A father was taking his young daughter on a ride using her brand new bike with training wheels. I watched the little girl riding on the sidewalk. The father was running ahead moving any trashcan that was in the way or little twigs that might be a bump for her. Basically, he was doing his best to make it a perfectly fine path for the child to ride. Instead of making the world a perfect place the bike ride was a great, natural opportunity for teaching self-management to the child. We need to encourage children to make decisions and live with the consequence of that decision


The bike ride would be a great opportunity for parents to use guidance. They could have stopped before they took their walk or their ride and looked down the block and said, “Do we see anything in the block that might interfere with begin able to ride our bikes safely and successfully?” If there is something like that trashcan that might be in our way what can we do? What is our best solution?

Guiding is helping the child process different possibilities and then evaluating their chosen option for its reasonableness and its importance. If a child’s behaviors are inappropriate or put them in a dangerous moment you, of course, stop the behavior immediately. That is not a moment for guiding. If we want them to be able to use problem-solving methods in the future then we have to provide opportunities for decision-making with guidance. In the rush of events that envelop parents many can become directive and primarily solve he problem for the child.

Recently, I saw a parent with a child about the age of 4 and the child was pouring his cereal. The space between the box, the bowl, and the milk measured a little over an arm’s length. The parent said, “No. No. Put the cereal box right beside the bowl. (She moved the milk closer.) You have your spoon, Okay. Pour the cereal first and close the box top and then put it over here because you are done with it. Here is the milk. Be careful when you take off the lid. Then pour it and put the lid back on. When you are done put it here.”

The child was clearly able to pour the milk and cereal. This would be another excellent time to sit back and use guidance rather than directives. There is no rush. There is no danger present. The parent would give the same information in different words. “I remember when I was little. I did that once and I had such a long space between where my bowl was compared to the milk and cereal. I ended up making a mess and I thought I might do it differently another day. What do you think? Are you comfortable with where your cereal, bowl, and milk are or do you want to make any changes before pouring your cereal. If the child says, “It’s fine’” say “Okay, I was just sharing my experience. It didn’t work for me. It’s OK if you want to try this to make it work for you. If not, what do you think might happen? House rule is everyone cleans up his mess. Whatever you decide is fine with me.” Walk away. Leave the final decision in the hands of the child but you can guide them with your language to process the thoughts. Guiding is setting the stage for good decision-making.

What if:

What if the child says, “Leave me alone. I can do this “ and then spills the milk all over the table? You can answer, “Sometimes even when we think we made a great decision things go wrong.” Sorry. You know where the cleaning supplies are stored.”

Follow up:

You can remind the child periodically that some decisions are his to make. Some decisions are mom’s to make and some decisions are shared to make. (That’s an article for another day.) You are always willing to talk through any decision as a way to help him think of the reasonableness of his choice and the importance of his choice.

Knowing Me Knowing You

This book is a treat for all readers. In groundbreaking style, book introduces type differences through original stories.

Characters model their best way to solve problems, work with friends, cope with life issues, and form relationships. Each story is complete so children can choose which story they want to read.