How to Offer Children Choices

Making choices is a challenge for many children, and offering choices is often inconvenient for parents. That being said, we also know that being offered choices gives children voice, which they often need. Here is a tip I use for helping children make choices.

When I present my kids with two options, I touch first one palm and say the first option…

choices 3

…and then the other as I say the second option.

choices 2

Then I hold out both palms, indicating that my child can choose between the two options.

Choices 1

If my child hesitates, as often happens, I repeat it one more time, using as few words as possible.

This technique helps my child make a choice rather than argue, debate, or refuse to choose. It is both visual and physical and my children generally respond by touching or pointing to the hand with the option he has chosen.

I’ve created a video about this as well:

Sometimes the simplest tips are also the most useful.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

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Lisa

This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

20 Comments

  1. Ellen
    February 4, 2016

    That's great, I love the visual aspect that it adds!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 4, 2016

      Thank you, Ellen. It works so well for my kids.

      Reply
  2. lydiab316
    February 4, 2016

    I remembered your original post with this tip and use it often with one of my 1st Grade students! It usually works very well. He seems to become nonverbal when upset or overstimulated and this gives him the opportunity to be able to express himself and regain control over his situation. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 4, 2016

      Lydia, yes, exactly! It allows them to process without words, which is so helpful when kids aren't calm. I'm so glad it works for you.

      Reply
  3. Anita
    February 4, 2016

    I'm excited to start doing this. I know at least one of my kids will really benefit from the hand motions. Thank you for sharing!!!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 4, 2016

      Great, Anita! I hope it works well for you.

      Reply
  4. Molly Kitsmiller
    February 4, 2016

    Lisa –
    Did you ever worry about your kids chewing too much gum? Did you have them spit it out as soon as they were calmed down? What about other regulated kids that don't need gum all the time but see their sibling getting gum (and they are wanting it) so handing out one piece of gum becomes handing out 4 pieces or 7 pieces to be "fair"? I want to use this but really struggle with the chain reaction that occurs in a house full of kids.
    It seems like it would be a great way to handle difficult days.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 4, 2016

      Gum could only be chewed sitting at the kitchen counter, sitting in a calming down spot, or outside – that's still true for us. It was appealing, but limiting, to the other kids. I handed it out to everyone – it led to more outdoor play!

      Reply
  5. Alli Fountain
    February 4, 2016

    Super simple and very good reminder. Give a choice, give some helpful guidance, support… Thanks Lisa!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 4, 2016

      I'm glad you like it, Alli! Thanks for the comment.

      Reply
  6. Beth
    February 5, 2016

    I have used this with my daughter for the past 5 years. It is unbelievably effective. I share it with all adults who work with my daughter and they usually look at me with skepticism. I don't know what it triggers in her brain, but it often stops a melt down and helps her make a good choice.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 5, 2016

      That is so good to hear, Beth. It was a great tool for Kalkidan and my boys.

      Reply
  7. Kim
    February 5, 2016

    I love this! While I've been good about giving choices: "Would you like apple juice or orange juice with your breakfast?" my particular little gal will inevitably make a choice that was not given and is not available: "I want GRAPE juice!" This causes conflict and makes a choice UNhelpful rather than helpful. Offering the visual is a great idea, and I'm going to try this going forward!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 5, 2016

      I hope it helps, Kim! Let me know.

      Reply
  8. Traveller
    February 5, 2016

    Did you know that the way you've signed it in the pictures looks exactly like the ASL sign for Jesus or bible? (Bible is a compound of "Jesus" and "book"). Fun fact. 😉

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 5, 2016

      Thanks for sharing that!

      Reply
  9. @cmcgalla
    February 5, 2016

    Enter text right here!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 6, 2016

      @cmcgalla, thank you for your comment the other day; you brought up such an important issue for many of our families. I would like to offer it as a Tuesday Topic question. If you have any questions, please email me at lisa@onethankfulmom.com

      Reply
  10. Pam H
    February 7, 2016

    My son has such a hard time making decisions. If given two options, he seems so overwhelmed and I usually make a decision for him, at which time he takes the opposite decision of what I've said (ha ha – unfortunately because of this I can sometimes manipulate what I want him to do knowing he will chose opposite of what I say). I am definitely going to try this and see if giving him this visual will help him.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 7, 2016

      I hope it helps him, Pam. It has been so good for my kids.

      Reply

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