Children Can Make Choices

My wife and I have started a new routine in our home called toy rotation. We may be atypical from many Midwestern families regarding the types of toys we purchase (electronic toys are generally a no in our household) but we still have quite a bit of toys. And, since we help our kids pick up their toys at the end of the day we do not keep a large number of toys out at any one time.

Once a week we take the kids, currently 4.5 and 2.5 years old, down to the basement to choose which toys will come up. We take those toys up to their playspace and then the real challenge starts. It’s one thing to choose a toy to bring into the playspace…it’s a whole other thing to figure out what to take out. But this is life. Life’s about making choices. How’s that song go? “You can’t always get what you want?”

So we talk.

I ask them what toys they want to keep and what they are willing to put away. Most of the time they’re just excited to play with the toys they just brought up! If they aren’t ready to make a decision then I just make it for them. Usually, that brings out their real desire.

That idea scales to Democratic and self-directed education as well. We get students in the habit of making choices that affect their real lives.

Can Kids Really Be Mature Enough?

I can remember my grandmother coming over and watching my two young children negotiate and bicker about a toy. She gave me that look that said, “Are you going to do anything about this?”

I wasn’t going to and I rarely do. Adults, especially parents, get very sensitive about arguing that happens between children. But, when you argue, there’s a lot of learning going on. You’re figuring out how to advocate for yourself and you’re also learning that not everyone sees things the same way you do. Apart from our kids physically coercing each other into giving into their demands, we let them figure it out.

So, yes, kids rise to the occasion and figure out ways of getting along. That doesn’t mean we stay out of it completely. We may give advice on how to solve the problem but we don’t try to talk down to them just because they’re both passionate about their ideas.

I wish more teachers did that.

An argument between people is something that happens in the real world. We want them to learn how to argue respectfully instead of just walking away.

The next time someone tells you not to argue, ask them, “Why?”

Pretty soon they’ll be arguing with you and you can say, “I thought you said we shouldn’t argue but now you’re arguing with me.”

Philip Mott

I've been working with families for two decades now. I write about topics pertaining to parents of children ages 4-12.

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