Child Behavior: Help Your Child Manage Their Own Behavior
By Linda Milo
Children, like teens, like to feel personal power. Power is mostly
the ability to influence some aspects of our lives by the choices we
make. Giving a child a choice is the most powerful way to build
personal power and self-esteem for your child's lifetime. Children
exert their personal power when they refuse to go to bed, or decide
not to take a bath, or have temper tantrums. To help your child use
their power in a positive way and to strengthen your child's sense
of competence, give them the power to make positive personal
A choice for any of us means that we are using free
will, exercised by our own mind and judgment. A choice communicates
to your child that you trust him to learn and grow from his
experience with choices, actions and mistakes. Your child will feel
more powerful and use their power in a positive way because choices:
Are a good way to defuse potential power struggles
Help a child take responsibility for their actions
Let your child know they have power
Provides a way for children to use their power
Helps a child to manage their own behavior
Choices and Consequences
When you provide your child with a choice for their
behavior, you are also letting them know that there will be
consequences if the choice is unwise. When a child has no power to
make an independent, thoughtful decision that carries specific
consequences, your child feels they have no control over their
environment and lives. Telling your child that they can make a
decision, a choice, is also telling them that they must learn to
live with the results of their own actions.
When you use choices and consequences, first state
the options children have and then the consequences of each of these
choices. For example:
"Tom, I really expect you to quietly eat your
dinner at the table. If you continue to act silly, you will have
to leave the table. It's your choice"
"Jane, you can take your bath now and watch TV
after bathing. If you don't take your bath now, there won't be
time to watch your favorite TV program. It's your decision"
"Children, you can both play together enjoyably
and share your toys, or both of you will have to take a quiet
time-out. You both decide about that."
When you use choices and consequences remember to
never give ultimatums as choices. For example: "I won't love you
if you don't eat your dinner." Ultimatums are usually not
carried out and soon your child will believe that what you say is
truly hot air!
Also never give choices where there aren't any. For
example: "Jim, would you like to put on your coat now? We have to
go." If your child says, "no," but he really has to get his on
coat anyway because it's freezing outside, he never really had a
choice in the first place.
Most importantly, never use threats as choices. For
example: "If you don't leave your sister alone, I am going to
break your neck." Clearly, a parent should not carry through on
such a threat.
Start by giving your child choices from birth. You
can ask your child which they would like to do when it comes to:
Dressing: "Honey, which skirt would you like to
Eating: "Jane, would you like to eat your meal on the red dish or
the white dish?"
Play Time: "Do you want to play outside now, or would you rather
play games indoors?"
Bath Time: "Amy, do you want to take your bath now, or take it a
Anytime you offer a choice to do something, you
empower your child to think that he actually can choose for himself
what he believes is best for his life. This creates a sense of
independence, which enables children to feel more self-sufficient,
less hostile toward their parents. A very wise parent watches over
the drama of growth, but resists the impulse to intervene too often.
Parents, out of respect and concern, should allow their child to
make his own choices and to use his own powers. After allowing your
child to make a decision and a choice for his life, you are letting
your child know that you have faith in his ability to make the right
Effectively communicate to your child that you
believe whatever choice he makes will be a beneficial one to him. If
the choice turns out to be a disaster, your child will reap the
consequences and realize a mistake has been made. This is the only
way – choices and consequences – for your child to truly understand
that the power he posses can be either rewarding or disappointing.
This is also an obvious way of revealing to your child that letting
the consequences of his actions provide the lessons of life, which
is experiencing personal responsibility. Give your child the
opportunity to make mistakes and to live with the results. This
teaches your child that not only will their actions have
consequences, but also their world will not crumple as a result of
their poor decision-making or unfortunate decision.
Linda Milo, aka, The Parent-Child Connection Coach, has a simple
philosophy: "Raising healthy children takes more than the right
expectations, or knowing appropriate ways of disciplining or
rewarding your child. Parenting children is also a deeply emotional
experience that requires you, the parent, to maintain an awareness
of your own needs". For a FREE consultation on parenting skills and
facing daily parenting challenges with less stress, go to:
http://www.empoweringparentsnow.com or e-mail Linda at: