A Question about Giving a Child Choices from a Real Mom


Dear Dr. Mom,
“I try to give my daughter choices, but she avoids making them. She much prefers asking someone else to make the decision. Have any suggestions?”
Ezzy’s Mom


Dear Ezzy’s Mom,

She may be worried that she won’t make the “right” or the “best” choice. She may not want to set herself up to be disappointed afterwards.

Here are a couple of suggestions.

  1. Stop giving her choices and see if she begins to want choices. For example, you pick out her school clothes and see if she complains. If she does, give her a couple of options. She may be just in the habit of being mentally lazy and letting you make all the decisions. She might get interested in thinking for herself again, if the choices go away all together.
  2. Stop giving her two-option choices and instead give her three options: This, that, or nothing. If she chooses not to make a choice between the two real possibilities, she has made a choice of nothing. If she chooses “nothing” by refusing to choose something, she has actually made a choice, and no one else did the deciding for her.

If you use this three-option suggestion, you will need to be careful that the “nothing” choice is not actually a punishment. For example, a doll or legos or nothing for her birthday would actually feel like a punishment because getting presents for her birthday is expected and deserved. But, if you offer apples, raisins, or nothing for a snack, the choice of nothing is not a punishment. It would be OK for her to have nothing now and one of the other choices later that day or the next day.

If you want to try the three-option suggestion:

    • Pick a two or three weeks as a trial period.
    • Offer the three-option choice only a few times during your trial period.
    • Offer no two-choice options during the trial period.
    • If she starts choosing something rather than nothing most of the time and becomes more comfortable making choices, drop the “nothing” option and go back to two “something” choices.
    • If she doesn’t become more comfortable making choices, she may just not be ready for decision-making. Stop offering choices for awhile and try again when she is a little older.
If any readers have a question about any topics, feel free to submit in the “what do you think” section at the very bottom of this post.