July 18th, 2007
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choicesI am dead tired tonight after driving over 500 miles today. I am in Tennessee, on my way to visit aging relatives tomorrow. I have my 83 year old mom with me. No dogs, no kids … kinda quiet.

I really appreciated all the feedback and input on the structure post. I’m not sure I made it clear that I view structure much like one reader stated: if you do X, then Y will happen. It isn’t necessarily just about negative actions and consequences; it is also about positive interactions as well. If X = clean your room and Y = we go to the mall, that is predictability. First you do X, then we do Y. No X? Then no Y. That is a general rule… of course, as the parent we can change it up if we like … but we get to decide because we are the parents. And if we do offer Y in the absence of X, we make it clear we chose to do that. We don’t cave in and give Y because our champion whiner wore us down. What a devaluing message it sends to allow your child to wear you down … you might as well tell them directly they are not worth the effort it takes to resist … or just abdicate your parental authority up front and don’t expect any cooperation at all. Giving in once sets up a mindset in you and your child that you can and will give in again. That sets a very dangerous precedent.


If your child heals to the point where diplomatic discussion is possible, it is fine to occasionally change your mind in response to legitimate reasons offered by your child. But most children we are discussing here are a long way from being able to offer legitimate, diplomatic input.

It is OK to offer toddlers choices, as one reader asked. “Would you like to go to the park or the museum?” is a legitimate offering of choices. If the child handles the choices well, there is no reason not to continue to offer them. If the child says, “The museum!” and you head to the museum, only to be walking in the door when he yells, “NO! The PARK!” and you reverse direction and head to the park … that is not good. Choices should be options to have input, not battlegrounds of control.

Attaching parents vs. Fighting parents

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One Response to “More about structure and choices”

  1. lmg1567 says:

    I have recently been made aware by a therapist that I cannot give my son ANY choices EVER. One SW told us to give him no more than two choices, i.e. play outside on your bike or play inside with your cars. He would pick one, I’d say, alright and he’d immediately start whining and say, “no, I really wanted to do _____” Because both options were equally acceptable to me to begin with, I’d say, alright then and he’d start all over going back to the first choice. It was a frustrating “game” and I had NO patience for it whatsoever. The therapist said that he’s not capable of making a decision so I need to just constantly tell him what to do. So what do I do now that he stands there howling how he doesn’t want to do anything I tell him to? I tell him to do it or sit on the time out chair until he decides he’s going to and he seems very content to just sit in the chair ALL DAY. I would never give a 13 yo a time out to begin with really and here he’s self-imposing hours of punishment on himself – doesn’t seem right. He has such low expectations for himself that he will just watch everyone else moving through the house, doing chores, eating, playing and he just watches. I feel we are very structured, always have been, but he’s just not getting it. He has FAS and RAD. Do you think the FAS could be what’s keeping him stuck in these patterns of behavior?

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