How to teach children to choose for themselves and be decision makers and obey their teachers and parents at the same time?

Who should be in charge?

Choice equals freedom. The freedom to speak, freedom to move around, freedom to question, freedom of ownership, etc.

Lack of choice = the lack of freedom. Dictatorships, prisons and censorship remove choice, thus remove freedom. Authoritarian parents also remove freedom. Permissive parents give so much freedom they lose all control.

Here's a great illustration of parenting styles and what they offer to kids:

Parenting styles


Our daughter is now a little over 2.5 years old. All along I've had the feeling that there is something unnatural about forcing her (and other kids) to share, no matter what. Sharing is giving up what is ours. Why teach kids to give up what's theirs? Then expect them to be independent and manage more and more on their own. I read this on another website: "As parents, it’s too easy to override a child’s property rights while expecting him to respect ours. By telling a child that he has to share his toys, we’ve taken away his rights to determine how his property will be used, and perhaps more importantly have taken away his right to choose."

Update: Emma is 5, Andrew is 1. Sharing is tough with a 1 year old so what we teach the kids is to take turns or negotiate who plays with what. Negotiating is tough with a 1 year old. But he hears when we talk to Emma about it and as he gets older negotiation and taking turns will be the norm. Yes, sharing is nice but would you share all your stuff with everyone you know any time they walk by? I wouldn't. I'm OK to let people use my stuff when I'm not using them or give me a good deal and convince me why I should give up anything. But giving up my stuff without notice and incentive? Don't think so.


When you say to your child at random "Let's go for a walk" and get a response "I don't want to go for a walk" it can be upsetting or at the very least disappointing. You'll try different ways to say it. "How about you bring your teddy bear too?". "Only for a short walk". What parents do at this point is they try to change their children's decision. Maybe he has something else in mind, something clearly more important (to him) as a walk. When children say "let's go for a walk" at a similarly random moment, how many times do we drop everything and go for a walk? If it's not raining, it's not bedtime, etc. then why don't we go for a walk? Maybe we should. Maybe we should take our children's preferences more seriously - as long as they are not unreasonable.


Let children advocate for themselves and resolve conflicts on their own when possible. Don't tolerate agression but other than let them figure out a solution to their problems. If they learn how to handle little problems when they are little they will know how to tackle more serious issues when they grow up.


Not all pictures have to be pretty. What is it? What are you paiting? "So pretty", etc. aren't the right questions/comments. They may not want it pretty. They may have no idea what it is or what it is going to be. Young children experiment and express themselves in their own ways. Ask: How did you make it? Let's add a tree! Did you get paint on your hands? Did Timmy make one too? It's all about the process of creating - not about what it is. Again, it's all about choice; how and what they want to create whether it's drawing, play-doh, pretend-cooking or dress up, etc.

Helicopter parenting

As soon as we care more about our children's doings than they we absolve them from responsibility and the joy of accomplishment. Let your kids do a lot on their own and help only when they ask for help. Make it very clear to them that it's OK to make mistakes, ask for help and don't make them feel stupid for asking for help.

Ownership is key to success - for children, as well as in business as well as in private life.

Too much freedom

When and where to draw the line? When do we need to say no? Well, it's one of those things that everyone has to decide for themselves. How to seamlessly combine child-driven and parent-controlled activities in a way that gives children choice but doesn't undermine parental authority is a fine art that comes with trial and error. Let pride go, manage expectations and everything may just work out well!

Do you want to?

Do you want to go on the wagon or do you want to walk? Do you want to wear your red jacket or the spideman jacket? Do you want to go down the slide? Do you want me to hold that bag for you? Do you want to feed the goats or the chickens? Do you want apple juice or orange juice? Do you want to go to the park or do you want to stay home? Etc, etc, etc.

I hear these "do you want to" questions all over the place. What are those parents doing? Advocating free will? Teaching their kids about decision making? Nope. They are handing over control to their children and avoiding making decisions themselves and avoiding enforcing their decisions and avoiding potential disciplining. Why? Because Little Johnny won't throw a fit if he gets to decide what to do. If the day goes by according to Little Johnny's wants then he'll be happy. But wait a minute! Eventually it'll be time to eat, to sleep, to cross the street, to put toys away, to put on snowboots and mittens, to go to the doctor, to stop watching TV and so on. And when these less fun activities come up Little Johnny will act up big time and parents will have little or no control over the tantrums because they don't know how to make decisions, don't know how to correctly enforce rules and discipline their children. Parents then get upset over their helplessness and switch to cut-throat disciplining which is (borderline) abuse. There will be fits, there will be yelling and in some cases corporal punishment. All this can be avoided by staying in control. Don't be a weak boss, don't be a weak parent. Learn how to make decisions, learn how to enfoce them and learn how to negotiate without losing control.

Does this page sound like one big fat contradiction? Let kids make choices and be control at the same time? Hah! This is the tricky bit! Raising leaders while staying a leader. I suspect if we get this right then 20 years from now we will lead together.