Are You Building Kids Strengths with Choices?
Here you are, teaching a class of children or perhaps with your own kids and you have a great idea. One of the kids is tired and refuses to do it. What do you do?
Offering choices is one of the first things you learn about when working with children. In fact when we don’t offer choices it can quickly turn into the dreaded power struggle. If you’re wondering what this is, it sounds something like this: One person says “yes” and one person says “No,” then keep repeating until someone gives in.
Power Struggles and Character Building
No one likes to be bossed around and told what to do all the time. This may lead to low self esteem and a tendency to follow others. A child may feel they should do what other people want. On the other hand, if a person always has to have their way they may become a bit of a bully or a manipulator so they can get what they want.
This is where offering choices comes in. I’ve found offering choices regularly in class actually helps to avoid power struggles altogether. If you ever feel you are moving towards a power struggle, this is where all your meditation and personal practice come in. So you can remember that your role is to guide the child to build their character not turn them into puppets, doing whatever you tell them to do.
How Offering Choices Builds Character
When you offer choices it helps to avoid power struggles but it also helps to build character. When you offer choices you are saying to the child “You can make good decisions.” When you boss them around you are saying, “You don’t know – I’ll decide for you.”
As my teacher, Tulshi Sen says, when a child has the confidence to make decisions for themselves and feels they know what is right and wrong – they are a confident child.
So next time you offer choices be sure to offer them a chance to make a real decision. Don’t offer a choice that is really saying “Do what I want. Do you want to do it this way or that way?” It may work for now but will it build character?
One choice I offer a few times in every yoga class is, “Do you want to do another pose or do you want to rest?” When they can decide which one is right for them they really do know themselves and this builds confidence.
Listening to Their Choice builds Independence
Listening to their answers helps us have a smooth class. When the kids want to rest we take a break while they get refreshed for the next pose. When they want to keep going it helps channel their energy. And when it is a mixed response, some rest while the other kids demonstrate the next pose.
It is a great way to help kids know themselves which builds their self-confidence. It builds trust in the relationship as well, that lets children tell you what they need, knowing you will listen to them. It helps build their communication too, so that if you forget to offer the choice instead of them just saying “NO,” they will offer a choice back to you.
Then you know they have built character to express themselves and you have a lot more fun together too!