Parents often give their children too much choice. Keep the choices and questions age-appropriate.
By Toby Brecher
This week, I heard my niece ask her 4-month-old, “Do you want to eat?” The better statement may have been, “Now it’s time to eat.” It wasn’t a question; she was going to feed the baby at that moment regardless of the infant’s response or lack of it.
And while it doesn’t really matter how the question or statement is phrased when directed towards an infant, parents get in the habit of “asking” too often.
We might ask a child, “Do you want to go to sleep now?” But why ask if it’s not their choice? Bedtime (like dinnertime) isn’t their choice. When a young child is asked a question and their response doesn’t really matter, that can lead to frustration. And if whether they want to go to sleep is their choice, and a child can tell a parent “No,” that’s also not ideal.
Rather, let’s ask them questions where they truly do have the power to decide, such as “Would you like to play with the red car or the blue car?”
I read one letter, written by a kindergarten teacher, that was recently published in a magazine. She wrote that, in the past few years, she’s had such a difficult time teaching kids. Parents are giving children so many choices, asking them questions like, “Do you want to sit now?” and “Do you want to sleep now?” so that when she tells her class, “Now it’s time to sit down,” they don’t listen.
So at what age can you ask your children whether they’d like to do X or Y? It depends on the question, but hopefully, when they are asked, they’re already mature enough to think on their own and make the right choice.