The Two-Choice Method Cut My Kid’s Tantrums in Half

two choice method cat

Whether you’ve got a 2-year-old, toddler or preschooler, the power struggles are real. But when a tantrum hits, my go-to tactic is what many a therapist calls the “two-choice method”—and nine out of 10 times it works.

Here’s how it plays out: No excuses, you needed your kid to be fully dressed 15 minutes ago. But when you demand it with “you need to get dressed right this minute,” the answer is a defiant no (which may or may not be accompanied by tears). Enter the two-choice method. Instead, you offer: “Do you want to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt?” Suddenly, your kid has got all the power back. And since tantrums at these ages and phases tend to be about a quest for independence, the two-choice method suddenly gives them exactly that.

A couple additional examples: When breakfast is served, instead of, “it’s time to eat!” offer “would you like yogurt or cereal?” Or the next time you’re pushing for them to get outside, replace “it’s time to go outside now!” with “would you like to go on the swings or in the sandbox?”

The secret to success is making sure the options are ones that you can actually follow through on. It can feel silly to apply the two-choice method to instances that feel routine (“do you want your milk in the yellow cup or the red cup?”), but again, it allows kids to feel that independence and control.

And, back to that first example, if your kid gets dressed and you get out the door on time, everybody wins.

The Two-Word Phrase I Learned from My Son’s Speech Therapist That Cut Tantrums in Half

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Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...