Giving voice to our children is one primary way we build trust and engage in healthy relational interactions with them. When children’s voices are heard and their needs are met from the beginning, secure attachment is developed – They understand on deep level when I cry, a caregiver comes to meet my needs. With our children from hard places this has often not been their consistent experience. They may understandably seek control and appear defiant at times because they are driven on a deep level to retain their own power to assure the best chance they won’t be hurt again and that their needs might be met. Using choices and compromises in your parenting is a practical way to give voice to your child and help them develop the life skill of being able to appropriately identify and negotiate their needs.
Look for opportunities: Throughout the day you will find no shortage of opportunities to provide your child with choices. Be open to finding new ways to offer choices.
Create win, win scenarios: Provide choices that you can live with and share power at the same time by letting your child choose their preference. They have a voice and you accomplished what hoped too so it’s a win, win! For example: Time to get in the car, would you like to march like a solider or fly like superman? Which fruit would you like with lunch? Oranges, bananas or an apple?
Visual cues: Especially with young children, providing a visual cue such as holding up two fingers or two hands to represent the available choices can be helpful. You can use playful engagement and healthy touch by having them high five which hand they "choose."
What it looks like: Would you like to wear this shirt or this shirt today? Do you want to do homework before or after dinner?
When they can be helpful: What if my child doesn’t want one of the choices I offered? Having them ask respectfully for a compromise can be a helpful next step!
Proactively teach: While choices do not need much teaching to start using, compromises can be helpful to teach and practice ahead of time. During a time when everyone is regulated talk through what a compromise is and how it works. Practice with puppets or role plays. Emphasize using respectful words and how a parent might say yes or might say no. You can then practice “accepting no” the wrong way and then right now.
What it looks like: It’s time to get ready for bed would you like to brush your teeth or get on your pajama’s first?
May I have a compromise? What did you have in mind?
Can I play my game for 5 for minutes and then brush my teeth?
So, game for 5 more minutes and then teeth brushed? (child says yes). Okay, we can do that.
This Handout was created by Heather Askew, LCSW for the TBRI® Counselor’s Manual.
© 2017 for TBRI® Counselor’s Manual by KP ICD and Cindy R. Lee, LCSW, LADC. Permission Required for Copies