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Giving Children Choices

How to teach your children to make the right choices while they are young.

Nashville, Ark. – Each day we make choices. What to wear? What to eat? What do I buy? While, some choices are just routine, others can be a little more challenging. How does a person learn to make choices? It all begins in childhood. Children need practice to make good choices. The better a child learns to make good choices, the more successful they will be in life.

Parents can provide choices early in life. Infants can make a choice such as a preference to eat squash or sweet potatoes. Young children can make a choice of which book to read before bedtime. As children get older, they can be allowed more freedom in their choices.

By providing opportunities for children to make choices about little things when they are young, they will be better prepared to make choices about big things when they grow older. Parents can guide their children in making choices by offering two or three alternatives, all of which would be okay. For example, deciding what to wear is more successful if the parent provides two or three options instead of opening the closet and saying, “What do you want to wear today?” Not only are more choices confusing to children, but the idea that they choose from a limited number helps them start to grasp a rather complex concept – that not all choices are available or wise.

Freedom with limits is a good concept to teach. For example, imagine the child needs new shoes. The parent might set these limits: 1) I have this amount of money to spend. 2) They need to be able to wear them to school. 3) Winter is coming on, so you will need something warm. Suppose your child picks out a pair that fits all three of these limits, but you don’t like them. As a parent, you can explain your concerns, but the child should be able to make the choice. Keep in mind, adults don’t like to be forced to do things and neither do children. Does it really matter if you don’t like them? Remember to pick your battles wisely.

There are times parents should let their children live with their choice. Did they blow their entire allowance on candy when they really wanted to save for a special toy? That was their  choice. Be gentle but firm in teaching them to live with their choices. Avoid bailing them out or in this case replacing the allowance foolishly spent. They will not learn from the experience. In fact, they may develop the attitude, Mom and Dad will always fix it. Parents could fix these small mistakes, but they can’t fix the larger poor choices they may make later. Be consistent.

As children get older, parents still need to guide their children in making choices. Limits are still important. “Yes, you can go to the ballgame with a friend. However, you are not to leave town or ride with someone else unless you ask permission first.”

When a child reaches their teenage years, the choices become even more complicated. Parents should still set limits. “You may go to the party, but if alcohol is a part of it, call me. I will come get you.” As children prove their dependability, trust grows.

So, what if your child doesn’t make good choices. Parents should avoid:

  • Making demands
  • Making threats
  • Power struggles
  • Do offer choices that you can live with.
  • Use logical consequences.

Parenting is sometimes a challenge. Keep in mind that good parent/child relationships form when children know their parents love them and value them. We all want our children to grow up independent, responsible adults. Providing choices early in life can help them learn to make good decisions later in life.

For more information on parenting issues, contact the Howard County Extension Service and check out “Family Time Tips” at from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Recipe of the Week

Need a great after school snack or meal that is easy to make and nutritious? Try these little pizzas. Be creative and add your favorite vegetables as extra toppings and/or low-fat sour cream and salsa.

Taco Pizza

  • 1 can low-sodium refried beans

  • 6 fajita-size whole-wheat tortillas

  • ¾ cup reduced-fat shredded cheese

  • 1 cup tomatoes, diced

  • 1 cup corn (drained and rinsed if canned)

  • 1 cup lettuce

    Optional: add cooked chicken or lean ground beef for more protein

  1. Wash hands and preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil for easy clean up.

  2. Spread ¼ cup refried beans on each tortilla. Lay tortillas on prepared baking sheets so they do not touch.

  3. Top with corn, tomatoes and any other vegetables of your choice (such as diced peppers and onions).

  4. Sprinkle each tortilla with 2 tablespoons of cheese.

  5. Bake 15-20 minutes or until crisp.

  6. Cut into quarters, and top with lettuce, sour cream and salsa (if desired).

    Yield: 6 servings

  1. Nutrition Information per Serving: calories 300, fat 7g, protein 25g, carbohydrate 43g, fiber 9g, sodium 400mg


By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.