Give Children Options: Don't Tell Them What to Do

As parents, the best way to build confidence is to give children options rather than telling them what to do. We'll tell you more in the following article!
Give Children Options: Don't Tell Them What to Do

Last update: 23 September, 2020

It may seem like a bad idea to give children options. However, that’s not the case at all. Perhaps, during your own childhood, you heard phrases like: “because I said so, don’t talk back” – a lot of us did! But these are unnecessary ultimatums when it comes to giving our kids a good upbringing. Instead, you can give your children the opportunity to make their own decisions and realize that you’re guiding them with respect.

That being said, the authorities in the home must always be the parents. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t give children choices as an educational resource. Parents offer options and children feel that they have the power to decide for themselves.

At the same time, this also gives them a greater sense of independence and control in the decisions they make. The key, of course, is in going about it right so that children don’t turn into tyrants.

How to give children options?

In order for children to grow up with self-confidence, we need to give them options. But we also need to do it the right way. With this in mind, we want to offer some tips.

Give Children Options: Don't Tell Them What to Do

Offer a maximum of two choices

“What would you like to eat for a snack?” If you don’t want the answer to be chocolate or ice cream every day, you’ll need to provide two options to choose from. This way, you’ll keep things reasonable and, at the same time, make sure your kids eat healthily. Your little ones will feel like they have control over their choices, which will be true to a certain point.

Choose your battles and set things up for success

There are some areas where you need to let your imagination soar in terms of options. And, more than likely most of these times will have to do with going to bed.

When it comes to what pajamas to wear or what books you’ll read, children can make these choices themselves. This will lead to a more peaceful routine when bedtime comes along.

Each day can be different, and you don’t need to get aggravated about it. It’s important not to turn everything into a conflict and choose the battles that are truly important. By no means are we saying you should be permissive. Rather, we’re talking about discerning between what’s a priority and what isn’t.

Allow for negotiation – up to a certain point

Most nights, you may find yourself amidst negotiations regarding screen time or lights out time. However, these negotiations don’t need to turn into a battle. Rather, you’re better off giving children options to make the experience a more peaceful one.

For example, they can choose between 10 minutes of television and 10 minutes using the cell phone. However, they can’t choose both. They’ll need to decide which option they prefer.

Ask them what they need and provide options

On occasion, children have unexpected behaviors because they need something that we’re not giving them. That something often translates to time, hugs, kisses, and play… But, in order to know exactly what it is, you need to ask them. Only by asking your children will you understand the importance of maintaining this conversation.

You might just need to tell them to choose how many hugs and kisses they want, or to choose which game they want to play. Giving them the capacity to make their own decisions will turn them into happier children – and you’ll know it.

Cultivate their confidence and independence through options

When the day’s done, it’s very important to have cultivated confidence and independence. No one likes to be told what to do – especially children.

Give Children Options: Don't Tell Them What to Do

Allowing children to make choices on their own builds their confidence in their ability to make decisions. This trust will also give your children independence and help them feel a sense of satisfaction in their own abilities.

It’s not a free for all

There will be times when you can’t give children choices and you’ll need to take on a more authoritative attitude. There’s nothing wrong with this! Your children also need to learn that, while you usually give them choices, you’re the one with the last word regarding what happens.

For example, if your children want to stay longer in the park but it’s time to go, then there’s no choice. Or, if you need to leave early to make it to the doctor or to school, then you can’t let children choose to sleep in.

In conclusion, as a mom or dad, you need to know when the time is right to give choices and when it isn’t. That way, your children will have the confidence they need to make decisions and will learn to think for themselvesBut, at the same time, they’ll also know to follow your lead when necessary. This will give them a sense of security, which is also a fundamental part of their proper development.



All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • García, T. (2019) Educar sin perder los nervios: Guía emocional para transformar tu vida familiar. Editorial: PlataformaActual

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.