That’s right, you heard me right. Options. It’s really part of parenthood and managing a child. Many times I heard parents yelling at their kids to stop whatever mischievous they were executing. The most straight forward word that usually come out of the parent’s mouth would be “NO” or maybe “STOP”. Tell me frankly, how many times do you have to repeat to make your message through? Some parents and experts suggest divert their attention. Well, I tried. After a while, my kid knew the trick, eventually it did not work anymore.
This “Options” method was something I read in a parenting magazine. I tried and explored the method. So how does it works? The idea is to let the child to make his own decision, but in fact, the options are well selected by the parents to ensure a ‘win-win’ situation – actually it’s a win situation for the parents. So why this “Options” method works better than “Diversion” method? “Options” method usually does not involve in a wailing child, after you tried a couple of times, the child most lightly understands that you are trying to communicate options to him. It involves communication and listening skills, this ultimately enhances the relationship between the child and the adult. It gets easier as you use the method. The earlier you start, the easier it is. If you only trying it out for the first time on your 2.5yo, you probably need some time as the child may be trying to understand this new way of you handling the situation. “Diversion” method, on the other hand, is divert the child’s attention from the situation. You are cutting away the chance to communicate the child’s need by pulling him away from the situation. When the child realises that he is being pulled away from the situation, he may feel cheated and probably involves wailing, throwing tantrum or complete meltdown!
Here, I have compiled a list of things to keep in mind when executing the “Options” method.
1. Keep ground rules in mind
This helps you to explore the options more effectively. Eg. no eating in the bedroom; do not reward a crying child, etc.
2. It’s not always about giving two physical options.
Example, your toddler is wailing in the mall, wanting a toy. Well, you can offer him two toys and let him choose but that’s cultivating a new habit and you are rewarding a crying child. Instead you can communicate to him that it’s either he continues to cry until he stops and ready to go, or he could stop crying now and he gets to share, for example, a smoothie with you. Notice that buying a toy is not an option.
3. Give manageable options
When my girl was about 1yo, she would sometimes cry watching me leaving for work. I was advised to divert her attention, then leave and don’t looked back. I thought about it, but something just does not make sense – leaving my crying child for entire day? Doesn’t it make saying goodbye the next day even harder? Hence I came out with an idea, I let her held onto something that I pulled out of my work bag before I left for work. I told her to safe keep for Mommy until I came back home. The thing I gave her to hold onto? It was a new pack of pocket tissue. On a separate occasion while we were out, my then 1yo wanted the unsealed tissue pack on the dining table. Without giving any thought about it, my hub handed over to her. Sigh. So what’s the fuss about? At 1yo, she did not know how to open up the new pack of tissue. But by giving her the unsealed pack, she took the chance to explore the tissue with her mouth, making a mess, littering every where. Another example that I had seen parents doing it is giving a bunch of keys to their infant. Yes, that stops the infant from fussing but infants tend explore their surroundings with their mouths! There’s risk of choking.
4. Do not give options that will cultivate a habit or something that you do not want your child to start
Personally, I try to stay away from refined-sugar-loaded snacks for my daughter, especially because she is incapable of brushing her teeth thoroughly yet. So no matter under what circumstances, candy is never an option.
5. Give age appropriate options
There is a playground located right in front of my toddler’s childcare center. Every evening when I pick her up, she would want to spend some time there which end up going back home late. So this particular day, I told her that she was allowed 10 minutes at the playground. She was thrilled. 10 minutes later, I said it was time to go, pointing to my watch. She looked at me, not understanding what I was saying. Dang!! How do you expect a 2.5yo to understand the concept of time!!! For a 2.5yo, what works for now is snack or toy, something that’s interesting. So it was either raisins or playground. It worked! Yes, I dislike the idea of consuming sweet snacks, but I successfully break her habit of going to the playground every evening. Moreover, it’s not raisins every evening, sometimes it’s just some random stuff from my bag, eg. lipbalm.
6. Sometimes all you need is just a solution
You see your child putting his creation on the wall with pens or crayons! Quick! Options! But he just wouldn’t stop! He wants to do what he is doing – draw! Solution! Offer him a piece of paper. He is not stopping? Perhaps offer him to draw on the piece of paper on the wall. Well, if he still doesn’t stop, it’s time to call for disciplinary actions in response to the outrageous behavior.
Notice that I titled this article as “Managing Your Child”, not “Discipline Your Child”. I believe when parents put on the mindset of disciplining their child, the communication bridge between the child and adult is not connected. When parents put on the managing hat, parents look at things at a different perspective. To manage, you need to communicate, you do not expect the child to know things he is not aware of; you foresee what could possibility happen, eg. separation anxiety. I always give verbal brief and instruction to my 2.5yo of what is expected to come or happen. For example, she knows who we are meeting – to minimize stranger anxiety; she knows when I’m about to pull the shower head over her head to wash away the shampoo, etc. To me, disciplinary action only comes in when the little one does not listen.