‘This’ or ‘That’ Parenting – The Secret to Our Success
There’s always a battle when trying to get my toddler to go where we need to go, to eat what we’d like her to have for lunch, or when choosing what to wear.
I (and when I say ‘I’, I mean my wife read a pile of parenting books and distilled it down for me) have found that when you tell a child what’s happening, what they have to eat, or what they’re going to wear, the child automatically wants to test boundaries and rebel.
We’d start with “Ok, put this dress on, we’re going out”. Tantrums and screams of “no! I don’t like it” would turn into wrestling our daughter into the dress to an event that she is making her poor parents go to. It’s usually some local celebration or one of her friends’ birthdays. I’d much rather stay at home while she ran around in a diaper (or naked as we’re potty training. More on that later), and I could just sit and play the XBox I don’t have time to play anymore.
Side note – anyone want to buy an XBox?
The ‘This’ or ‘That’ method gives my daughter the opportunity to choose what she wears. “Would you like this dress, or that one?” She picks one and puts it on without a fuss.
Next comes the trip to the supermarket. “I want candy/this balloon/a crab!”
“No, come on and look over here at this shiny thing” isn’t going to cut it anymore. I’ve tried everything from letting her collapse in a heap on the floor, to picking her up and letting her squeal as other parents give the ‘been there’ grin. I’ve also given in completely and bought her that balloon, but won’t give in to the candy or the crab from the fish tank. We just don’t need a crab and it’ll never stay in the bathtub.
What does seem to work is “would you like an apple or a banana?” or “You can walk or I can carry you”. One of those usually does the trick.
It seems to be a matter of giving her a feeling of independence and the impression she has a choice in the situation. She may not always want either but it’s up to us to provide the options.
Mealtime – What we make, or wait until you’re hungry enough
This is a really tricky one, and we’re still struggling with it. Our toddler loves about 5 different foods: Chicken nuggets (at least it’s meat), eggs (sometimes), avocado, raspberries (only if they’re from the garden), peas (if she picked them herself) and any kind of carb.
It’s really hard, and expensive to cook something for my wife and I and then a second option which she may or may not eat. We’re going start this week with giving her the same as we’re having (or a non-spicy version that looks the same) and she can choose to eat it or not.
The plate will be full of healthy options, so if she just wants to eat a couple of bits, she’ll still be getting the proper nutrients.
I remember growing up when if we didn’t like what was on the dinner table, the alternative was to not eat dinner. The only time that ever happened was when we had cauliflower cheese. I stand by my decision.
Of course, there has to be some freedom for special treats like ice cream, as long as she knows she can’t have it whenever she wants, no matter how many times she pushes her veggies away.
What do you think? Have you tried this or another way to get your kids to do what they need but might not necessarily want? Let me know in the comments below.
Michael KwanJune 24, 2018 at 2:06 pm
Yup, I totally use the same strategy with our kiddo. It gives them the illusion of choice and autonomy when we, as parents, are perfectly happy with either choice. However, she’s starting to figure out that she doesn’t HAVE TO choose between the two options we give. Sometimes, she’ll respond back with “both” or “nothing” instead. So, enjoy this “hack” while you can.