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Less Is More - The freedom of fewer choices

Updated: Sep 26, 2020

We have so many choices to make each day. What to eat, wear, buy, and do at any moment. We have been told that it is important to give children choices. I agree, choices are good, but we have taken it too far. Adults--with fully developed brains!--get decision fatigue. Imagine a child who is still figuring out how to be in the world, learning to share, to fall asleep on their own and how to tie their shoes, as well as being asked a ridiculous number of questions throughout each day. Think about those days when you are asked to make many decisions. How is it when you are learning something new, you are tired or don’t know how to answer the question of how you are feeling? Now imagine being asked, “What do you want to wear today? How about breakfast? Do you want oatmeal? Cheerios? Eggs? Toast?” Or, “Why did you hit your sister? Why are you being so difficult? Are you sad? Mad?” and so on. And then all day at school children are expected to be on their best behavior. How exhausting! Walking through the door after a long day at school, the questions begin again, “How was your day? Are you hungry? What would you like? A snack? A banana? An apple? Or would you rather have an orange? Who did you play with? What are your friends’ names? What do you want to do?” Is this making you uncomfortable yet? It makes me want to run away and hide under my bed covers! Let’s try this again in a way that is less overwhelming and more productive for everyone involved.

Your child wakes up to clothing they helped pick out the night before (with only two choices of pants and shirt, rather than having to decide from the entire closet and dresser). Arriving at the breakfast table fully dressed, you announce that today is egg day. You, the parent (with the input from the family), have arranged a breakfast schedule for the week so there is no confusion or decision making on the spot for breakfast. The only choice on egg day is scrambled or over-easy. After breakfast everyone finishes getting ready - brushes teeth and hair, gathers their belongings - and goes to their prospective places for the day. Not too difficult, right? What about when your child refuses to brush teeth or hair? Be with them. Brush your teeth and hair close by. You can offer a choice, “Would you like to brush your hair or teeth first?” This is a choice that gets results. I know sometimes we are in a hurry and we just want our kids to do what we want them to do. “Get your shoes on!! Put on your coat! We’re late (SIGH)!” Again, you can ask, “Would you like to put your coat or shoes on first?” The younger the child, the closer they need you to be to them (one foot per year) when asking something of them.

Ok, so you made it out the door. You did it! At the end of the day you are exhausted. Work had you running ragged, making decisions left and right. You are happy to see the sweet faces of your children when you arrive home. Apples are sliced, cheese is cut when their expressions turn sour. “I don’t want cheese! Those apples are rotten!” Now what? Make a smiley face on the plate with that fruit and cheese. “This is what we have for a snack today. Would you like crackers or bread to go along with them?” When they realize you are not reacting (“What do you mean you don’t want that? You liked it yesterday!” and so forth), they eat their snack. This is a good time to sit down and have a nibble too. Enjoy the silence. Your little ones may even begin sharing something about their day.

We are getting to the point in the day when making choices becomes harder, thus the decision fatigue sets in big time! Having a set weekly menu can be helpful. Grocery shopping can be done more easily, and a meal does not have to be figured out at the last minute. The whole family can take part in menu making! So, when you all sit down to dinner you can quietly enjoy your food and share a bit about everyone’s day. Are you beginning to feel more at ease? I hope so.

Now go give this a try - you can do it! Remember, less is more, so here’s to strength in fewer choices, which will surely bring more joy and peace into your homes.

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