I recall some of the parenting advice I read before I had kids. One particular piece of advice was “Make your kids feel more involved in the family by allowing them to make some decisions.”
At first glance, it seemed reasonable enough: let them make some unimportant decisions, such as what color shirt to wear, etc. and they’ll be happier. I don’t know if people are still dispensing that advice, as I haven’t been paying attention to the baby and toddler stuff much anymore.
It might work for some people, but be very careful with it. Limit the decisions.
Your job as a parent is to be in charge.
Your child’s job is not to be in charge.
Who is in charge? The person making the decisions. Each decision you let your child make reduces your authority. That is not what you want.
And the more decisions the child makes, the more decision the child expects to get to make. Do you as a parent want the child to think that he gets to provide his input on any decision or matter? If you go overboard on allowing your child to make decisions, you will be frustrated by a child who thinks that everything is negotiable.
You don’t want to turn your adult child out into the world with no decision-making experience, so I’m not saying never ask for your child’s input. But start it when they are ready for responsibility, maybe late grade school. Otherwise you’ll be arguing with your kids. “Alright, 8:00, time for bed.” “But I want to go to bed at 9:00.” “I didn’t ask what you wanted, I said it’s bedtime.” Oh, but you did ask what he wanted. Maybe not this time, but many times before. He is used to your asking what he wants, why should this decision be any different?
When the child is young, explain why he gets to make this decision. “Okay, it’s your birthday, so you get to choose the dessert.” That way he knows that his getting to make a decision is a special event, not a common occurrence.
Going back to the original premise: if kids don’t get to make decisions, then how will they feel like they belong in the family?
By being part of the family.
By doing things the family does.
By having things expected of him.
By having parents who care for him.
Which child is going to feel more involved in the family: the one who gets to decide what he has for dinner that night, or the one whose parent reads him a book at bedtime?
Spend time with your child, have conversations with your child, do things with your child. But don’t feel like you need to abdicate your decision making to him.
Listen, my son, and be wise, And direct your heart in the way.