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How I've Empowered Sloan to Make Decisions For Herself

3 tips that have helped our family reduce tantrums.
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sloan 7

From the time she was really young, I could see that Sloan was extremely self-motivated and independent. The reason I was able to see those things so clearly is she so closely mirrors how I was at her age. I remember that it felt like such a blessing and a curse to want to do so many things on my own, without the ability to manage them all by myself, so I've always wanted to foster that fierce independence in Sloan in a productive way. Here are some of the tips I've followed to help her feel empowered, while keeping tantrums at a minimum: 

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Any parent knows that if you ask your child whether they have to go to the bathroom before leaving a restaurant, they will one-hundred percent insist that they do not have to go, regardless of how full their bladder is. Instead, I always try to give Sloan a choice. In the case of the bathroom, instead of saying, "Do you have to go potty before we leave?" I ask, "Do you want to go to the bathroom with mommy or with daddy before we leave?" She never opts out because she feels empowered by being able to choose who takes her. I've applied that simple concept to countless things as she's grown up. 

When it comes to getting dressed in the morning, Sloan loves to appear in our bedroom fully clothed, with hair done and shoes and socks on. But more often than not, she's dressed poorly for the weather or wearing one of two sweaters, which would be fine if it didn't mean the majority of her closet then goes untouched. Now, the night before school, when we aren't feeling pressed for time, I have Sloan ask our Google Home or Alexa what the weather is the next day. Then, she'll look to me for guidance. If it's 72 and sunny, I'll say, "We can do bare legs, but choose a dress with long sleeves," then I give her a few options to decide between, instead of simply saying, "This is the dress you're wearing tomorrow." That way, she doesn't need to change out of the outfit she proudly put on that morning and can walk into our room fully prepared for the day!

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Someone once told me that, whereas adults know at any given point what's going to be happening in the next fifteen minutes to three hours, kids don't have the wherewithal to know what's coming next. For this reason, one of the biggest triggers for Sloan's frustration comes from springing things on her. If we say, "It's time to leave the party" or "Let's go to bed now," it's almost guaranteed to result in a meltdown. Instead, we give her a countdown, which makes her feel in control of what to expect. We even take it one step further by allowing her to set the timer. For example, if I say, "Sloan, we're taking a bath in five minutes," she'll turn to our Google Home and say, "Okay, Google. Set a timer for five minutes." When the timer goes off, she's ready for whatever the next thing is because she's the one who set it. 

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Sloan really enjoys doing things herself and feeling like a "big girl." One of those things has been making her own breakfast, which she's been doing for over a year now. To set her up for success, G and I make sure the bowls and spoon are in a place she can easily access. We also have a smaller bowl inside of the large bag of cereal so she can use it as a scoop and transfer our gallon-size of milk to a smaller container so it's not too unwieldy for her to balance. She gets so excited by getting to do it herself that we've applied the same logic to things she does every day like brushing her teeth. 

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