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August 23, 2010


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I recently read in a parenting book about this subject. The books suggests: empathize with your child then give an alternative solution e.g. "Fiona, I hear that you want to play some more, but now it's time to come in. You can play outside again tomorrow". On day two my 3 year old had already caught on, saying "Mommy, I hear that you want me to brush my teeth, but I'm going to finish this puzzle first. I can brush my teeth tomorrow." If only I had that author's phone number...

So then we tried the choices thing. We even tried to make it fun by holding out a hand for each option, and asking her to high five the hand of the option she chose. "Fiona, you can have (one hand) milk or (other hand) water." She turned around and said, "How about (one hand) chocolate milk or (other hand) chocolate milk?" Awesome.


I agree. Choices are great. "Options," however...well. My husband taught my daughter the word and its meaning. Now our tantrums go somewhat like this:

"Aura! I said no more Play Doh. It is time to put it away and wash your hands."


It's enough for divorce. Truly.

I like the idea of choices in theory, but I think we've sanitized it too much. We're giving our kids a false sense of autonomy if the choices we allow them to make don't matter to us (i.e., "Do you want the blue toothbrush or the red one?"), and we're not giving them a choice at all if they get punished for not picking the "right" option. I know you were half-joking when you offered up, "You can pick up your toys or go to the corner" as an example, but I know I've actually done that, and I'm not the only one. To choose not to pick up one's toys is not to choose to go to the corner, though.

So, yes, give them choices! But give them choices that matter, that have an impact on the whole family, that aren't thinly disguised threats. I am still learning this lesson.

I think that there is so much in the power of choice and especially at a young age. If they are taught that they have choices it empowers them and teaches them that they are in control of their life. Now granted there are certain thing that they cannot control, like the time they go to bed perhaps...but what I tell my kids in situations like that is that they still have a choice regarding how they are going to "act" towards the choice. They can kick and scream (which inevitably will end badly) or they can make the choice to go peacefully...but in the end the result is always going to be outcome of what CHOICE they made.

Even at the ages of 7 and 5 my kids are starting to grasp this...now only if the adults in my life could! :)

Love your blog, I'm a long time reader, first time poster and felt I needed to comment on this post.

I only just found this method to use with my 9yo who pretty much got whatever he wanted (and it's coming back to haunt me) I now give him 2 choices for anything he doesn't feel like doing, the first what I want him to do, and the other is usually what he wants, but with conditions attached.
"Ok, you can choose to eat your dinner, or you can choose to not eat dinner and not have access to your computer for the rest of the night"
Works everytime & makes him feel like he has made the decision, and if he doesn't eat, then he can not get angry at me for being "the worst mum in the world"

I'm going to try this with my nephews.

Choices also rule in our house. I keep reminding my husband that it's an 'easy' way to letting our 2 yr old think he's controlling the situation, when he's not. My hubby also snaps when kiddo takes too long to make a choice or is indecisive, gah.
Thanks for the post on not saying "okay?". I've spent the last year asking my husband to stop asking my son and tell him things and i think your post finally got thru to him. I'm hearing a lot less questions and more direction :) baby steps

I love giving my 2 year old choices. It helps her have a little control over her life. I agree that you should only give them two things to choose from. Even I have a tough time making a decision if there are too many options!

Here's an easy fix, Amy. If she doesn't pick within a certain time, then you tell her that you get to choose. So by not choosing, she's giving up her choice.

It really works well for us here, particularly when they take FOREVER to make up their mind.


I love giving my 3 year old two choices, but I think I overwhelm her sometimes with them. I end up standing in front of her as she takes 45 minutes to make up her mind while I growl at her like an evil Nazi from a bad movie: "Just PICK ONE: chicken nuggets or peanut butter and jelly."
Hubby is utterly useless at choices. He just asks her what she wants and snaps at her when she takes too long. *sigh!*

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