“Choices are the hinges of destiny.”
~ Ancient Greek Philosopher Pythagoras
Children make choices every day. Whether it’s about what toys to play with, books to read, clothes or costumes to wear, food to eat, or something else altogether, children’s lives should be replete with opportunities to ponder and choose. Engaging in making choices enables a child to deliberate, understand consequences, and develop independence. Parents can help children comprehend that choice is empowering.
Decisions may be big, small, right, wrong, joyful, scary, impactful, inconsequential, regretful, and so on… Making choices can be tricky, but choosing is a process that underlies change, and it’s a forerunner to getting things accomplished!
CHILDREN AND CHOICE: WHAT TO REINFORCE?
“Opportunity knocks in different ways (including softly, harshly, and unexpectedly), but you have to be willing to answer that knock… What are your finest attributes? What can you draw upon?”
~ Bust Your BUTS, pp. 138, 139
Here are several suggestions for parents:
Follow your child’s lead.
Support their choices as they decide where their preferences lie. Provide diverse experiences so that they can find and develop their passions and abilities, no matter how different they might be from your own, or how they might change over time.
Value your child’s viewpoints.
Invite their opinions and support their curiosity. Connect new opportunities with familiar ones. Listen to kids’ ideas, questions, and concerns. Ensure that they know that it’s safe to ask for help if a choice or a decision becomes challenging for them and that they feel they can change their mind if the path forward proves to be too difficult. “When children sense that they have ownership of their activities and that their learning choices are respected, they are more inclined to commit to them and see them through.” (Not Now, Maybe Later, p. 109)
Ramp up the fun!
Have a variety of materials on hand to encourage playful exploration and a range of creative outlets. For example, you might want to have art supplies, blocks, assorted rocks and pinecones, a costume bin, books with simple science experiments (make a volcano!), a globe, recipe books for kids, musical instruments, and anything else that might invite your child to choose an activity, expand their ideas, or get creative. Investigate multisensory activities within and outside your community. Stay open to whatever is goofy, spontaneous, or puzzling.