When formulating morning questions, it’s essential that you think about what choices you consider appropriate. If you ask your child “What do you want for breakfast?” and he says “chocolate cake” you’re likely not going to oblige, which can trigger a morning meltdown. If you know that cereal or oatmeal are two choices you are willing and able to offer, formulate your question to reflect those choices. However, if bacon and eggs aren’t something you’re really interested in preparing, don’t provide that as a viable choice.
Another morning trap parents fall into is asking questions that start with “Do you want” or “Are you ready”. When you’re only really willing to accept “yes” for an answer, yet you provide an opportunity for your child to say “no”, you’re setting him up for making an unacceptable choice. When you’re heading out the door and you ask your child “Are you ready to go?” you’re expecting him to say “yes”. When he says “no” and you’re not able to respect his choice, you’re sending the message that his thoughts and feelings simply don’t matter.
While the exact choices you offer will depend on the age of your child and what you consider appropriate, it’s important to only offer two or three choices, and that those choices are ones you can live with.
Here are 10 of the most common questions parents ask their children each morning and 10 revised questions that reflect acceptable choices.
Instead of asking: Do you want to take a bath?
Ask: Do you want to take a bath in your tub or in mine?
Instead of asking: What do you want for breakfast?
Ask: Would you like to have eggs with cheese or without for breakfast?
Instead of asking: What do you want to wear?
Ask: Do you want to wear this red shirt with the blue jeans or this green one?
Instead of asking: Are you ready to get dressed?
Ask: Would you like to put your shirt on first or your pants?
Instead of asking: Are you ready to brush your teeth?
Ask: Do you want to brush your teeth or do you want me to do it for you?
Instead of asking: What do you want me to pack you for lunch?
Ask: Do you want a ham and cheese or turkey and cheese sandwich for lunch?
Instead of asking: Do you want a jacket?
Ask: Would you like to wear your fleece jacket or pullover?
Instead of asking: Do you want your rain boots?
Ask: Do you want to pack your sneakers or shoes to change into?
Instead of asking: Can I brush your hair now?
Ask: Do you want me to use a comb or a brush to do your hair?
Instead of asking: Are you ready to go?
Ask: Do you want to carry your back pack or lunchbox to the car?
In addition to minimizing morning battles, giving children choices has other positive implications as well.
Giving children acceptable choices helps them feel like they’re in control. Every individual likes to feel in control of their life. When parents allow their children to make choices, they are empowering them to feel in control, fostering their desire to be independent, and teaching them responsibility in a safe and controlled environment.
Giving children acceptable choices increase self-esteem. Being able to make good choices makes kids feel good! As children learn new skills and learn do to things independently, their self-esteem grows.
Giving children acceptable choices teaches them how to make wise choices. By allowing children to make meaningful choices from a young age parents equip them to make good choices as they grow older.
While it may be tempting to simply tell a child to do something, rather than ask them, learning to make choices is an important part of early childhood development. In fact, whether children are asked to make choices or not, it’s something they do anyways. Children choose to follow the rules, obey their parents, and decide whether or not they wish to be cooperative. Parents can empower children to learn to make appropriate choices and to accept responsibilities for the choices they make.