Thursday, June 14, 2007

Choices, Choices...Do I Give My Girl Too Many?

Darn you, Alfie Kohn. I blame you for all this. Ever since I read Kohn's Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason, I've been trying to be the enlightened parent, giving my little toddler as many choices as possible. But have I lost my mind? Is this going too far? How much is too much?

In the morning, I have to get Little E. to answer (at least) nine questions before we can leave the house. Each question must be asked (at minimum three times) and half of them does involve some running and chasing around the house. The routine A.M. questions are:

1. Morning breakfast: toast, bagel or cereal?
2. Milk or juice?
3. Toothbrush: Barbie, Luke Skywalker, Woody Woodpecker or Yellow Box (aka Sponge Bob)?
4. Underwear: Pinkleberry (pink), blueberry (blue) or pineapple (yellow)?
5. Skirt or pants?
6. T-shirts?
7. Socks: mixy or matchy? (Guess which she always always chooses.)
8. Shoes: blue or pink Crocs or sneakers?
9. Is she bringing her stuffed toy MP to daycare or not?

Why am I noticing this now? Well, the Wife is out of town and she's not around to roll her eyes, yell, generally to play the Bad Cop (tough parent) to my Good Cop (soft touch, imperfect parent).

And to get any kind of cooperation, I do have to get creative, yes, even a little manipulative (but not by using rewards or punishments -- that's a whole another Kohn book). Because sometimes the question has to asked or presented in a FUN way, like:

a. "Does she want to walk or ride the moon rocket (piggyback ride) to the Toothbrushing Station?"
b. "Is she going to put her clothes on in the mountain (her bed) or in the deep deep ocean (floor)?"

Yes, it's tiring and takes energy, and wouldn't it be nice and less time-consuming if I could just lay out the clothes and the food and yelled and manhandled her to do what I wanted?

On the plus side, she has very few tantrums and meltdowns because she feels she's in control and has a say in what's going on. And maybe Kohn would say, they're really "pseudo-choices" because I don't give her a choice on whether to do something or not, only giving her choices on the how of something that's already be decided.

My response is: 1. Some choices are better than no choices. 2. I'm an imperfect parent and I'm okay with that.

More importantly, I just wonder if I'm giving her too many choices? Also, am I setting her for hardship later in life when her mundane choices are not all sugar-coated and presented in a crazy, fun way?


Blogger Veronica said...


It would be so much easier if they would just listen when we tell them to wear this or that, eh? :)

My almost 4yo is adamant about her clothing selection including a big fat NO to a dress I bought that I think is the cutest.

7:37 AM  
Blogger Lill said...

The easier it is for them to access the stuff, the fewer questions you have to ask them. And if you only get them clothes that you like and they like, it doesn't matter what they wear. Although I agree with Kohn to a great extent, I don't think it's healthy to spend an inordinate amount of time on making sure that kids have everything exactly the way they want it. It's not realistic and it's not taking into account that parents' needs and time are valid too. Kids that don't learn to "go along to get along" have a harder time in life socially.

7:52 PM  
Blogger jldude said...

Lill: I think you're right and my gut feelings are that she might have problems getting along later in life.

11:10 AM  
Anonymous Rory said...

I love giving children choices - I think it is so important. I'm not sure how necessary it is for every aspect of their clothing, or eating - but, choices in general I'm all in favour of.

I am a little bit troubled that we tend to raise our children in accord with the standards of the world. What I mean by that is: Parents feel they have to "toughen-up" their children, so that this world doesn't walk all over them. I find that discomfiting. I feel a lot more comfortable with the view that a strong sense of self-worth and self-esteem, and a gentle spirit, are hugely powerful qualities to combat all the rocks this world is going to throw at them. And knowing they have a loving and respectful family to fall back to - that is the icing on the cake.

1:52 PM  
Blogger jldude said...


As you can see, I too am very pro-choices. But I also worry about my little girl not being tough enough.

I can only speak about her, but she is very sensitive...sensitive to light, to water in her tone of voice used.

She has said, "I don't like the way you talk to me." She's 3 1/2.

So I do try to toughen her up a little, in preparation for the days ahead when I'm not around.

2:34 PM  

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