Ellie is 4 years old now and perhaps it is just so long ago but I don’t remember making a conscious decision to always give my children choices, I simply do it. Perhaps the whirlwind of bringing a second child into the world made me forget my decision or perhaps it was a habit formed out of tired necessity. Either way I give my children choices and the more I think about it the more I am proud that I do.
Now I feel it should be obvious to say I don’t let them make choices that are dangerous, or at least if they do make that choice I won’t let them carry it through. Nor do I let them make any crippling financial decisions. The decisions I let them make are decisions that are big in their world.
Ever since Ellie could talk she has helped me choose dinner. Until about 18 months ago it was just her dinner but now all four of us eat together she helps choose dinner for all of us. I menu plan so her choice now is an advanced choice. When I sit to write my plan I ask her if there are any dinners she would like in the week and she always chooses at least two. This week she has chosen spaghetti and meatballs which is something she has at nursery and not even something I have ever made her before. I loved the inspiration. On a Friday the girls eat before me and Hubby so both Ellie and Trixie get to come to compromise together over dinner choices.
Games or Screen Time
I don’t regulate screen time. I know most people worry about this but I don’t. To be honest, I suspect the girls watch more than they ‘should’ but I am conscious about what they watch and I know they have learnt things from the cartoons I do allow. I know for a fact Ellie hasn’t learnt about Egypt and the pyramids from me or her nursery! So they choose what they do and the more I think about it the more I realise they regulate their own screen time. They always play together for a good hour in the morning before any screen time and thats only if we aren’t going out on an adventure. On days where we stay at home all day Ellie always asks to go out for a walk at some point. So even when I have a moment of mum guilt and worry that they have done nothing but watch TV all day it simply isn’t true. Because the TV isn’t something to aim for, it isn’t a reward. It is just there.
Ok, so this wasn’t my choice to give a choice. Both the girls hit the age of 2 and started dictating what they were wearing. I use the phrase dictating because that is very much the sentiment of attitude in the mornings. It has got to the point now where they even choose their clothes in the shop for purchase. We usually only buy their clothes from H&M so they are never going to be able to pick up a £50 dress by accident so we let them go mad and have a good selection to buy. We are now at a point where if Ellie or Trixie haven’t actually selected a dress (oh yeah… they have also chosen they only ever want to wear dresses) in the shop then they won’t ever wear it! Simple as that!
Shoes are the same and this is becoming problematic… Thank you Clarks! When, invariably, the girls need new shoes… You know, like every three weeks! We take them to our local Clarks (which isn’t small) to get them some well fitted new shoes. We encourage them to make a selection of three or four shoes they would like to buy and then we go about the fitting process. The problem with this is that our local Clarks almost never have the shoes either of the girls want in their sizes…. To the point now where I’m wondering if they even actually have kids shoes in stock!? We have tried to get the girls to compromise on their choice in the past, but if we managed it we would get home and the £35 pair of shoes never get worn. Now we deal with the disappointment of leaving with no shoes instead.
This is the one financial decision Ellie gets to make. She does simple, age appropriate chores all week for pocket money. Once she has it she can choose to save it until she has enough for a toy or dress she wants or she can spend it sooner. Essentially there are no restrictions to what she can spend her money on but she has to understand that she can only spend what she has got, and once she has spent it she has to do more chores to get more money. Last month she had saved enough money to get some Sylvanian Family bits.
Why the choices…
I have often wondered why I should keep giving them choices when sometimes is feels like all it does is cause issues and disappointment. My life would be so much easier if they compliantly wore what I had to hand, wore any shoes I could find and ate what I deemed appropriate for the day. But there it is, that word ‘compliant’. Do I want to raise compliant daughters? No. I. Do. Not!
I want to raise daughters who know what they want and who know how to get it. I want them to know disappointment so they also know how to pick themselves up from that and either fight back or move on. Daughters who know the consequence of their decisions (this is a tricky one as consequence doesn’t actually develop until the teen years but I like to think I am laying the foundations at least). Our lives are full of choices and each one, no matter how small and seemingly innocuous have the power to impact our lives in ways we often can’t comprehend. I want my children to be confident enough to make all the choices but to understand the power of the choices they make. I want them to be able to reflect on the the impact of their choices and to learn from it. They are only 4 and 2 so their choices seem small to me but in their little world choosing their clothes and what they eat are huge decisions. The more they make those choices the better they get at doing it.