How To Give Kids Choices Without Giving Away Your Power!

Who Has Control Now??

Who Has Control Now??

Have you ever wondered who is in control you or your child? Children love having control. They have so many areas in their life where they have no control, when they find an opportunity to take it they will go for it every time. Their favorite person(s) to control is their parent(s)! They master it from a very young age. Even as babies they innocently use different cries to get our attention. Then as they grow into toddlers they use tears, temper tantrums and relentless pleading or whining to get what they want. It is like a tug of war and if we give in once they have won the battle and learned our breaking point which they will remember and use for a very long time. Giving a child choices in life gives them power and a bit of control without having them take over. As parents though it is good for us to learn how to offer our child choices to create win/ win situations instead of arguments and tears.

For instance, if you know you have to work the next day and your child needs to be in daycare by a certain time it might be good to offer the right choice to them. If you ask, “Do you want to go to Daycare tomorrow and play with your friends?” it gives them the power to control the situation and could be setting you up for a big argument. After all what do you do if your child says, “NO!!!!”? You could maybe stay home from work or spend half an hour convincing your child why they have to go to daycare. A better choice to offer could be, “Mommy has to work tomorrow and you get to go to Daycare, do you want to leave at 7:30 am so you can play with your friends longer or 8:00am so you can sleep in a bit more? This is win/win it doesn’t question the fact they have to go to daycare, it allows them to control what time they go or maybe even suggest a time in between so they get a bit extra play time and some extra sleep-in time.

When my kids were little I always found bedtime a challenge. There were so many areas that could start conflict, bath time, snack, teeth brushing, and story time so coming up with some good choices helped the night go a bit smoother and more peaceful.

If bed time was at 8:30pm I would always start at least a half an hour or an hour before when possible depending if it was bath night.

  •  On Bath Nights – “Do you want to take your bath before or after your bedtime snack?”
  • Snack time – Offer a choice between two different healthy snacks. (if my kids got what they wanted it would probably have been Ice Cream)
  • Teeth Brushing – “Time to brush your teeth, do you want to use mint or berry flavored toothpaste?” When my son was two he hated brushing his teeth and would refuse to open his mouth so he also got the choice of brushing the easy way (standing nicely with his mouth open) or the hard way (flipped over on the floor, pinned and rib tickled to get his mouth open) Sounds a little harsh but the job had to get done one way or the other. Funny enough being a boy he loved the hard way getting flipped and tickled was his favorite and we always ended up in a giggle fest afterwards.
  • Pajama time – “Do you want to wear the red or the blue pajamas tonight?” (this one works with a couple of outfits for getting dressed in the morning too)
  • Story time – Would always come last after they were ready and settled in bed. How long they took to get ready for bed would determine the length of story. If we only had 5 minutes before bedtime the story would have to be very short. If they were speedy that night and had 20 minutes left they could pick a longer book. If we didn’t have a favorite book we were reading that night I found it easier to narrow the choice for them and lay out 2-4 books to choose from for their story.

Choices work great in every situation from crossing the street – “You can hold my right hand or my left hand” to leaving a favorite activity – “We can leave now or in 5 minutes?” The key is to come up with choices that meet the end goal and one where both the parent and the child feel good about themselves afterwards.

Restaurant Nightmares! Will We Ever Eat Out Again?

Ever been in a restaurant and watched a parent lose complete control of their child?  The child is running all over the restaurant, jumping in and out of other booths, crawling under the tables chatting and poking other diners generally being annoying. The parents of the child usually look utterly frustrated and embarrassed trying desperately to get their child to behave or trying to blend into the wall paper and pretend the little terror doesn’t belong to them. Ever been that parent?

Sit Nice Tommy, Dinner is almost here! Pleease...

Sit Nice Tommy, Dinner is almost here! Pleease…

I know an occasion when I have and I could have crawled under the table myself in embarrassment. Not that I was ignoring my child just that as a stay at home mom and deprived of adult conversation I was enjoying the moment with friends and kids being kids she was off. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must have been for the restaurant staff and how dangerous for my child. What if Marie had run into a server carrying a tray full of hot food and drinks? It could have been a disaster.

