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The Secrets to Raising a Smarter Child
- By Inderbir Sandhu, Ph.D


Child Behavior: Help Your Child Manage Their Own Behavior

By Linda Milo

Children, like teens, like to feel personal power. Power is mostly the ability to influence some aspects of our lives by the choices we make. Giving a child a choice is the most powerful way to build personal power and self-esteem for your child's lifetime. Children exert their personal power when they refuse to go to bed, or decide not to take a bath, or have temper tantrums. To help your child use their power in a positive way and to strengthen your child's sense of competence, give them the power to make positive personal behavior choices.

A choice for any of us means that we are using free will, exercised by our own mind and judgment. A choice communicates to your child that you trust him to learn and grow from his experience with choices, actions and mistakes. Your child will feel more powerful and use their power in a positive way because choices:

  • Are a good way to defuse potential power struggles

  • Help a child take responsibility for their actions

  • Let your child know they have power

  • Provides a way for children to use their power

  • Helps a child to manage their own behavior

Choices and Consequences

When you provide your child with a choice for their behavior, you are also letting them know that there will be consequences if the choice is unwise. When a child has no power to make an independent, thoughtful decision that carries specific consequences, your child feels they have no control over their environment and lives. Telling your child that they can make a decision, a choice, is also telling them that they must learn to live with the results of their own actions.

When you use choices and consequences, first state the options children have and then the consequences of each of these choices. For example:

  • "Tom, I really expect you to quietly eat your dinner at the table. If you continue to act silly, you will have to leave the table. It's your choice"

  • "Jane, you can take your bath now and watch TV after bathing. If you don't take your bath now, there won't be time to watch your favorite TV program. It's your decision"

  • "Children, you can both play together enjoyably and share your toys, or both of you will have to take a quiet time-out. You both decide about that."

When you use choices and consequences remember to never give ultimatums as choices. For example: "I won't love you if you don't eat your dinner." Ultimatums are usually not carried out and soon your child will believe that what you say is truly hot air!

Also never give choices where there aren't any. For example: "Jim, would you like to put on your coat now? We have to go." If your child says, "no," but he really has to get his on coat anyway because it's freezing outside, he never really had a choice in the first place.

Most importantly, never use threats as choices. For example: "If you don't leave your sister alone, I am going to break your neck." Clearly, a parent should not carry through on such a threat.

Start by giving your child choices from birth. You can ask your child which they would like to do when it comes to:

Dressing: "Honey, which skirt would you like to wear today?"
Eating: "Jane, would you like to eat your meal on the red dish or the white dish?"
Play Time: "Do you want to play outside now, or would you rather play games indoors?"
Bath Time: "Amy, do you want to take your bath now, or take it a little later?"

Anytime you offer a choice to do something, you empower your child to think that he actually can choose for himself what he believes is best for his life. This creates a sense of independence, which enables children to feel more self-sufficient, less hostile toward their parents. A very wise parent watches over the drama of growth, but resists the impulse to intervene too often. Parents, out of respect and concern, should allow their child to make his own choices and to use his own powers. After allowing your child to make a decision and a choice for his life, you are letting your child know that you have faith in his ability to make the right decision.

Effectively communicate to your child that you believe whatever choice he makes will be a beneficial one to him. If the choice turns out to be a disaster, your child will reap the consequences and realize a mistake has been made. This is the only way choices and consequences for your child to truly understand that the power he posses can be either rewarding or disappointing. This is also an obvious way of revealing to your child that letting the consequences of his actions provide the lessons of life, which is experiencing personal responsibility. Give your child the opportunity to make mistakes and to live with the results. This teaches your child that not only will their actions have consequences, but also their world will not crumple as a result of their poor decision-making or unfortunate decision.


Linda Milo, aka, The Parent-Child Connection Coach, has a simple philosophy: "Raising healthy children takes more than the right expectations, or knowing appropriate ways of disciplining or rewarding your child. Parenting children is also a deeply emotional experience that requires you, the parent, to maintain an awareness of your own needs". For a FREE consultation on parenting skills and facing daily parenting challenges with less stress, go to: or e-mail Linda at:

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