“All children need power; this need can be satisfied through control, decision-making and choice.” ~ Jan Faull M.Ed.
Intuitively, we know that:
Giving kids choices leads to cooperation when we offer children choices, we are promoting independence and responsibility while we still ensure their health and safety by controlling and monitoring the options, ultamitly leading to compliance and adherence. Being autonomous and in control feels good. One of the benefits of offering children choices throughout the day is minimizing the conflict between children and adults. When adults direct a child’s behavior most of the day, the child’s natural desire to be independent is stifled and feelings of resentment or rebellion may arise. Our task is to provide children with appropriate, healthful options and help them to make and accept their choices. In this way, we are developing confident, independent children who feel in control of themselves. Limiting choices for young children helps them to select, so we should be careful not to offer limitless possibilities.
How this relates to the medicine-time experience:
Offering children choices encourages autonomy and learning while minimizing conflicts (i.e. medication struggles). Guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Bioethics recommends that children participate in decision-making to the greatest extent possible. Children behave better when they feel that they have some control over their circumstances and actions. Offering children a choice in a “no choice situation” will boost a child’s cooperation (i.e. children can’t choose not to take their medication, but they can choose how their medication will taste). Allowing children to choose the taste of their medicine encourages them to take ownership of their medication and their own health. In addition, the act of choice-making itself may be rewarding, regardless of the outcome of the selection or the situation.Recognize that a child who is sick tends to feel sad, overwhelmed, and out of control.
It is important to remember that what suits one child may not suit another. In today’s society, where kids are inundated with choices about cereal, chewing gum, toys, video games and TV shows, they have grown accustomed to exercising their power to choose. Why not offer children more choice and flexibility regarding their medicine if this will reinforce their feelings of independence and promote cooperative behavior?