After my experience I knew I needed to come up with some strategies to keep my kids busy at the table while waiting for their food. It is tough for little kids to sit quietly, by the time we get to the restaurant they are already hungry so to wait another 30-40 minutes for food to arrive is unbearable for them. What can we do to help them?

Dining Out Parenting Strategies…

  • Always carry a toy bag with you into the restaurant packed with age appropriate toys and books. Let’s face it the coloring sheet and crayons restaurants give out aren’t always enough.  I had a small back pack stuffed with Mega Blocks, toy cars, small books, a Barbie, a coloring book and crayons. We took it everywhere then when we were stuck in a line or waiting for food the kids always had something to do.
  • Keep a pen, small deck of cards and a pair of folding scissors in your purse as emergency backup just in case you forget the toy back pack. Many a time I have asked the waitress for a stack of napkins and spent the wait time drawing pictures and cutting out snowflakes with my children. The folding scissors could come in handy for all kinds of other tasks like cutting freezies, ribbon on birthday presents and loose threads. As the kids got older they would play card games to pass the time.
  • Have a 30 minute rule for restaurants. If we could not be seated, ordered and eating within 30 minutes at a restaurant we never went back.
  •  Don’t seat siblings together they are bound to find something to fight about. Our rule has always been “Keep em Seperated!”
  •  If your child is starving before you leave home bring some small snacks to the restaurant to keep them occupied. Dried cereal, fishy crackers, small cut up fruit or veggie’s in a container are perfect. A hungry child can be very cranky.
  • After ordering, take the kids to the bathroom to wash their hands and do any other necessary business if needed. It could kill 5-10 minutes of wait time especially if you check things out on the way there and back… maybe an interesting picture or plant.
  •  If the kids are really fidgety have one parent take them outside for a short walk, they can release come energy and the parent waiting can wait in peace and quiet then text or call them back in when the meal arrives. (this is a good one to rotate so each parent gets a turn enjoying the quiet before the meal)
  • Look for restaurants in your area with a ‘Play Zone” for kids. McDonalds maybe the biggest but it’s not the only one. Some family restaurants have a small toy corner where parents can amuse their children while waiting for their food. Google “Kid Friendly Restaurants” in your city for choices. My favorite one in Vancouver is ‘Sophie’s Cosmic Café’ the food is great, the walls are packed with old toys for the kids to look at and they have a small toy corner sectioned off for kids to entertain themselves. Definitely worth checking out.
  • If you have a favorite restaurant in your neighbourhood get a takeout menu and ask the staff if you could call your orders in ahead of time so the food would be almost ready when you arrive with your family at the restaurant. If it isn’t a super busy night and they know you restaurants can usually be accommodating.
  • Pack up, pay and leave. As our kids got older my husband and I had a rule… They would get three warnings if they didn’t behave we would pack up, pay and leave the restaurant before finishing. They would then each be responsible for reimbursing us the cost of their meal because of the inconvenience and embarassment of their chosen behaviours. Although we would have enforced this rule we never had to, by the second warning they usually decided to settle down instead of pay.
  • If the server was good and had lots of patience always leave a big tip! Especially when dining with young children. I figure they not only put up with us but had to clean up after my kids dropped food all over the floor and they deserved a good tip.
  • Last but not least if all else fails and being in a restaurant is totally unbearable “Don’t Eat Out Do Take Out!” It is always easier, no one has to cook and the kids can play at home until the food arrives. We have done many more nights of take out than dining out and everyone is happy!

I wish you all the best on your future dining out experiences and hope these tips will help your meal be a peaceful one. If you have a tip that has worked for you I would love to hear about it. Every idea helps and the more the better.

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Disclaimer

The information on this site is based on the personal experience of the author. There are no guarantees of a perfect method to raise a child, it is all trial and error. Please feel free to try some of the suggestions on this site and let me know how you make out. If you would like to use any words or pictures from this blog please contact me for written permission. © 2013

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