With our second child, we learned early on that in order for him to be successful, he needed to be in charge, or in charge as much as we could let him. Letting children make their own decisions gives them ownership of the situation and can help them learn to behave well.
First of all, make sure that children are allowed to make choices. However, as a parent, you can control the types of choices the child will make. For instance, it is bathtime and my child IS going to take a bath, but I give him the choice of a bath in his tub or a bath in mine. His choice, but it is the outcome that I desire (a clean kid!). Or, we are getting ready to go to the store. I may give my child a choice of two kinds of shoes to wear. He is going to wear shoes, but I allow him to choose which ones he wants.
Giving choices is a good way to work with potential misbehaviors. When my boys are getting overly rough, I give them a choice. For example, stop throwing the ball in the house or the ball will have to be put away for a while. My child then has the choice of rolling the ball (an acceptable behavior here) or no ball at all.
Oftentimes, giving choices is a great way to get children to cooperate, even when it is something they initially do not want to do. Instead of the battle of bedtime (and actually getting into bed), I give my son a choice of two or three books to read in bed before lights out. He is getting in bed, but he gets to decide what we will do when we are there. And, if he chooses all the books? That’s okay, too…he is in bed, and that is the ultimate goal.
There are times, though, that my child will try to make a choice other than those that are given. In cases such as this, the best thing to do is to let the child know what the choices are again. I have been known to sound a bit like a broken record, but eventually my child will make a choice that is one of the options given.
Allowing your child to solve his or her own problems through making good choices is a wonderful way to parent with limits. It gives freedom with structure, which is vital to providing a sense of security and confidence in children.