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Parenting

Too much choice?

24 replies

expatkat · 04/05/2003 10:43

I've sometimes been criticised for allowing ds, 3.5, to have too much say in what he does. I tend to give him choices: peanut butter or cheese; blue shirt or red shirt; science museum or dinosaur museum. Never important decisions, mind you, but little things that can give him a modicum of power over his destiny.

But I was told by a professional that at his age it's best to decide everything for them. Apparently it gives them a sense of security. This may be so, but I was raised by control freaks who took that line, and now I'm a perpetually indecisive adult. Also, I want ds to feel like an individual, not some appendage of me and my desires.

Does anyone have a different view? Does my theory actually work in the long term or am I grooming a spoiled child?

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whymummy · 04/05/2003 11:17

i cant see that youre doing anything wrong,i also like my 5y old ds to make decisions,im always letting him choose and if he wants to go out dressed in a bin liner,well is up to him,obviously i wouldnt let him choose cake for his dinner or watched a film that wasnt for children ,my parents always gave us that freedom and never influenced in our decisons over religion,politics,partners,etc and im greatful for that,we were not spoiled in any sense but we were treated as individuals from a very young age,my brother,2 sisters an myself are doing pretty well in life

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Batters · 04/05/2003 11:43

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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Claireandrich · 04/05/2003 11:58

Sounds like you are doing great for your DS. At 12 months I give my Dd some element of choice too and will continue to do so. Surely we have to teach our little ones that their thoughts and views count (even if just over little things for now). I can't see how it'd make him spoilt - it isn't like your letting him get away with doing anything he wants; he is getting a choice from a list you have selected as suitable.

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doormat · 04/05/2003 13:26

What you are doing is right. It is teaching him independence and freedom of choice.

Which reminds me as I get annoyed on this subject.
Most of the professionals I would ignore.They have their half baked theories on how to bring kids up and most of them have never had children of their own. Sorry about the rant.

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suedonim · 04/05/2003 13:54

Your approach sounds fine, Expatkat, just the job! I think the security aspect comes into it in a different scenario, when a child tests a parent to the limits, to find out where the boundaries are. That's when a child might become insecure, say if a parent allows total freedom, and refuses to say no to anything, no matter how dangerous or frightening it is. Imagine how scary it must be to have no limits whatsoever!! But that isn't what you are doing at all, you're just letting your ds have a little control over his life and he'll learn valuable lessons from this.

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WideWebWitch · 04/05/2003 16:53

Expatkat, agree with everyone! Suedonim's right, some things should be non-negotiable (like safety crossing roads etc and other things you consider important) and setting and sticking to boundaries about certain things is important but allowing some choice as you are is great.

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Marina · 04/05/2003 19:08

A professional what, I wonder We do this all the time with our ds, and so from the looks of things do lots of other Mumsnetters. The poor little scraps have very little control over their lives, really, so giving them a bit of space to practise making decisions seems fair and sensible to me. I think your instincts are absolutely right, Expatkat - go with them.

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SofiaAmes · 04/05/2003 20:35

sorry, expatkat, you were told by a "professional" what? I would have thought that you are preparing your child for life in a nice comfortable way, giving him choices about things. I give my ds (2.5) similar types of choices and I love that interaction with him. My favorite is when I let him pick which fruit he wants for dessert. He thinks it's hilarious and always takes his time deciding. I think giving him choices is part of the reason that he's never had a temper tantrum.

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Furball · 04/05/2003 20:38

I watched a programme a long time ago - before Ds (21 months) and it was along similar lines. Instead of saying to them 'you're having peanut butter,' give them two options of what YOU want them to have such as 'Which sandwiches do you want peanut butter or cheese?' This gives them the feeling that the choice is theirs, so they are much more likely to eat their tea or do whatever option you have offered. It all sounds so logical to me rather being 'bullied' into 'You're wearing those trousers today'. Apparently this stands them in good stead when they are older.

I'm starting along the same lines and Ds gets a choice of two breakfast cereals every morning. Also what he would like for dessert after a meal.

This has to be a far healthy way of bringing up our children, rather than being dictated to.

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whymummy · 04/05/2003 21:09

sofiaames youre very lucky but i dont think it worked for me my son was the king of tamtrums all caused by me not giving him the choice of picking a toy everytime we were in a shop!!

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griffy · 04/05/2003 21:48

I'm very firmly with you on this one. When I grew up, one of my mother's favourite phrases was: "you'll get what you're given", and I never had any input into small decisions. I think that that played a major part in me running off at 16 and going completely BERSERK! (Poor mothers - they just can't do anything right, can they?!)

Also, as a second child being brought up in a poor household by a single parent, I don't remember going clothes shopping for myself once as a child - and was never taken to a hairdresser. Even today at 35, I have absolutely no confidence with clothes or my personal appearance whatsoever. I spent my childhood just being dressed in clothes over which I had no choice, and told to shut up if I expressed any opinion, and today I just feel inadequate and unequal to taking those decisions. Doesn't that sound pathetic!? But I've just never been able to do it. Obviously times were tough for my mother, and I'm sure that she had rather more on my plate than making life tougher for herself by inviting tantrums, but all the same I feel rather short-changed by her approach.

She now criticises me constantly for 'spoiling' DS when I ask him, for instance, which breakfast cereal he'd like. I grit my teeth and ignore her!

