Before having children, I always felt like I would let my kids think for themselves. I did not want them to grow up feeling brain washed or that I would only love them if they were the exact way I thought they should be. I did not want to be the parent who’s child felt so inadequate that they had to hide themselves from me. I know how that felt for me as a kid and for mine I wanted better.
After the arrival of our first child, it didn’t really become a thing until he was able to sit up and his use hands. Babies have to learn how to communicate. In order to make a choice, you have to be able to communicate somehow. When Pickle was very young, we would let him make choices. Whether or not he knew what he was doing, I can only speculate. I believe setting them up to be confident in their choices, helps them succeed later in life.
Side bar – I actually remember in my psychology class, reading about how letting kids make choices helps them make decisions as they get older. It also said it helps them hold down a job (steady income) and relationships. That way, they don’t become people who cannot make a decision and wind up living in your basement until they are 45 years old.
We started out with things as simple as, “do you want this one or this one”. We would hold items (baby food, clothes, toys, etc) in our hands and he would get the one he grabbed first. There were times he went straight to it and other times you could tell he had to contemplate between them.
We have continued this same process with Poppy. She is 16 months old now and has really been catching on to signing things. She has also been starting to try to say a lot more actual words. At least, enough that I can tell what she is saying. It is so nice when they finally can communicate what it is they want.
Obviously I know they are children and need some sort of boundaries to keep them safe, like “no we are not using a knife as a fork for dinner.” As the parent, you have to decide where that line is drawn at. You have to help teach them why certain things are a “no”. Understanding the “why” behind the no is vital to kids. Otherwise, they become rebellious to find out the “why” on their own.
I try very hard never to use the “because I said so” comeback, especially to a determined child. For instance if you tell them to “please stop screaming” and they don’t stop there is a very good chance that either A) they didn’t hear you or B) they heard you, but they don’t know why they need to stop so they continue. I try to follow my expressions with reasoning. Like, “can you please stop screaming I cannot understand you when you yell and it hurts my ears”.
You know, most kids go through the “why” phase. They constantly ask why to every single thing. “Why does this do that?” “Why can’t I do this?” and so on. Take advantage of that. Do your best to answer all of those “why” questions. Especially when it comes to trying to teach them behavior and safety. If you don’t have an answer, Google one.
I explain to my son, now that he somewhat understands, that my job is to keep him as safe as I can while also letting him grow and become his own person. I know every parent believes in different things, but I think we can all agree that we only want the best for our kids.