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Published October 12, 2010, 12:00 AM

Parenting Perspectives: Tot’s choice: Neither

The day I started offering my daughter choices was the day I thought I’d mastered this parenting thing.

By: Sherri Richards, INFORUM

The day I started offering my daughter choices was the day I thought I’d mastered this parenting thing.

Eve wasn’t quite 2. She was very fond of the word “no.” Daily routines had turned into daily struggles.

As a journalist, I’d learned long ago to not ask “yes” or “no” questions. I started applying this concept to my parenting, with either/or options.

Instead of battling her to put on the outfit I’d picked out for the day, I’d give Eve two wardrobe alternatives. I’d ask if she wanted waffles or oatmeal for breakfast. “Which shoe do you want to put on first, the left or right?” I’d inquire in the entryway.

It worked like a charm. We didn’t battle anymore. Eve got to express her independence and make decisions. I got her dressed, fed and out the door in the morning without a temper tantrum.

As long as I was equally OK with either option I presented, it was a win-win prospect.

Even in non-negotiable situations, I found a way to give her a choice. As I buckled Eve in the car seat, she could choose which shoulder strap went on first.

I sagely offered this advice to other new moms. After all, I was a pro now. I had choices in my parenting toolbox.

But after a few months, Eve discovered a third option.

Neither.

It’s just as bad as “no.”

Now that she’s a very independent 2½-year-old who has to “do it myself,” Eve silently ignores options A and B and creates option C, to remain naked, unfed and shoeless.

I ask if she wants to wear jeans or sweatpants; she picks a summery dress inappropriate for the weather. Waffles or oatmeal? “Ice cream and cookies,” she tells me. Because I don’t cave into unreasonable option C, we’re back to the daily struggles.

It feels like somebody swiped the Leatherman Super Tool 300 out of my parental toolbox and left me with just a plastic bendy straw.

I still offer Eve choices. She just chooses when to abide by the options.

Talk about throwing a monkey wrench into motherhood.


Sherri Richards is mother of a 2-year-old daughter and is an employee of The Forum. She’s also “Top Mom” at moms.inforum.com.

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