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Making Good Choices: A Life-long Skill

By Dinah Torres Castro

Most parents will agree that raising a responsible child is one of their top goals. Part of creating responsibility is allowing your child to make good decisions. Giving choices to young children is the first step to helping them make good decisions. Here is where parents need to be smart about what choices to give. Start by giving your toddler age appropriate choices, like whether to listen to a book or lullaby before going to sleep. A preschooler can make wardrobe decisions like choosing either the blue sweater with the dinosaur or the green one with the trucks. A school-aged child can decide on whether to eat the broccoli or the carrots with dinner. Teens can choose when to do room cleaning, either before or after dinner. Making good choices is a skill that children will use for the rest of their lives. A key to giving children choices is to first decide what choices you as the parent will allow them to make. Start by selecting two choices and let the child choose from them. As the child gets older, you can give additional choices. It is important to remember to give only the options that you are comfortable accepting as their choice. In other words, would you feel comfortable offering your eight year old the choice between the broccoli and chocolate chip cookies, knowing he will choose the cookies which will not provide the healthy nutritional value you want for your child? Or would you offer the option of choosing the broccoli or the carrots, knowing that either one of the choices will give your child the healthy option you desire?

Giving children choices can help them feel like they have some control in their lives. As they grow, we can allow them to make bigger choices once they have demonstrated that they can make smart decisions regarding smaller choices. For example, a teenager who wants to be trusted to go to a midnight showing of a movie premiere with friends needs to have shown he has been able to make good choices in the past. The parent can point out that they will be ready to trust the teen to go to the late movie premiere when the teen demonstrates that he can be trusted to come home on time and make good choices when he is outside the home.

If we want our children to be responsible adults who make good decisions, then we should give them lots of appropriate opportunities to make decisions along the way to becoming adults.

Giving Children Choices:

University of Arkansas Extension

 Using Choice and Preference to Promote Improved Behavior:

 Dinah Castro is a Bilingual Family Well-Being Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 351 or at



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