the table.
- Activities: The nice thing about modern-day living is there is no shortage of expos, events, or activities to choose from on a daily basis. Often we push kids into the things that we think they should do, but what about giving them the choice? I’m willing to bet if there were more choices given in advance, there would be fewer t-ballers refusing to bat on Saturday morning and fewer frustrated parents to boot.
Kids need not only the power to make choices, but also to feel the positive and negative consequences of those choices. Ultimately, you have enough things to think about in your day–leave the simple decisions to the kids.
QUESTION: How do you give your kids positive power? What choices do you allow them to make?
CHALLENGE: Evaluate how you can give your children more freedom of choice in the things that matter most to them.
Edited by Sarah Monson. Images provided by Calvalyn Day. Graphics by Julie Finlayson.