Today was one of those days where we just couldn’t get it together this morning… it was as if all my kids suffered from a sudden onset of amnesia and they had no idea how to get ready for school.  So as I walked them through the process somewhat impatiently I managed to get them out the door.  I myself had to go to the dentist – which was not adding any joy to my mood as I would rather do anything else in the world than go to the dentist… they actually have written in my file how much I despise the teeth cleaning process.  I sure it says  “BIG BABY”…  I will own it, as its true.  They even speak to me like a baby.  “Would you like the mint or the bubblegum flavour flouride today?”  As if i have a choice?  And hence today’s blog topic was born… CHOICES, a tool in our toolbox.

It is quite fashionable to offer choices in our generation of parenting, as we want our children to be independently autonomous.  I believe this is in retaliation to the more controlled authoritarian ways most of our parents used.  So now we say to our 3 year old, ‘would you like to wear the red pants or the blue pants,’ or ‘would you like to brush your teeth now or in 5 minutes.’  I am not really sure I see the autonomy in these examples – what I really see happening is an attempt to psychologically outwit our children… AND,  to quite possibly avoid a meltdown of catastrophic proportions.  The caution lies here; we need to remember that we are the parents for a reason.  Our brains are fully developed and our children are working hard on regulating their emotional response to the world around them.  Sometimes we will require our children to just put on a pair of pants or brush their teeth because it is time to brush their teeth.  Our children need us to lead them confidently.  I can already hear the backlash to this blog… so allow me to digress before you all jump up and down. ( Or feel free to jump up and down… it could be outrageously fun!)  What I would like you to consider is this:  if your goal as a parent is to teach autonomy then I invite you to look at autonomy with a larger lens.  For example, maybe autonomy means letting them pick out their own outfit all together?  (If it is minus 50 be sure to have put the summer clothes away first)  Or autonomy can look like allowing them to explore the park without hovering?  For an older child autonomy can look like letting them do their homework by themselves, or having them pack their own bag for a family trip?  When we  use choice we might need to look at the time of day or mood of our children.  Are they exhausted and hungry, have they been at school or daycare all day? – as even when I am exhausted and hungry I want someone to take the lead.  Think about how you feel around making choices – ie.  how many choices to you want to make in a day?  It is also important to note that sometimes our children won’t be happy with the choices we make for them.  As parents we often make a decision on behalf of our children because we know what is best for them, even when they do not.  In these cases we will disappoint them – however, these smaller disappointments may simply be opportunities for our children to learn how to manage emotion and grow resiliency, love and understanding.  In those moments where you know you are in no position to watch your child grow these skills go for the psychological outwit maneuver and pour yourself a glass of vino.

“It’s impossible” said pride.  “It’s risky” said experience. “It’s pointless” said reason.  “Give it a try” whispered the heart.