North Dakota State University
NDSU Extension Service

Parenting Pipeline


A newsletter for parents of second-grade children from the North Dakota State University Extension Service

Choices of Children

"As long as the children are happy and having fun!" Have you ever had thoughts like this? It may reassure you, but sometimes it can be misleading.

Parents want their children to enjoy a variety of experiences. Therefore, parents need to provide opportunities for trying different activities. As a child develops an interest, she will want to continue in that experience more often and for longer periods of time. This can be a cue to you in discovering where your child's interests are. This can also help you determine which activities to emphasize and which should be discontinued.

Children are sometimes expected to follow their parents' footsteps or to try certain activities because their parents didn't have the opportunity. Sometimes parents push scholarship or athletic skill or music. The activity becomes so serious that little thought is given to enjoyment. If the pressure becomes too great, children may drop the activity completely for fear of disappointing their parents.

Parents need to remember that every child is unique. Differences in children should be expected and accepted. Children of baseball fans are not all natural athletes, and coordinated parents may have awkward children.

Praising children is great, but sometimes it's over-done. Promising rewards for achievements is not always necessary. Rewards could give a message to a child that the activity itself will be no fun so more is needed. Rewards may also make it appear that perfection is the goal. Learning and fun should be the goal of activities. If a child believes he must be perfect, he will be easily discouraged and will quit trying.

So Much To Do

Excluding time spent eating and sleeping, your child has roughly 80 hours a week in which to do things. Subtract another 50 hours for school, homework and chores and this leaves your child only 30 hours a week for everything else.

As you can see, even your child's time is limited. This means you need to help your child choose which activities are most important. Exploring choices means parents can help their child in identifying, thinking over and evaluating each choice. This is different from giving advice or telling the child what to do.

Decision-making steps include:

  1. Defining the situation or problem.
  2. Searching for alternatives.
  3. Exploring and thinking through a variety of solutions.
  4. Setting a future time to check on the progress.

It is important for parents to sit down with their child and explain the steps and how to solve a problem or make a decision.

Attitudes are important during this exploration. Parent and child should listen to each other, accept each other's feelings, trust each other and want to resolve the problem. It will help to maintain good eye contact, show interest and encourage your child to explain his thoughts.

Exploring choices works because it motivates the child to carry out the solution and helps her develop critical thinking skills. In addition, it eliminates the need for either parent or child to show power.

If you fail to find a solution, take a break, then go back over the steps. But keep trying. If the process breaks down, search for a hidden problem. Ask, "What is keeping us from finding a solution?"

Exploring choices, resolving differences and making a decision together will help parents and children understand each other and feel good about themselves.

This newsletter is published for North Dakota families with second-graders by the NDSU Extension Service and distributed through your county extension office. See your extension agent for more parenting information and other home economics programs.

NDSU Extension Service, North Dakota State University of Agriculture and Applied Science, and U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Sharon D. Anderson, Director, Fargo, North Dakota. Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. We offer our programs and facilities to all persons regardless of race, color, sex, religion, age, national origin, or disability; and are an equal opportunity employer.
This publication will be made available in alternative format for people with disabilities upon request 701/231-7881.

North Dakota State University
NDSU Extension Service