"Do You Want The Red Sippy Cup or the Blue Sippy Cup?" - How to Teach Your Child About Choice
“Do you want the red sippy cup or the blue sippy cup? “
This is your new sippy cup mantra. Learn it, love it, live it, sip it.
Take the time to give your child choices. Give two options. It is simple but it will allow your child to learn how to navigate making clear choices at a young age. This practice empowers your child, allows them to feel that they are in the driver's seat, and lessens their desire for that oh-so-fun instinctual and completely age-appropriate push back. It is a way for them to feel that they have a say in a world where grown-ups have the largest say.
Making a choice can be tricky and it is a learned skill. For some, it does not come so easy. As with anything in life, continued practice is key. Helping your child to discover who they are, separate from you, aids in the process of developing a true sense of self. The sippy cup mantra is just one of many practices to help them along the way.
We want to raise conscious grounded children who have the ability to make great choices for themselves. It is important to start this practice young. Give your child choices in order to teach them how to be able to make a choice that is right for them. This means that you need to create choices when choices are not so obvious. Get creative, make-up choices on the fly. There is always a choice right in front of you. Things that may sound unimportant to you can be wonderfully powerful for them.
Start by asking “Do you want the red sippy cup or the blue sippy cup?” Ask daily. It may feel silly or repetitive but it's good to let that go. Start posing all kinds of choices to your child and keep going. Practicing how to choose is an imperative life skill and one that is swiftly fading in our current parenting realm. Try to pause in the crazy of your day to create the space for choice. Sometimes it means putting your own needs aside for you to give your child options. You will feel a bit exhausted, and yes, this little step will add a few more minutes to your busy day, but the reward is deep and invaluable.
It is good to start small. “Do you want the yellow striped pajamas or the pajamas with the little pink puppies?” Do you want peanut butter with banana or peanut butter with apple? It is wise to make sure your choices are real and appropriate. “It’s raining outside, do you want to wear a raincoat?” or asking your two-year-old “Do you want to go to sleep now?” may not be a real choice. Ask yourself, is no raincoat on a rainy day really an option? It very well could be, but make sure about that before you offer up that choice. Giving your child a choice that isn't really a choice will backfire.
I recently gave my teenage son a choice about what to have for dinner and two seconds later I turned around and said "I'll make pasta.” He looked at me and said “Great mom, hope you had fun with that. Please don't give me a choice if I don't really have one.” Honestly, I wasn't even aware I had done that. Good for him for calling me out. I sounded crazy. We need to be clear with our children no matter what age. Make no mistake, it is harder than it looks. It takes practice.
As parents, we often choose for our children. Of course, making decisions in our children's lives is a huge part of parenting. However, choosing for them is not always helpful. It may feel good to you, but is not the most loving and empowering option for them. Sometimes we unconsciously choose for them out of habit. Maybe it’s just easier at the moment and faster or maybe we want a certain outcome. Other times it may just come down to wanting or needing to be in control. Maybe feeling in control is a deeply ingrained defense mechanism from our own childhood. Perhaps our parents did all our choices for us and we learned at an early age that someone else does the choosing for us. We learned we were not capable of making our own decisions. Children are capable of making incredible choices that honor who they are as their own little person. Start young because not so far off in the future, they will grow up and be expected to make major life decisions on their own.
Sometimes making a choice feels uncomfortable. Feeling uncomfortable is a real feeling and being able to push through those hard feelings is a healthy normal part of life and of growing up. Real feelings need to be felt and processed. Choice teaches our kids to tolerate those difficult feelings, take action and take ownership.
Have you ever heard a child or adult who says “You made me do it!” Hmm, not so fast, if you chose it and acted on it, then it was your choice. It may have not been a perfect choice, but that is OK. At least it was a choice. Making a choice is better than waffling back and forth, flip-flopping, or changing your mind all the time. It is exhausting and confusing.
The only way you will know if it was the right choice is to experience how you feel after the actual choice is made. If you do not make the choice and sit in indecision, all your doing is churning made-up scenarios in your head. It is a state of being stuck in a fantasy of what-ifs. The choices you pose to your children need to have boundaries and time limits. Standing in the kitchen for an hour while your child chooses “the red one” does not help anyone.
As a child and well into being an adult I struggled with making decisions. I was good at it in most areas of my life but in some, not so much. In fact, I found it to be very stressful. Those were the times I chose what I thought other people wanted me to choose instead of what was right for me. How many times have you made a choice in your own life because you wanted to please someone? Maybe you were scared that they would not love you any more if you didn’t choose what they wanted? Maybe you made a choice that was not in alignment with who you really are or what you really wanted for yourself. Maybe it felt like you had a choice, but our unconscious beliefs were actually in the driver’s seat. What looked like your choice, may have really been an unspoken expectation your parents had of you from when you were little.
You cannot expect your child to be able to make good choices if we cannot do the same for ourselves. Children learn from our behavior. We need to do as we ask them to do. If that is hard for you, it is OK. It is never too late in life to learn a new skill.
Do you want the red sippy cup or the blue sippy cup? This is a good question.
Life is a beautiful winding road full of red sippy cups and blue sippy cups.