Monday, 1 October 2007

Give a kid a break -- with healthy choices

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One of the best pieces of parenting advice I've ever received -- and now the best I have to offer -- is to give kids choices. Not just any choices, though. Just the choices where each option is a winner from the parent point of view. Take bedtime, for example. In our household, one of our two bundles of joy always resists this dreaded hour. He'd do anything to stay up a few minutes later. He'd also do anything to avoid completing his first-grade homework. So we, his parents, often present him with a choice. First we back up bedtime by 20 or 30 minutes. Then we ask, "Would you like to go to bed right now or would you like to do some homework first?" Homework always wins. And so does everyone involved. Joey gets to make an important decision and postpone bedtime -- kind of -- and we get a more cooperative boy when tucking-in time arrives.

The choice thing works for picky eaters too. For those who beg for cookies and candy snacks, why not head off the sweet request with a question like this:, "Do you want a crunchy apple or a juicy orange?" For the kid who complains about veggies, try this: "Do you think I should make piles of peas or bunches of broccoli for dinner? Let's face it -- kids like power. And if they can use it to arrive at safe and healthy outcomes, I see no problem with a little delegation. In fact, I sometimes leave our weekly menu planning up to Joey -- he fights bedtime and eating -- and he gets to pick the meal for each night of one week. As long as it meets our nutritional standards, it's a go. If he picks it, he eats it. He likes to be in charge.

Next time you're faced with a cranky kid, whip out some options and see where it takes you. Just make sure you're happy with each choice. This way, both you and the kiddo will end up satisfied.
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