Expert Parenting Advice
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A better way to use choices to get your kids to cooperate

An ex-teacher shares the three different types of choices you can give kids to get them to want to cooperate.

I remember back when my daughter was right in the middle of her toddler stage, I complained to my mother-in-law, "She just doesn't want to listen. She was such a cute little baby, and now she fights me on everything. Just getting her dressed in the mornings is a struggle!"

My mother-in-law gave me some sage advice "Try to give her some choices. Instead of telling her to get dressed, ask her whether she wants to wear the blue dress or the pink dress."

The advice was great, and it works...sometimes. The problem is that often my kids don't want either of the choices I give them.

The thing is, giving kids choices instead of just telling them what to do is a powerful technique, because it gives them a sense of control and power over their own lives.

But it can be an even more powerful technique.

You see, according to Elisabeth Stitt, a parenting coach and ex-teacher with over 25 years of teaching experience, there are three different types of choices that you can give your children.

First, there are the normal "A" or "B" choices, which she calls the What choice. For example, when you ask your kid "What do you want to wear - the pink dress or the blue dress?"

Now, What choices work great when your kid doesn't have a strong preference, but they aren't that great when she really wants something else (at the moment my daughter will always answer "I want the Elsa dress" no matter what choices I give her).

Second, you get When choices. "Do you want to put on your shoes first, or your dress?" When choices also work, but not that great when your kid is doing something they really enjoy.

The problem with What or When choices is that you are still asking your child to stop playing, and they are never going to be excited about that.

That's why Elisabeth Stitt recommends a third type of choice. This third type of choice works by engaging your child's imagination, almost "forcing" their brains to disconnect from what they are currently doing towards what you need them to do.

Even better, this third type of choice works by keeping them in the playful state, so they don't even recognize that you are moving them towards doing something else.

Understanding these three different types of choices is a powerful cooperation tool to have, especially when you are having trouble transitioning your kids between activities, like getting them dressed in the morning, or to bed at night.