The power of choice

When my oldest son Philo was about two years old, he was utterly defiant. So I thought.

Once day, as he repeatedly tapped his dinner plate with a spoon, I said, “Philo, stop doing that.”

He continued and I repeated, this time more firmly, “STOP doing that!”

He glanced at me, and then looked away and mumbled, “GO doing that.”

It struck me as odd that he would respond in that way. I noted at the time he was learning about opposites.

That night, I while reading a favorite parenting book I read that children from a young age want to assert themselves as choice makers. It has less to do with defiance as it does the human impulse to be an independent thinker.

I can relate. Who can’t?

I realized he wasn’t being defiant by saying the opposite, but simply trying to make his own choice. I hypothesized that if given a set of choices, he would cooperate with my wishes.

The next evening at cleanup time, instead of announcing “it’s cleanup time,” I experimented by asking, “Philo, do you want Dad to help you clean up or Mom?”

“Dad,” he said eagerly as he started cleaning up right away.

Likewise, at bath time I asked, “Philo, do you want Dad to carry you to the bath or do you want to walk there like a big boy?”

“Big boy!” he declared, marching proudly to the bathroom.

After several days of this, and into the week, months and years that followed, it was clear that he was on his way to independence as a cooperative and proud choice maker.

And it sure made dinner time a lot easier 🙂

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