Should you re­ally give your lit­tle one choices? What’s wrong with telling her out­right what you want her to do? DR RICHARD C. WOOLF­SON weighs in on the is­sue.

Young Parents (Singapore) - - Contents -

Should you re­ally give your tod­dler choices? What’s wrong with telling her out­right what you want her to do?

One-year-olds like to do things their way. It’s not sur­pris­ing that your tod­dler throws a tantrum when she can’t choose what she wants to do, wear or eat.

On a pos­i­tive note, you should be de­lighted that your grow­ing child is keen to be in­de­pen­dent and can think for her­self.

You cer­tainly want her to be­come more self-re­liant and to have the abil­ity to make good choices as she grows through the preschool years.

She’ll be proud to make de­ci­sions with­out your help; and you’ll be pleased when she makes choices you ap­prove of.

On the other hand, she is only one year old and still has a lot to learn. You may doubt the wis­dom of giv­ing her choices at this age, for ex­am­ple, let­ting her pick be­tween red shoes and blue san­dals.

Chances are, you were not brought up that way, and you may pre­fer to tell her out­right ev­ery time what you want her to do.

It re­ally is up to you, but con­sider th­ese rea­sons why giv­ing choices can be a good or bad move:


Con­fi­dence Your tod­dler feels good about her­self when she is al­lowed to make mi­nor de­ci­sions in her life, like choos­ing a red T-shirt in­stead of the yel­low one. Mak­ing choices boosts her self-es­teem.

Con­trol Let­ting her make small, oc­ca­sional choices gives her some con­trol over what hap­pens, and also teaches her at a young age that her de­ci­sions can have con­se­quences. This helps lay the foun­da­tion for pos­i­tive de­ci­sion-mak­ing as an adult.

Com­mit­ment Your oneyear-old is much more likely to co­op­er­ate when she has been in­volved in the mat­ter. For ex­am­ple, if she gets to choose her socks, she’ll hap­pily get dressed with­out mak­ing a fuss.


Safety Your lit­tle one doesn’t fully ap­pre­ci­ate the dan­gers that lie in front of her. You can’t, for in­stance, al­low her to roam up and down the stairs when­ever she wants be­cause she may hurt her­self in the process.

Con­sid­er­a­tion Her choice may have an im­pact on some­one else in your fam­ily. For in­stance, if she chooses to con­tinue play­ing with her toys when you want her to tidy them away, this could af­fect your af­ter­noon sched­ule.

Rules You have stan­dards of be­hav­iour that you ex­pect her to fol­low. If you con­tin­u­ally let her have the fi­nal say, she will have dif­fi­culty fol­low­ing them later on in child­hood.

It’s not al­ways easy to get the bal­ance right. Cer­tainly as your child gets older, she’ll have to learn how to make good de­ci­sions.

You may feel she has plenty of time to do that when she is, say, four or ve years old, or you may start the learn­ing process now while she is at this tod­dler stage.

If you want to give her choices, keep them sim­ple. Don’t of­fer more than two al­ter­na­tives, whether that’s de­cid­ing be­tween two pairs of shoes to wear, or two toys to play with.

Once she has de­cided, briefly ask her why she se­lected that par­tic­u­lar item and not the other one.

In ad­di­tion, make sure that when you make choices for her, you don’t give in to her just be­cause she com­plains loudly, sulks or even has a tantrum.

If you de­cide to give her choices, keep them sim­ple. Don’t of­fer more than two al­ter­na­tives.

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