So you give your child choice A or B…and they choose C. Now what?
Because really, choice A or B were the ones that you REALLY wanted them to take to make it easy for you – besides being the “right” ones to choose…and darn it all, they choose option C
You know–it is time to leave so you ask, “Are you going to put on your shoes all by yourself (choice A) or would you like my help (choice B)?” Reasonable choices and typically it is a slam dunk and out the door you go. But today, your child ignores you…runs away…picks up their shoes and throws them across the room (lots of choice C’s!).
You might find yourself heat up and tip over the edge and march your child firmly by the arm to make them do just what you want them to do.
You might find yourself pleading over and over, hoping to avoid a meltdown and still get out the door in one piece (though definitely not on time).
You may be frustrated because you understand choices are good and here you’ve given them what is good for their little independent selves…and it didn’t seem to work.
Consider this – your child chose C because it is their job.
Their job to practice being in charge of him or her self as often as possible. Their job to test you, to let you know THEIR preference, to state loud and clear “I am the boss of ME!” And your child is right. They ARE the boss of themselves, and as the boss, they get to ultimately decide what choice they will make. This is truly evidence of just the kind of self-directed, independent soul you (most of the time) want to grow. Someone who is in charge of themselves.
Okay, but you still need to get out the door. To continue to support your child in their quest to be independent it is important to respect their choice. How does this look and still get out the door–maybe on time?
Ideas for you:
“It looks like you aren’t ready to put your shoes on. I can see how mad you feel. Describe what you see and acknowledge feelings, always. It is time to go, and because it is too hard for you to choose I will choose for you.”
And maybe you then wrangle your child into your lap and wrestle their shoes on–calmly, matter-of-factly, communicating your respect that they chose otherwise, communicating clearly the result of their choice. And now your child has the opportunity to discover whether they LIKE the result of choice C…and because you are calm and matter-of-fact, it isn’t about YOU, it is about them and their choice. Truly an opportunity for learning and growth.
Or maybe it is fruitless to wrestle shoes on, for it takes just a swift kick and the shoes go flying off once again. So maybe the result of their choosing C is you pick them up in one arm, their shoes in another, and out the door you go. Ignoring the tantrum in the back seat about “I don’t WANT bare-feet!” again gives them the opportunity to decide if choice C really was something they liked. “You chose to not put on your shoes. You don’t like bare-feet, it makes you really upset. When we get to school, you can decide if you are going to put on your shoes by yourself or with my help.”
Again, describe what you see and name the feelings. Now your child learns a bit more about what they are responsible for…all because you’ve respected their choice and responded calmly and matter-of-factly with what needs to happen.
Or maybe you can tell your child needs option D and you are okay with that.
“Hmmm…looks like you really want to keep playing with your marbles. We need to get shoes on and head out. You can bring your marbles with you, if you like–I’d really like to see the biggest one of all! Can you come show me while we put on your shoes?” And now you’ve respected their desires, flowed with their energy, and still pointed them in the direction necessary to go. They can feel in charge and you can feel grateful it worked.
Staying calm and matter-of-fact helps your child discover whether or not he likes the result of the choice he made–now influencing him in such a way that the next time around he may be more likely to choose differently.
What does this require of us? Patience. Understanding. Humour! Consistency. Stamina. Creativity. The ability to PAUSE–essential for helping you find that calm place to respond, that calm place from which to be okay if meltdowns occur, if the house is left a disaster zone, if your car’s back seat looks like a junk pile as you throw everything in and get a move on.
Choice C. It really is okay. Breathe through it, honour it, and be clear on what you really want, for now you communicate respect for your child’s choice and encourage the growth of an independent soul. And still get out the door.