With the Kids

Giving Your Kids Choices

As parents, we want to know that we’re in control. But our kids tend to beg, plead, and whine about the choices we make for them. So I try to give my kids choices without letting them choose. This is a great way to let kids have a choice without giving up all the parental control. But you don’t have to make it a choice between something they want and something you want for them, like cookies or an apple. Choose the apple for them, but they get to choose how they’re going to eat it… in slices or with peanut butter.

Giving Kids ChoicesHere’s a few examples of giving your kids choices without letting them choose:

  • You need to eat your broccoli as it’s good food for your body. But are you going to eat it like a monster or a puppy dog?
  • You can play with the toy cars, but you only get to choose one so everyone can share. Which car are you going to pick, the red one or the blue one?
  • You need to wash your hands so we can wash away the dirt. Do you want to wash them while we sing the ABC song or while we make silly faces in the mirror?
  • You can have chips, but not the whole bag as it’s almost dinner time. Do you want to have 4 chips or 5 chips?
  • You can play video games, but you have your chores to do first as we need to all help keep our house picked up. Are you going to take out the trash or make your bed first?

When giving kids these type of choices, first tell them what it is they need to do – the end result. Then tell them why you’re making that choice for them. Then give them some sort of choice to make that will help them with that end result. Kids need to hear a “what” and a “why”, then let them choose the “how”. But for the “how” choice, don’t always leave it open ended. Still make the choice for them, but offer a couple different options. This way you still have control and your child won’t feel as resistant to complete the task. Kids will feel as if they’ve been given some of the responsibility, helping them take ownership. They’re then learning to problem-solve and make decisions, a life long skill. “You are going to do ___ because of ___, but you can either do it this way or that way”.

BUT… what do you do when they don’t want to do either of those choices? They will say this at some point! You can try saying, “That wasn’t one of the choices” or try giving a few more choices for the “how”. But if those don’t work, here’s what I tell my kids, “The last choice is taking a time out!”

In what ways do you allow your kids to make choices for themselves?


  1. I haven’t read Love and Logic yet, but have wanted to for sometime. I guess I need to!! Thanks to some of you for the suggestion.

  2. Such a great idea, Marie! I was just reading something about how we give kids too many choices or the wrong choices (leading to kids thinking they know as much/more than parents). This is the perfect example of letting them choose AND still being the parent! Love it!

  3. I love that book (Love and Logic) too! The choices are great. When my 30 month whines about the choices I say it’s that or nothing. He usually chooses one of the choices instead of nothing. My friend’s daughter on the other hand chooses nothing a lot and she has to be ok with that.

  4. The third choice, the “I don’t want EITHER of those choices!” is the one that is picked most often, most vocally and most annoyingly. I’ve read so many articles that suggest giving choices but what to do when they don’t pick from the choices offered? I end up doing the same as you and offering a choice of what I”ve offered or a time out. For some reason that seems to do the trick :S

  5. Have you read “Parenting With Love & Logic,” by chance? I’m right in the middle of it right now and it presents this same concept…which I think is brilliant!

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