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Do You Offer Empowering or Trapping Choices?

You’ve likely heard the wise advice to give two choices to help empower kids and significantly decrease power struggles. What you may not have heard is how kids often feel “trapped” by the choices parents present to them.

In partnership with Family Life Canada, we produced a number of short videos. Watch to learn how the choices you give your kids might empower them….or make them feel trapped.


Trapping Choices from FamilyLife Canada on Vimeo.

When strong-willed kids fight for power, it can be tough to guide them well without getting into power struggles. Giving “win/win” choices in a relaxed and positive manner meets a valid need for your struggling child, and communicates, “Mom/Dad is still in charge, but cares about what’s important to me.” This approach helps kids feel validated as you work with them instead of against them. It also builds decision making skills in their “thinking brain” instead of self-protective reactions in their “fight or flight” brain.

Examples of trapping choices

  • Excessive punishments: You can clean these Legos up right now, or you can leave them and I’ll throw them away!
  • Shaming choices: Do you want to keep being selfish, or do you want to “Say Sorry” to your sister right now!?

Examples of empowering choices

  • You can clean these Legos up, or I’ll clean them and put them away for a few days until you practice cleaning with some smaller messes.
  • It’s important to resolve this conflict with your sister. You can resolve it now, and then you’re free to play with your friends, or you can wait at home until you are ready.

What is a common challenge your child faces, and what might be some empowering choices you could offer?

Give this approach a try, and let us know what you learn!

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Lynne Jackson
Lynne Jackson
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