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Too much choice?

The other day, I couldn’t help but notice a young mum in a grocery store who was trying to keep her toddler calm and avoid one of what she referred to as a ‘terrible twos tantrum’.

I noticed a young mum in a grocery store who was trying to keep her toddler calm. “Jonah, please settle down. When we’re finished here we’ll go for a walk or you can ride your bike?” Would you like me to give Suzie’s mum a call and see if your friends can come over? Perhaps you’d like a cookie or an ice cream? Her son, still grumpy and on the verge of a meltdown, looked confused. Nevertheless, he stood his ground, seemingly unable to make any sort of quick decision.

I had to smile when I remembered my mum’s wise advice at a time when my 3-year-old daughter was misbehaving in a restaurant and wouldn’t tell us what she’d like to eat. Mum had chimed in, “Decide for her. She isn’t ready to make choices. Mum went on to suggest that I was the adult in charge and that I needed to guide my daughter so that she could learn how to behave in public and make good choices, quickly. “That’s how she’ll learn,” she said.

Consider the example of grandparents who were unable to get their grandson to wear a seat belt. When a police officer stopped them, they told him that the child had refused to comply with their instructions. But, instead of stopping the outing or firmly handling the situation, these grown adults let the child have his way, despite the risks. They couldn’t understand it when they were given a fine. It was the child’s fault, not there’s. Clearly, a choice gone wrong.

So, what’s the best approach? Experts agree, the right guidance will help children to make a better choice now and in the future. Secondly, they suggest that we should expect a child to make a decision only when they are capable and ready to accept the responsibilities and consequences that come with it.

Yes, kids need an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and, there is nothing wrong with letting them fail or get themselves stuck every once in a while. But, as with any other activities that we’ve written about in this issue, like learning to swim or taking on age-appropriate chores, being able to make choices requires thought, confidence and a certain amount of skill.

As parents, let’s think twice about the choices we’re expecting our kids to make and be ready to help them out a little more. After all, it’s our job prepare them to be ready, willing and able to make good choices and decisions—not only as youngsters, but in later life. Read on!

Caroline Tapp-McDougall, Editor

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