The Love and Logic Guru Answers: A or B?

April 3rd, 2011

scream and shout
(No, this isn’t my child.  It’s a photo by mdanys.  But it certainly captures the essence of a full-on toddler tantrum!)

I turned to my Love and Logic guru (also known as my cousin Erin) for help with my questions about how to best deal with Miss Mouse’s creative responses to A or B choices

First, her thoughts on how to respond when Miss Mouse picks “option C” after being offered A & B.

I think that if her idea is acceptable to you, it would work fine let her have that option.  For example, “Do you want banana or grapes for lunch?” and she responds, “I want apples.”  I would think that telling her –“You know what? We have apples today and that idea would work today” — is fine as long as it is truly fine with you.  To me, you aren’t undermining the choices you offered, you are allowing her to think of an option that you hadn’t thought of and that works well in the real world at times.  
There are two things about this response that are helpful to me.  First, I like her emphasis on “today.”  This lets Miss Mouse know that my acceptance of her proposed third choice is being made on a case-by-case basis, and that it isn’t a blanket “okay” to any and all theories presented by her.  

Second, the reminder of — “if it is truly fine with you.”  Often, the two choices I present Miss Mouse are arbitrary — a construct to help her make decisions.  I couldn’t care less whether she eats apples, bananas, or grapes with lunch.  I just want to get some fruit into her.  Sometimes, though, it won’t be arbitrary.  Cupcakes are not an acceptable substitution for apples.  In that case, I would hold firm with my original choices!

When it comes to how to handle Miss Mouse’s willful refusal to decide (and the temper tantrums that often ensue when you make the decision for her)…

“Every time we give in after a child “pitches a fit” or does a behavior we don’t want to have repeated we have given them success.  This will only increase how often they will throw the fits or do that behavior.  (It worked the last time I yelled and cried – I got what I wanted so I will do that tactic again.)  As hard as it is, I would stick to your guns and empathetically say something like, “I know it is sad, but you didn’t make your choice so I had to choose for you.  You may choose X next time.”  
Even though you have to deal with a temper tantrum, you are not back to square one in this scenario.  The game changed from decision making to one of a logical loving consequence of a decision (or indecision as the case may be.)  To me, when she shrieks “No” she isn’t responding to the choice, she is trying to change the game and see how much control she can take.  When you make the choice for her, she is experiencing the consequence of not making a choice.
I have a hard time remaining calm when the temper tantrums start because in my mind I’m thinking, “Well if you had just decided two seconds ago this wouldn’t have been an issue…” but we have to remember all the learning opportunities that are occurring at this point.  Children are learning how to make decisions and they have to learn that indecision is a decision many times in life.  If we stop to weigh our options too long we can miss out.”
Excellent points!  It really helped me to be reminded that the point of Love and Logic is not tantrum-avoidance.  It is teaching our children to think for themselves and be responsible for their decisions.  It’s worth holding the line and helping Miss Mouse learn the importance of making her own choices (as well as helping her learn how frustrating it can be when someone makes those choices for you due to your own indecision).  And it’s good to be reminded that you’re not doing anyone any favors when you teach your child that tantrums are the way to get what she wants!

Do you have questions for the Love and Logic guru?  Leave it in the comments or shoot me an email at greenaroundtheedges (at) gmail (dot) com.

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