So why should children be any different? They may not always make the best choices (who does?) - but they should still get to make decisions about what happens to them. This doesn’t mean that adults should simply leave children to get on and do whatever they want to 24/7. Of course boundaries are needed to ensure that children are safe and healthy, and so that they can learn what is acceptable and appropriate behaviour within their culture. But within these boundaries they need options so that they can learn how to make good decisions and take responsibility for their actions.
How choices are offered will of course depend on the child’s age. Very young children can easily be overwhelmed by too much choice so it is best to start by giving two simple options. One benefit of doing so is that children are more likely to comply when asked to do something. For example, saying “You need to get dressed” is generally much less effective than saying “We need to get dressed; would you like to wear your green shirt or your blue one?”.
This is because when children are constantly told what to do they can feel powerless – and consequently helpless and resentful – meaning they are more likely to behave rebelliously. On the other hand having a choice ensures that children feel they – and their opinions – matter. It facilitates confidence, independence and – crucially - the development of self esteem (the way we think and feel about ourselves).