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When to let the children choose

When to let the children choose

Each child is a different and unique little person since birth. In the development of their own personality, hereditary factors have a great weight and will define to a great extent the way of being of children, as well as their tastes, interests and preferences, although the environment that surrounds them and especially, educational actions that you receive will also be decisive during your development.

It is very important that we allow children from an early age some autonomy and freedom to express how they are and to make small decisions on a day-to-day basis, as this shows them that we take them into account and that we are sensitive to their needs and interests and that we are favoring at the same time your learning ability and decision making, as well as the development of your personal identity and self-esteem.

However, to help them develop fully and reach all the resources that facilitate their personal growth and learning, rules and limits will also be essential Since, children do not have sufficient cognitive development to decide what is most appropriate for them, and furthermore, learning to comply with the rules and adjust to them increases their capacity for self-control and to postpone the immediate satisfaction of their desires, improving their frustration tolerance.

Therefore, a formula to find a balance between both factors would be to always let them choose between several limited options that the parents have established. Another option that may turn out is to give them the freedom to choose on 'special occasions' by rewarding them for example, for having shown good behavior during the day or during the week.

1. With the clothes: We can give them a choice between two closed options, for example: do you prefer the denim overalls or the red dress? Or let them choose the Sunday wardrobe (within an order) if they have had a good behavior during the week.

2. With the food: parents are the ones who have to decide what foods to eat and when to serve them. However, it is not necessary to force the child to eat green beans if he prefers other similar vegetables that he does accept. At other specific moments, such as a friend's birthday, they can be given more room for decision, allowing them to choose between sandwiches, worms, sweets, cake ... although always within the limits set by the adult.

3. With routines: Within the daily routines, there may be some negotiation in those that are not transcendental. For example, we can let them decide between a shower (if they are older) or a bath. Nevertheless, there will be other aspects that are not negotiable, for example, not watching television while we eat so as not to be distracted.

4. With toys and leisure time: When we go to buy a toy for a child we can allow them to choose the one they like the most, but it will be important to limit the options to ensure that it is consistent and appropriate to the age and characteristics of the child. In leisure time, children can choose to play whatever they want, but they will not be able to choose the duration of the playing time nor the moment of play, being the ideal that leisure follows the fulfillment of the child's “obligations” (for example, playing after making the school cards) and not the other way around.

5. With the apprenticeships: children are continuously learning from birth with everyday stimulation, especially through play. However, there are certain types of learning, such as schoolchildren, whose explicit work is not acquired. For this reason, children can choose what to do in their free time (playing, painting, drawing, etc.) since this greatly favors their cognitive development, but the completion of the cards and school activities must be mandatory.

Aroa Caminero
Psychologist
Álava Reyes Psychology Center

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