Use Choices to Improve Relationships

Here is an important concept for all parents to remember regarding relationships: Not losing is more important than winning. Children’s desires will not always be fulfilled, but as long as they are aware that they have a choice as to their responses, they are not put in a position where they feel that they lose—which naturally prompts negative feelings.

No one likes being cornered, literally or figuratively. The belief of not having a choice encourages resistance because it prompts a feeling of being trapped. When a child is without options, the result is not only resistance but also resentment. By contrast, offering choices ensures that a child’s power and dignity are retained.

As a parent, you are choosing a losing situation when you focus on the past and are negative, as in, “You should have been more careful!” or “How could you have done that!” In contrast, you can choose to focus on the future by being optimistic and positive, and by suggesting a procedure, as in, “Next time, you will be sure to hold the glass with both hands,” or “What can you do to prevent it from happening again?”

If you choose to talk about what a person did wrong—what that youngster should have done—the youngster will only resent it because the situation cannot be undone. Choosing to focus on the past will only result in your criticizing, blaming, complaining, threatening, or punishing. These will result in stress and negative feelings for all involved.

By contrast, you will promote responsible behavior if you choose to communicate in terms of, “So, let’s talk about what has been learned and how to do it better next time.” When you do, you will immediately become a coach instead of a critic or cop.