Standing at the front door, holding the 6 month old crying infant in the baby carrier, I ask my three year old son to “get a hat”. It’s a chilly day in late fall, and I’ve decided a hat would be best. I’ve already bundled both kids in coats, and found the missing sneaker to the pair, so we are ready…except for the hat.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far, as a mother, is that if I want him to do something, I cannot ask him if he “wants” to do it. I don’t say, “Do you want to wear a hat?” the same way that I wouldn’t say, “Do you want to eat dinner?” or “Do you want to get your shoes?” The fact of the matter is, none of those things are options. We ARE going to eat dinner. It’s time for dinner. Get a hat.
What I CAN do, however, is offer him CHOICES. Would you like the blue shoes or the red shoes? The Elmo plate, or the dinosaur plate? And, in this case…I could have offered a choice of two hats.
Offering choices allows the two and three year old (and sometimes older children and even our significant others!) to feel like they have some control over the situation! Nobody likes to be told what to do, not even toddlers. When we feel like there is some choice in the matter, we are more inclined to comply. Hooray for compliance!
For example, if you say to your spouse, “Would you like to do the dishes, or gather the garbage after dinner?” Both of these chores need to be done, and this allows our spouse some control over the situation. However, you still “win”. The chores get done! What a glorious feeling!
So, when my son appeared around the corner wearing a football helmet from last year’s Halloween costume, what was my response? What could I say? He did exactly as I had asked. So…
“Get in the car.” Sigh.