Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Choices and Toddlers

If you are a parent of a toddler, you've probably read or been told or heard it on the radio or watched it on tv that during the "terrible twos" (or threes, or fours....) you should give your child choices in their daily life which will "empower them" and consequently lessen tantrums and such.  It will teach them to make decisions for themselves in daily life.  It helps life skills!  

Here is an example of decision making in life:

Doug: "Where do you want to eat?"
Me: "I don't know."
Doug: "There is Mexican, Italian, Seafood, Chinese..."
Me: "Um...I don't know."
Doug: "What do you feel like eating?  Any cravings?"
Me: "Um, nope.  I don't know.  You decide."
Doug: "Okay, decide between Mexican or Italian.  Which do you want?"

Now, since he narrowed it down, I can usually go through the process of "we ate Mexican last week, so let's try Italian."  Sometimes.  But other times, I just want to eat.  And I don't really care.  And what would you like?  Really, which would YOU prefer, my dearest other half?  This is not me being sacrificial.  This is me really asking you to tell me where I'm going to eat.  I'll be happier.  I'll be safer.  I'll be empowered by your love for me.

And for goodness sake, we'll get to eat faster since my mind obviously isn't working.

Well, I am the parent of a toddler and I don't know if it is because she is a female toddler or because she is an occasionally grouchy/hungry/sleepy/the-gravitational-pull-of-the-moon-removed-her-normally-cheerful-self toddler, but offering her these choices often results in a far bigger hullabaloo than I really want to figure out how to deal with. 

Some good friends reminded me today that when giving a toddler choices, only give two choices - her little brain will become boggled otherwise.

Fur instance:

*Me thinking* "Okay, Mexican, Italian, Seafood, Chinese...?  I guess that makes all others an option as well?  Is he saying fast food, too?  What about a steak house?  Good grief, what about the Wal-Mart deli??"

Likewise, sometimes Charissa can't decide and instead of telling me "Which would you like, Mom?"  This is usually what happens:

Me: "Do you want your flower boots or Croc-ees?"
Charissa: "Umm...Cwoc-ees."
Me: "Okay!  We'll wear the croc-ees today." *begins putting them on*
Charissa: "NO!  I want my FOWER BOOTS!"
Me: "But you just said you wanted your crocs!  Okay, you want to wear your boots?"
Charissa: "YEAH!" *angered voice"
Me: "Okay, fine.  We'll wear boots." *looks at clock* "Alrighty!  We're all ready!  Let's go."
Charissa: *kicks off boots and begins to exhale rapidly through her nose* (this means trouble)
Me: "What's wrong????"  *sigh - looking at clock*
Charissa: "I wanna wear my CROC-EES!"
Me: "But you just said...!!!"

And so it goes.  By the time we're finally out the door I'm irritated and Charissa is in tears and for pity's sake - what just happened??  Is she schizophrenic???

No.  She's just (almost) three.  And sometimes (a lot of the time), she needs guidance.

So I've decided, choices are okay - some of the time.  But if it's looking like that choice might take a very involved hour and we don't have an hour or she's really just power playing (recall, dropping the spoon off the high chair?  Yes?  Same thing) or she's grouchy/hungry/sleepy/the-gravitational-pull-of-the-moon-removed-her-normally-cheerful-self, then her first choice stands.  The Crocs it is - period.  Even though it occasionally results in carrying a kicking, screaming toddler to the car under one arm and the crocs in the other hand.  (That has never happened to you, right?) 

But sometimes, I don't even give her a choice.  She's wearing her boots outside.  It's muddy and I'm not washing her shoes.  If the child psychiatrist would like to come wash her shoes and jeans, be my guest.  But until then, she's wearing boots.  Or, she's sitting on the time-out chair thinking about obeying and wearing boots.  Sometimes, these choices are far more important concerning her safety ("No, you may not walk on the icy pond.") and her health (Yes, you are going to eat you dinner before ice cream.")

I guess I could just say "I'm the Mama that's why!" but it goes deeper than that.  She's (almost) three.  She isn't about to go and buy a home or move to Europe.  She hasn't even mastered going to the potty unassisted.  I don't expect that of her.  Until she does become the beautiful, strong-willed, independent lady that I know she will be, I'm the authority figure.  Not her buddy, not her maid, not her person that makes brownies and let's her eat the batter with a spoon...

Well, I guess I might fall into those categories, too.

I am her mother.  God gave her to me not just so I can boss her around (or for her to boss me around) but for me to help guide her in making decisions and sometimes, that means making them for her or teaching her to stick to her word.

I pray that I am a leader she respects and loves.  Even more, I pray that she will know God in that same way and see that He's my leader, too.  It's a tall order as a parent.  In fact, it's impossible on my own.  Thankfully, I'm not on my own :-)

Someday when she is on her own and buying a home or moving to Europe, I pray she will know Who to ask for help.  That she will know that she is never just on her own.  She will have choices, but I pray she will seek answers from Someone far wiser than me. 

"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God,  
who gives generously to all without reproach, 
and it will be given him."
James 1:5

"See Mama?  Day match!"

(Sometimes when I don't even give her a choice, she surprises me.
She even accessorizes.  And that she did NOT learn from her dear, 'ol Mom!)


Katie said...

Well Put Hannah. Sometimes we just have to sit back and realize that we have girls and all the stresses and joys that go along with that. You should totally read Bringing up Girls. I am only 6 chapters in and oh my gosh I am realizing what I have gotten myself into. I just keep reminding myself that we can only do so much and to trust that God will do the rest. Nobody is the perfect parent, nor can we. Keep up the good work and just know that we are out here in the exact same shoes, some days Croc-ees and some days Fower Boots but always walking in God's footprints.

Renia said...

Ok...there are tears in my eyes. I am so right next door to you and mine is 4 (5 in 12 days) and still we go thru this only more exaggerated at times. Mine is a picky picky eater. She WILL NOT EAT what she does not want and we are trying to change that for all the reasons you listed above. My husband calls it the "2 alpha forces battling for power." Oh how I do not want this and yet here it is.

The past 24 hrs we have been in a food battle. She asked for something which she likes and then upon getting it decided she did not want it but she would eat it for dinner. When dinner came she refused to eat it--all night long and into breakfast. (she did get a big glass of milk before bed.) I finally had a long talk with her and told "just take a bite of the sandwich and you can have whatever you want." "No." she said, she was not hungry. Frustrated is no close and yet I must remain calm and unaffected. What is worse is she has told me her heart is not right... Praying with yo Hannah.