Saturday, August 27, 2011

Choices make the world go 'round (and get stuff done!)

Offer choice when trying to
get your child to complete a task that
might be less than desirable.
 I caught myself asking my 21 month old, "Katie, do you want to help Mama clean up your toys?"  I realized immediately I had made a mistake. She may be less than 2, but she's not crazy.  Of course she doesn't want to clean up.  Who does?  She answered, "No!" and ran away. 

I started thinking about I should have and could have phrased the questions differently and better, and was instantly brought back to my teaching days.  Kids, like most everyone, like to feel like they're making their own choices about their actions.  Few people like to be told what they need to do.  Rather than asking a closed, dead-end question like, "Do you want to eat your vegetables?" or "Would you help me clean up this mess?", the better route would be to offer two choices.  "Katie, do you want to eat your green beans or carrots first?" or  "Katie, would you like to pick up your blocks, or do you want to pick up your puzzle pieces?"  That way, the task is getting done, but the child feels like it's on her terms.  Either way, the answer she picks still gets the goal accomplished, but she's not responding to a question that makes her feel trapped.

I used to use this all the time with my 5th and 3rd grade students, so I know it works for kids of all ages.  The next time you're trying to get your child to perform a task that may be less than desirable, try phrasing it as though he has options.  Rather than, "Emma, are you ready to start your homework?", try, "Emma, do you want to do your math homework, or read for 30 minutes first?"  Rather than, "Chris, do you mind taking out the trash?", try, "Chris, would you rather take out the trash or clean the bathroom sink?"

So now, dear readers, I ask, "Would you rather leave a comment on this blog entry or the one that I wrote earlier in the week about sending your kids off to school?"  The choice, is, of course, yours! :)


  1. I think giving choices to get a homework assigment done is key. Great,informative post

  2. Such great ideas...I need to try this method with my 25 month old - who hates helping with any task except putting things in the trash - lol!

    New follower from the Sunday blog hop!


  3. Thanks for stopping by my blog I'm already a follower

  4. Your blog is so cute! Hi from your newest follower. Hope you can come take a look at my blog.


  5. What a good point. I need to be asking smarter questions to my 3 year old now. :) Thanks for sharing.

    I am stopping by tonight from the Say Hi Sunday blog hop. It is nice to find you blog. Great content!

    I hope you have a great week,
    LaVonne @ Long Wait For Isabella

  6. Thanks for the great concept Ellen! I'll be asking my 9 yr. old more open-ended questions from now on. Her teacher did mention this at parent orientation, but it's good to be reminded how many uses it can be good for… homework, chores, etc!

  7. This is totally a teacher thing to do :-) As a former teacher (also, lover of education, as you state in your about me), I've used this plenty and anticipate using it with my daughter as she gets older.

    Thanks for following my blog :-) I'm following yours too!


  8. Love this, however I have two four year olds that often voice their disapproval of both choices, lol. I can often get them with with time though, "would you like to clean your room in 5 minutes or 10?". Since they can't tell time yet, they'll often pipe back "no, I want to do it in 2 minutes." :-)