Give Your Child a Choice and Give Yourself a Break By Julie King

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Excerpted from How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages 2-7 by Joanna Faber and Julie King (Scribner, 2017)

One tool for engaging cooperation is to substitute a choice for a command. Choice, you ask? What choice? There is no choice. She has to get dressed, she’s not going to school in her pajamas. He has to wash his hands, he’s not eating a sandwich right after playing with frogs. She’s not riding her bike without a helmet. It’s simply not negotiable!

I’m not suggesting that you make uncomfortable compromises or that you put a three-year-old in charge of the whole show. I’m just saying that human beings, including small ones, like to have some input and control over their lives. There are plenty of options we can offer our children, short of handing over the car keys and the credit card.

Instead of, β€œGet in the car, now!”

Try, β€œWould you like to bring a toy or a snack for the ride?” β€œDo you want to take giant steps to the car or do you want to skip to the car?”

Instead of, β€œIf I have to tell you one more time to get into that tub . . .”

Try, β€œDo you want your bath with bubbles or boats?” β€œWould you like to hop to the tub like a bunny, or crawl like a crab?”

Instead of, β€œGet your homework started. No more excuses!”

Try, β€œWould it be easier to get your homework over with right away and be free of it, or would you rather have a snack first?” β€œDo you want to do it in the kitchen while I cook dinner, or in your room where it’s quiet?” One parent had great success with, β€œDo you want to do your homework on top of the table or under the table?” (I think you can guess which her daughter chose.)

Instead of, β€œPajamas now!” 

Try, β€œDo you want to put your pajamas on the regular way, or inside out?” β€œDo you want to jump five more times before putting on your PJs, or ten? Okay, let’s make them big ones. ONE . . . TWO . . . THREE . . .”

Each of these statements says to your child, β€œI see you as a person who can make decisions about your own life.” And every time your child makes a small decision, she’s getting valuable practice for some of the bigger decisions she’ll be making down the road.

Upcoming workshops for "How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen" 

Meet Author Julie King, 7pm, March 28, Corte Madera Library.

Parents Place, 4-week workshop (2 -7 years): Tuesdays, April 18 to May 9, 7 to 9 pm, at Parents Place, San Rafael.

Private Home in El Cerrito, Thursdays, April 13 to May 4, 7 to 9 pm. 

Parents Place, One-day intensive workshop (3-10 years): Sunday, May 21, 10 am to 4:30 pm, San Rafael.

Julie King is the co-author of the book, How To Talk So LITTLE Kids Will Listen, A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages 2 - 7. It is the #1 Best Seller in Communication and Social Skills on Amazon. Connect with her on Facebook or online at