Offer Simple Choices

Ah, your toddler has entered that glorious age of wanting to be independent and do things for themselves. The desire to be independent may cause your toddler to say "no" when asked to do something. To increase the likeliness of your toddler following your directions, try giving him a choice. For example, if you want him to put on his shoes, say "It's time to put on your shoes, do you want to put this shoe on first, or this shoe?"


By allowing your toddler to have a say in which shoe he puts on first, you have given him some sense of control and independence and the end result will be exactly what you wanted him to do- put on his shoes! Offering simple choices helps to build your toddler's self-esteem, gives him a sense of control and helps promote decision-making. Most of all, giving simple choices leads to less power-struggles and more positive interactions with your toddler. 

Brain Science for Your Baby

Two important terms:  Executive Function and Locus of Control.  What are we talking about?


Executive Function develops in a part of the brain called the Prefrontal Cortex. Executive function is the brain's "air traffic control" system. It helps children (and adults) with flexible goal-directed behaviors. This part of the brain is just beginning to develop in toddlers - and we know that the parent child relationship is important to the development of executive function. You can help "train" your toddler's executive function. To do that, children need to have some choices!


Locus of control is defined as the extent to which a person believes that his or her life is within their own control. Feeling "in control" of your life is important not only to adults, but to toddlers too. Children who learn to take responsibility for themselves have an internal locus of control.  Children (and adults) who think that their lives are controlled by others have an external locus of control.  


Why is that important to brain development and child behavior?  For infants and toddlers to really learn and believe that certain behaviors are acceptable and others are not  - they must feel that they have some power to choose their own actions.  If a toddler always feels that he has no choice but to do what the parent says - that can be a problem for the development of self-regulation.  Research has shown that parents who actively support their toddler's independence (autonomy) have children with greater executive functioning, including impulse control (Bernier, 2010).  We all need to feel that we have power over our lives.  Allowing a child to choose (between acceptable choices!) not only shows respect, but will help build that "internal locus of control" and "train" executive function.


More on Executive Function

A Baby Buffer Prescription for Your Baby

Try to give your toddler lots of opportunities to make choices throughout the day. You can give choices during your daily activities (playtime, dressing and bathing are good places to start).


Limit the choices to two options that your toddler  understands (if possible, show your toddler the options).


Make sure the choices you offer are actually available.


Honor the choice your toddler has made right away so they will understand the result of making a choice.


Give you toddler time to make a choice, but if he can't make a choice, make one for him.


Don't include punishment as a choice! (e.g., don't say "Put on your shoes or go to timeout").

A Baby Buffer Prescription for You  


Offering simple choices may prevent your toddler from becoming frustrated and upset which leads to less stress for you. 


Here are some more examples of simple choices:


"It's time for a snack; do you want apples or bananas?"


"It's time for a bath; do you want rubber ducky or cups with you in the tub?"


"Let's get dressed, "should we put on your shirt or your pants first?"


"We are crossing the street, which one of my hands do you want to hold, this hand, or this hand?"


"We are going to have outside time; do you want to go for a walk or swing?"


What Your Baby Can Do - Developmental Milestones 


Children in this age range are moving away from their "baby" stage and toward the greater world that they have never been physically able to explore before. Talking, walking and asserting their independence are the hallmarks of this stage, developmentally. Children need to explore...we just need to help them do so safely!


Gene's Research Tip

 Kid Injuries from Shopping Carts and Burns - Can they be Prevented?


What might you be doing in the next 22 minutes? Working? Changing a diaper? Laughing with your kid?  Going to a meeting? Planning a trip? 


I'll bet, "Going to the hospital for a shopping cart accident" didn't even hit your top 100 list of "Things to do in the next 22 minutes"!  But a child goes to the ER every 22 minutes for shopping cart mishaps here in the good old U.S. of A, according to research from Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.  

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Baby Buffer Blog
Written by Kristen Stuppy, MD

Are you up for a challenge?


Join thousands of other families who want to reconnect by going screen free for the week of May 5 - 11, 2014.


What does screen free mean? To put it simply: do not use anything with a screen unless it is directly related to work or school. Televisions, computers, smart phones and other screens are all a part of our world, but they can overtake our lives. By consciously avoiding non-essential screen time, we can reconnect with our family and friends and even ourselves.

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