You Have One Choice

Flora and I have been butting heads lately, and last night, we really went at it. I finally got fed up and gave her exactly what she wanted. And then she didn’t want it any more!

I had to work late last night, so my in-laws picked up the kids and gave them dinner. When I got home at 6 p.m., they fed me, too — thanks, in-laws! The kids got to watch a movie and got special night time treats (cupcake ice cream!).

Every request I made about … well, anything, was met with opposition. A stern no from Flora, crossed arms, pouty lips, stomping feet.

“Flora, clear the table.”
“NO.” *crossed arms*

“Flora, please pick up those books.”
“I’m not going to!”

“Flora, it’s time to go. Get your shoes on.”
“NO!” *stomp*

She did eventually do what I told her to, but it was ridiculous, the time it took for her to comply.

When we got home, I bathed Michael, and gave him a bottle. While I was giving him his bottle, I asked the girls to put their clean clothes away.

They know how to do this. They know it is expected of them. They know where their clothes go.

Unfortunately, because I was not right on top of them, haranguing them to “put the clothes away, already!” — I swear, chores that should take 10 to 15 minutes take an hour and a half, and I know they are only 6 and 4, but when do they just do a task from start to finish! — the clothes, they did not get put away. As a matter of fact, while I was down on the couch soothing Michael to sleep, several sobs and screams broke out in between the bouts of playing.

Finally, Michael was close enough to sleep to put in his crib (where he cried half-heartedly for about five minutes before he fell asleep), and it was time to bathe the girls. And this is pretty much where the yelling began.

“You girls didn’t put the clothes away.” *heavy sigh* “Well, it’s time for bath and bed.”
“Kate goes first.”
“No, Flora, tonight you go first.”
“No. I’m not going to”
“You will do what I say. Get in the bathroom.”
More pouting and stomping.
“Flora, get in the tub.”
“I’m tiiiiiired. It’s too late for bath time.”
Me, finally losing my shit: “FINE, GO TO BED.”
“I’ll take a bath! I’ll take a bath!” *broken hearted sobbing*

Flora did not get a bath. She tried over and over again to explain that she would take a bath “now”, and I explained over and over again that she would do WHAT I say to do, WHEN I say to do it, without the pouting, whining, and saying No.

Many books and magazine articles will advise, when you are faced with a truculent toddler who doesn’t want to to X, Y, or Z, to give said toddler choices. “Ask her if she wants her blue shoes or her red rain boots,” they will brightly chirp. “See if he would like applesauce or baby carrots!”

I’m calling bullshit. Here’s advice from the trenches: Do not give your toddler choices. The “book” advice is meant to give toddlers a “sense of control”.

Pro tip: Toddlers don’t have control — parents have control.

I started giving Flora choices as soon as she was able to point to tell me what she wanted. This clearly was a mistake. Because now I don’t seem to have control. And I cannot stand it. It makes nearly every interaction with Flora an exercise in negotiation, bribes, or threats.

Kate is going to get fewer choices from now on, and poor, poor Michael? Will get none.

What childhood “helpful advice” do you wish you had never taken? And do you think I’m doing the right thing, or should I try a different tact? I’m so tired of the opposition to Every.Little.Thing.