The Power of Choices

by Jennifer Dryden

Often, as parents, we try to micromanage our children so that they will not make bad choices nor have to suffer any negative consequences. However, this can be very detrimental to a child’s development!  Ephesians 5:15-17 says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Giving choices can be one of the most effective tools a parent uses to raise a self-disciplined child who is able to make wise decisions and discern what the will of the Lord is!

In their book, The Pearls of Love and Logic for Parents and Teachers, Jim Fay and Foster Cline state, “Many parents spend a lot of time trying to take control of their children’s actions. This is natural. We feel insecure when we have little control over others, especially our children. ” Sometimes in my work with parents, I will encounter resistance to the idea of giving a choice. Offering choices does not mean that we do not set boundaries when we parent. It simply means that we give the child some positive control by offering him a choice. The reality is that the parent is the one giving the list of choices, but the child feels empowered by having the ability to choose. For example, a parent might tell a child that he has the choice to wear one of two different outfits to church. Another example of a choice a parent might give a child is the choice to follow directions and participate in an activity or choose to misbehave and stay in his room.

As children are given choices and make decisions, they are building for themselves a mental record of their choices and outcomes. They will refer to these memories of previous choices and consequences for their entire lives. For example, if they make a bad choice and are allowed to suffer a negative consequence, they will most likely learn a valuable lesson and will not repeat the same choice in the future.

Giving choices helps a child:

  • Learn important decision making skills;
  • Build self esteem;
  • Develop his identity;
  • Feel empowered.