How to let your child make her own decisions without spoiling her.

By Jerry Brodlie, M.D.
October 05, 2005

Q: I know it's good to give children a sense of control over their world and the chance to make decisions for themselves, but I'm not always sure where to draw the line on this. My daughter is 5 and she throws a fit if things aren't done her way -- even though her way often is not the right way. I don't want to spoil her, but I also am sensitive to this issue of letting her having control. How can I find a balance?

A: Parents are always struggling with that issue. The answer changes as the child develops more capabilities and maturity. There's no answer that applies generally, there are only answers that apply to that given day and situation. The fact that you're thinking about it is a good sign. Don't worry about being wrong -- occasionally we all are. Just recognize that their seeking control over their world is a positive phenomenon and occasionally they're going to scrape their knees or hurt their fingers. If those types of things never happen that means you're not giving an adequate amount of control to the child. Therefore, you're better thinking in terms of what my child can do and worrying less about what they can't do. They may grow up with a few more bumps and scars but likely with a greater sense of self and independence.

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