Try This at Home: Offering Choices

While pregnant with #1, I had grand ideas about parenting. I would always. I would never. Yeah, right. Fast-forward five years:

Eating in the car?
Before kids: “Never! Have some respect for the vehicle!”
After kids:  Cheerios everywhere.

Food bribes?
Before kids: “Pshaw! Those parents are smoking crack!”
After kids:  “If you’re good for just five more minutes, just five, okay, two, okay, one, okay just put that down and we will have a treat at checkout.”

Before kids:  “Who lets a child wear a superhero cape in Target?.”
After kids: Have bodily carried into an airport carried a screaming, thrashing child wearing a Tinkerbell nightgown and no underwear.

But one standard I’ve maintained: I Am Not Running a Restaurant.

That said, I believe in letting children make choices whenever practical. Up to a point.

I am cracking eggs into a bowl and ask my dear offspring, “Would you like White American or Cheddar in your scrambled eggs today?”

“Um, I wan’ a dip-dip egg in-stead.” [“Dip-dip egg” means “over easy”.]

“Sorry, sweetie, I am making scrambled today. But you can pick your cheese.”

“But! But! But I really wannnn-ed a dip-dip egg!”

“Tomorrow you may have dip-dip egg. Today is scrambled.”

“But I wan’ned it to-DAY!”

“Go ahead to your room until you can get ahold of yourself, honey.”

Foley: little feet trotting off, then a fair SLAM of a bedroom door.

I continue scrambling eggs. I pick the cheese. After a decent interval:

From the living room:
 [cough, cough]

From the kitchen:
 [scramble scramble]

[cough, cough]
[scramble scramble]

[cough, cough]
[scramble scramble]

[cough, cough]
[scramble scramble]

She blinks first and edges into the kitchen.

[cough cough] “Mom? I fink I am sick.”

“Oh, you do? Too sick to eat breakfast?”

[clearing throat] “Yes. I fink I just need some med’cin.”

“So no breakfast. Well, that’s a shame, because I just dished you up some mandarin oranges.”

Whaddaya know, the mandarin oranges triggered a miracle cure.

It would really have been easier to ask her, “What do you want for breakfast?” But, as I said, I’m not running a restaurant.

Try This at Home: Today’s Takeaways

I know some parents — my mother among them — feel that giving a choice (e.g., which cheese) also gives too much leeway (or power) to a preschooler. But my sister and I agree that:

  • To function well in today’s information glut, children must practice choice-making.
  • By the same token, they must practice living with consequences.
  • A 4-year-old has little real control over her world; why not let her pick the cheese?
  • Post office first, or dry cleaner first?  It’s all the same to you. But the drycleaner has lollipops, which can make or break a morning when you are 4 years old.
  • Offer choices when practical:  Playground or hike? Carrots or cucumbers? Bike or scooter?

Note, however, those last two words: wherever practical. That means practical for YOU, the Mama. You don’t have to run a restaurant, either.

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