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Bozza · 04/05/2003 21:58

I thought that to offer acceptable choices was the general advice given these days. I've tried it with my DS (2.2) but unfortunately "do you want to wear red pants or green pants?" is met with "no" or occasionally if he's feeling extra nice "yes". Basically he doesn't understand "or" yet. But I will persevere because I agree with most of what's been written here. And unfortunately for me (re SofiaAmes) the temper tantrums arrived before the understanding of or.

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mammya · 04/05/2003 23:01

Expatkat, I too think you're doing the right thing.

LOL bozza I know exactly what you mean... dd's the same!

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expatkat · 04/05/2003 23:15

The 'professional' was one of his assistant teachers, who also babysits for us. She's taking classes to qualify her to be a full-fledged teacher, and she claims the textbooks warn against giving small children too much choice. (Whereas teenagers, she said, should be consulted on all things.) She also claims that the more senior teachers at ds's school agree with this anti-choice line.

Like Griffy, I also tend to be critcised by my parents for my choice-giving approach, and by my in-laws, ANDfor a timedh before he he saw the wisdom in my approach. I'm so pleased to hear that offering choice really is the encouraged thing these days, because it really does seem to be what works best.

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scoobysnax · 05/05/2003 09:36

Giving children choices over little things lets them have some control over their lives and I think this reduces levels of frustration - this can only be a good thing, surely?
I think you will have a happier child with the approach you are taking.
It is good to experience making your own decisions and taking risks within a safe micro-environment, and good for both parents and child to learn to negotiate and compromise.
The obvious rider is that this doesn't apply to bigger and important issues until later on...
Stick to your guns, I think you are right on this one!

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mum2toby · 05/05/2003 10:00

Expatkat - I think you are quite right!! And well done for breaking the 'control freak' pattern. It's all too easy to turn into our own parents!

I think your ds will grow into a wellrounded individual who respects you for realising he has preference!!
At the end of the day it makes him feel important to choose which colour of shirt he wears. It's not like you're saying "Would you like fish fingers for tea or would you prefer chocolate?"

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Jimjams · 05/05/2003 10:19

expatkat- pro sounds barking. My ds1 is rising 4- he is autistic and we get told to try and introduce choice in as many situations as possible. So if an auti kid can cope with it don't see why an NT (normal) one couldn't!

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janh · 05/05/2003 11:21

"Professionals" - hah! - presumably she isn't smart/experienced enough yet to realise that a choice of 2 things is not "too much choice".

If you were asking him to choose between 5 or 6 things then he would struggle but choosing between A & B, both of which he likes so no loss for him whichever he chooses, is just right.

I would also argue with "consulting teenagers on all things." They impose their opinions on you whatever happens and need reminding that others have different ideas!

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tallulah · 05/05/2003 11:41

I agree with everything that's been said here. My parents were very much in control. We were absolutely forbidden from having opinions or making decisions, & it has taken me many many years as an adult (including therapy) to even be able to answer the hairdresser's "how do you want it dried?" (sounds really really stupid but I was so un-confident that I just couldn't make that decision- I'd say "which is best?"

As an adukt, I now see how frustrating it is when you ask someone 'tea or coffee?" & they say "oh, I'm easy". I now make a point of having an opinion.. but it's really difficult!!

When my 4 were tiny I started with the simple decisions with them- blue tights or red ones, milk or orange. If you are used to making these little choices as you grow up, it must surely be easier when you get to another baby or not, this job or that job, endowment or repayment...!!

My father died 7 years ago & my mother still can't make a decision on her own. Until very recently I was always on the verge of reaching for the phone whenever I was faced with any decision "dad.. what do I do?". I hope that my own children will have the confidence I lack, to be able to make a decision & stick to it, instead of the months of soul-searching that follow every decision I make now... I wonder if it would have been better to...?

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happydays · 05/05/2003 17:03

This is what I do, I give them as much choice as possible (except on big decisions).

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EmmaTMG · 05/05/2003 18:12

I gladly let my 2 DS's make small descisions as it saves me doing the job, I've got enough to think about during the day so letting them choose what sandwich filling/colour t-shirt makes my life alot easier.

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kmg1 · 05/05/2003 18:36

I think what is appropriate for teachers/in school is completely irrelevant to what happens at home. For most of the school day you cannot possibly give a class of 30 individuals much choice at all. DS1 did struggle to adapt to this a bit, I think. I was surprised how much they are 'dictated to' at school, but it does work, and it is the only way to run it.

At home it's a different matter - I actually give them more freedom and choice than I used to, to counteract the school culture, and this seems to be a happy balance at the moment.

They also seem (generally) to respect that when I don't give them a choice, then they have to conform and do what I say, as there is no option.

Drives me barmy when dh gives me an option, which doesn't exist ... Are you OK to pick the kids up from school? because I'm going out to a meeting.

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whymummy · 05/05/2003 19:48

kmg1 thats part of the reason why my parents treated us like that i went to school in spain when we were still under francos regime and the teachers were just like army generals,there was no choices you did it or you got beaten up,so just as well i had that upbringing at home

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iota · 05/05/2003 21:00

IME offering choice is absolutely the right thing to do. Totally agree with Scoobysnax re levels of frustration. It avoids confrontation and overcomes resistence eg do you want daddy to bath you or mummy? gets ds1 into the bath instead of having a battle over whether he wants a bath or not. Which colour pants do you want to wear starts the dressing process.
I also let him chose which car door he gets in (have to do this with ds2 aged 20 mths or it's a major battle to get him into his car seat) DS1 is 4 and has been making his own choices for a long time. I'm just starting with certain things with ds2, getting in the car as above, a choice of biscuits, which fruit juice he wants, simple stuff like that.

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