We all value our options, our right to choose, and the power of that choice. As it turns out, our mini-humans do too! Children thrive in the face of options – what toy to play with, what crayon to use, which book to read. For many of us, as parents, these are choices we provide our children without really thinking about it. In fact, it makes life easier for us to let them choose. Can you imagine how frustrating it would be for them if every play-based decision was made by us?
But what about the not-so-typically kid-driven choices? As a Type-A (with a hefty dose of OCD added) personality, this is an area where I can easily go into autopilot, efficient mom mode. Now, before I continue, allow me to clarify: I am not talking about giving our children the option to play in the knife drawer or choose candy for dinner. There are times to give choices and times for us to choose, and I am talking about offering up the reigns when it comes to things that don’t endanger or negatively influence our kids. Getting dressed is a topic of major discord for some parents and children. For my child, I’m not really sure he ever gave which t-shirt to wear a second thought before I asked him. Some may say that I’m inviting chaos by asking for his participation, but I believe these tiny choices instill a sense of “can do” in my son and give him a confidence in his ability to make right choices. And even if you are the parent who has to cope with the kid who demands to wear a tutu every day for a week, does it really matter? I mean, really? Isn’t it a fantastic memory you’ll keep forever? And, more importantly, isn’t it also fantastic that the self-confidence you are offering your child is something that will stay with him or her forever?
I find relinquishing a little control is refreshing for me and invigorating for my son. I can see the sense of self worth and accomplishment he feels when he is in charge of a task. I don’t know how long the helper stage will last, but I don’t want to miss it. My 2-year-old feels very significant standing next to me in the laundry room. I hand him wet clothes out of the washer and he vigorously and diligently puts those socks and shirts into the dryer. He is a man on a mission when I ask him to put something in the garbage for me. And I have quiet smiles to myself during nap time as I spend 3 seconds to take a couple recyclables off the top of the heap and set them into the recycling bin. Because, again, does it really matter that they didn’t go exactly where they were supposed to in the first place? Or that I could really hammer through a mountain of laundry in record-setting time if it weren’t for my little “helper”?
My blonde Tasmanian devil can be a little tough to corral to the car, even to go somewhere fun. I ask him if he can help me by getting his shoes. He has 3-4 pairs to choose from at the front door and I enjoy seeing which will be that day’s winner. This choice that I’m giving him offers him a sense of control, and there’s excitement in that. It offers me a more efficient transition to the car and, you know what, it can also be awfully cute…