Ancient History

Follow Me?


Today, I denounce

I denounce a parenting theory held in great esteem today:

Giving small children choices.

When I was a new mom, I read many parenting magazines and books for advice. One of the fashionable bits at the time was to instill a sense of power and control in toddlers and preschoolers. The theory—Kids between the ages of 1 to 5 are easily unhappy and contentious because they feel powerless and disrespected.

Never fear, this was easy to fix. Here is a popular scenario:

Your child is thirsty. When you reach into the cupboard, grab two different cups. Allow the child to chose the cup he or she prefers. This will help children make decisions and send the message you value his or her opinion. The child will feel a sense of power and control over their world. It seems simple and harmless, right?

So I did this. I tried to give my kids choices in nearly everything small and innocuous.

This has especially backfired with Beatrix.

I showed her two cups. Then three. Now she must carefully consider the entire cupboard-full before making her selection and God save me if I choose for her and it is the WRONG cup. A casual observer would think a girl’s mother would know which cups are pleasing to her daughter. They’d be failing epically.

One day, the panda cup from the San Diego Zoo is coveted. The next, it more horrifying than the wilted shell of a dead spider found in a basement corner.

From the beginning of her cup-drinking days, I should have picked the nearest to the edge of Shelf #2. She would have taken it gladly, even if it had watercolor stains and a come-hither Big Bird.


Really? What’s her problem?

13 comments to Today, I denounce

  • “come-hither Big Bird.” BAGAH HA HA HA HA!!!!!!

    Oh, we have our share of choice battles, too. Dacey did GREAT with choices. AJ views all choices as an invitation to exercise tyranny.
    .-= Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last blog ..Introducing Boiron’s Homeopathic Medicines for Children =-.

  • Gretchen (the other one)

    I’m with you on this one. Children will come to voice their opinions soon enough, why raise them to think it’s their right and making a decision for them is akin to abuse? Alas, I made the same mistakes as you in the beginning, and it’s all been downhill from there.

  • Carrie

    It totally depends on the moods of my kids and what the issue is. I’ll ask my 2yo if she wants to hold her medicine or if she wants me to hold it. “I don’t want to hold it and I don’t want YOU to hold it and I don’t want DADA to hold it and I don’t want sis-tah to hold it. I DON’T WANT IT.”

    Ahem. “Do you want to drink it like a big girl, or do you want me to hold you down?” “I want to drink it by myself.”

    Aha. A choice Mom likes. 🙂

  • mombrud

    We too tried this with our first. He is now nine and we have regular discussions about how he disagrees with our “parenting” because he “should not have to live in a monocracy”! He is of the opinion that all decisions concerning his life should be left up to him.
    Beware giving your head-strong children too much control in the outcome of their choices! Maybe those who have more timid or shy children would find this a successful method. Too bad I don’t have any of those!

  • Come-hither Big Bird. And after seeing the said mug, I will never look at the big yellow feathery guy the same way.

    I can empathize with Beatrix, too many choices makes me crazy too. Cute post.
    .-= Heth´s last blog ..Welcome to My Couch =-.

  • I have been reading “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” by Tripp, and he maintains that offering choices at a young age gives the kid the feeling of too much power. I guess it seems innocuous enough to me, but how does one know? Sigh…

  • I’ve been reading the same book as Minnesotamom! And we’ve seen a huge difference in not offering choices. When I offer choices, I get arguments about everything. When I don’t, far less arguments. Now, this isn’t to say that if my child truly wants something different and it isn’t a big deal, but he asks in a respectful, obedient way, I love to give it to him. Kids!
    .-= Kristin´s last blog ..Levi ~ 12 Months =-.

  • Whatever happened to being grateful for what you get… You know, thankful in all circumstances. Even if the water you get comes in a purple cup and you really really really wanted a pink one… even when your supper arrives on a blue plate and today (but just today) you really really wanted a green one. Sorry to be so narrow minded (when all the literature says do otherwise) I am all for you get what you get and be thankful!!!
    .-= se7en´s last blog ..Sunday Snippet: Noah’s Ark GiveAway… =-.

  • Great post! Creepy Big Bird Cup! Regarding the disdain toward a once beloved item, I’ve totally been there!

    Whenever Claire starts to complain about something that is a) probably humanly impossible or b) about to shove me right over the edge, I start to sing in a voice that sounds a lot like Mick Jagger’s.

    Yep, you guessed it. We can’t always get what we want.

    .-= The Casual Perfectionist´s last blog ..Confessions of a Casual Perfectionist: Day 16 =-.

  • I think there is a time for choices. And obviously, as many of your wise commenters already pointed out, it works better for some children than others.

    But even then, it’s best to limit the number of items in the selection (2, tops) and the number of times a day you offer choices. Sometimes, Mom just makes the decision. It’s our right as a grown-up.

  • jenni

    OH, Megan hit the nail on the head when she said some kids will see choices as “invitations to exercise tyranny”! I’m sure it works for some kids, but when it fails, it fails spectacularly!

  • Vanessa

    I occationally give choices to my 2 year old, but they are very limmited. And they always have an outcome I am happy with, Like do you want to wear the blue or striped jacket? or do you want to watch Curious George or Bob Builder? and soon it will be do you want to go pee or poop in the potty? These questions direct him and get the option of “No” out of the way (usually). But if I were to let him believe that all things in life are up to his discression…G-d save me! A tyranny it would be, because he would think he should call all the shots.

  • In most cases, life is not a buffet. Better to learn that early on.

    In terms of choices, one thing that has worked for me is that I have one drawer from which Sean can choose his school clothes. I put nothing in that drawer that I can’t tolerate seeing him wear and most everything matches well enough. All the empowerment he needs at age six is in that drawer.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>