How To Give Kids Control AND Get What You Want

give kids control

Frustrating, isn't it?

Trying to get your kids to do the things that they should do, but don't want to. Or something you'd like them to do, but they're not interested in.

Whether it's eating vegetables, doing their homework, or helping with the housework.

As an aside, does anyone want to do those things? I'd rather eat what I want, and do what I want when I want. But, that won't get four hungry people fed and out the door in the mornings!

Where was I? Oh yes. How do you exert a little pressure, and encourage your kids in the right direction, without yelling, cajoling or bullying?

All too often it ends in tears and frustration.

You ask your kids to do their homework and you get something like, "Oh, do I have to? Gemma's mom doesn't make her do homework!"

And then you end up have this looong discussion about how the rules at your house aren't the same as Gemma's, and that homework is important if you want good grades ...

Then, eventually, they grump about long enough that they feel they've made their point and grudgingly do their homework.

But it's like pulling teeth! Why does it have to be that hard?

Well, here's why. Power.

Your kids want to excerpt a little power, particularly when they feel they don't have any. They know they have to do what's asked, but they're not going to do it without a little kickback.

A little "let's see how you like it when I throw my weight around".But you can avoid all that with this little tool.

It's simple and easy (you know that's my favourite!), and it empowers your kids.

It reduces power struggles and still allows you to get what you want.

Sounds like magic, right?


Give Kids Control Through Choice

It’s not magic, but it does have an almost magical effect. And all you have to do is give your kids choices.

Maybe you've heard this before - but that's because it really works. Here's the low down.

Giving kids choices is empowering because your kids feel like they're in control. The trick is to give them two viable options, either of which will result in the outcome you need (or want).

Let's look at an example. Suppose you have trouble getting your kids to eat vegetables at dinner time.

Here's how you'd use choices to get positive outcomes while empowering your kids. You'd say,

“Would you like carrots or cauliflower?”

And once they’d made a choice, you could sneak another vegetable into their meal by asking,

“Would you like peas or beans?”

You can give your kids choices about all sorts of things – things you don’t really have to ask them about, but that will make them feel more important.

If they want a drink you can ask if they want milk or water. Then you can ask if they want it in a mug, or a glass. If they chose milk you might ask if they want it warm or cold.

You don’t need to ask what sort of container they want their drink in, but asking them lets them know they have choices.

Plus there’s a sneaky side benefit. You see, your kids will be so busy making choices over the little things – like cups or mugs – that they’ll have a lot less energy to argue over the big things.

They’ll be exercising their brains more, but also experiencing a little decision fatigue.

Simple as it may sound, this is a powerful tool capable of preventing arguments and eliminating nagging and yelling.

Use More Strategic Choices

Here’s where life gets interesting because you get to use some strategy.

I don't know about you, but most of the arguments ... ahem, 'disagreements' in this house revolve around an adult who wants a child to do something, and the child refusing to do it.

Me: "It’s cold outside, are you going to grab a jacket, honey?"

Child: "No. I don't need one."

Me: "I think you do. It's pretty cold."

Child: "No! I'm not taking one!"


Or what about this one.

Me: "Are you going to finish that homework? It's due tomorrow."

Child: "Homework is boring. It's stupid!"

Me: "Well, it still needs to be done. You're the one who wants an 'A' on your report."

Child: "I HATE homework. It sucks."

Sound familiar? 

In these examples the child is being asked questions, so they have a choice. The problem is they’re not being asked the right questions.

When your child is going outside, and it's cold, you don’t need to argue about whether or not they wear their jacket. Just ask,

"Do you want to wear your jacket or carry it?"


“Would you rather wear your jacket or your jumper?”

Or if they have homework, you can ask,

"Do you want to do your homework now, or after a snack?"

See, Strategic Choices still gives your child two choices but it requires that you apply a simple rule. And that is that you, as the parent, must be deliriously happy with whichever choice your child makes.

You might not care about whether they choose water or juice to drink, and what kind of container they drink it from.

But when you care about the outcome, you need to offer two choices that are both acceptable to you.

This still allows you to give kids control, but it also gives you what you want too.

It's magic - and who doesn't need a little magic in their lives, right?

Make Your Life Magical

Sprinkle a little of this magic stardust around at your place - it’s a small, easy change you can make right away.

Start off with the simple choices that you can offer your kids over any little thing.

Do they want to put their pyjamas on first, or brush their teeth?

Do they want a story in bed, or sitting in a chair?

Do they way to go to sleep with the covers pulled up or pushed down?

Asking these small questions will make your kids feel like they have more choice in their life.

And once you’ve mastered that, you can move to more strategic questions.

Pretty soon your kids will be totally in control ... and you'll be getting exactly what you want, too.

Your family life will be too good to be true, and you'll be the envy of every parent you know. ;-)

Don't forget ...

Join our community of parents who want to stop yelling and create a family that listens to each other. You'll be notified when a new post is up, and receive a complimentary copy of our Cheat Sheet: Get Your Kids From "No" to "Yes" In Three Simple Steps. Pop your details in the box below to get started.

Sharing is caring!


Cate is on a mission to help parents stop yelling and create families that listen to each other. She does this while imperfectly parenting two boisterous girls of her own, and learning from her mistakes. She has contributed to Tiny Buddha, Think Simple Now, A Fine Parent and many other awesome sites.