Behaviour Matters

Making Meaningful Choices

Making Meaningful Choices

How many opportunities does your child have to make meaningful choices during an average day? As adults, we often complain about the number of decisions we need to make each day, and may feel overwhelmed by the burden of our responsibilities. However, imagine a day lacking in choices; you are told where to sit, when to eat, talk, and go to the washroom, when to take a break from productive activities, and when and how you are to interact with your friends. Imagine being told that you are doing something wrong when you do not adhere to the rules as established by someone else. Now imagine being your child, as they move through their morning routine to school and home again: did they have the opportunityto make any decisions that had a meaningful impact on their day?

Providing choice-making opportunities for children has a number of benefits on behaviour at home and school. Giving children choices has been shown to increase task engagement and decrease disruptive behaviour at school (Jolivette et al., 2002), and helps them achieve the overall developmental goal of making effective, responsible decisions (Dunlap et al., 1994). Allowing children to make choices – including where, when, and how tasks are to be completed – makes children more likely to comply to the requests we give them. 

Opportunities for your children to make meaningful decisions are easy to incorporate into your daily routines at home! Your child can contribute to:

  • When or in what order tasks will be done (“do you want to brush your teeth or wash your face first?”)
  • Wherea task may be done (“would you like to do your homework at the kitchen table, or in the office?”)
  • Whatwill follow task completion (“what book do you want to read after you tidy up your toys?”)
  • Whowill complete the task with them (“who should help you tie up your shoelaces?”)

The choice is simple: give your child the chance to choose!

Works Cited

Jolivette, K., Stichter, J. P. & McCormick, K. M. (2002). Making choices—improving behaviour—engaging in learning.Teaching Exceptional Children, 34(3)24-30.

Dunlap, G., DePerczel, M., Clarke, S., Wilson, D., Wright, S., White, R. & Gomez, A. (1994). Choice making to promote adaptive behavior for students with emotional and behavioral challenges. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 27(3), 505-518.

Dunlap, G. & Liso, D. (2004). Using choice and preference to promote improved behavior. What works briefs, 15.