Choices + What's the Difference Results

Photo credit: Cores de uma cidade by Rafael Saes'

I used to ask my kids at bedtime if they wanted to get their jammies on. It was the kind of slippery-slope question I would ask before I figured out that kids were not simply adults hiding in a size 6X. When I asked that question, our conversations would be similar to this:

Me:  Do you want to get your jammies on?

Otto:  No

Me:  Are you sure you don't want to cuddle up in your warm snuggly jammies?

Otto:  No

Me:  Don't you want to get ready for bed?

Otto:  No

Me:  Do you want to brush your teeth?

Otto:  No

Me:  Why don't you want to get your jams on?

Otto:  Because I'm not stupid, mom. What kid in his right mind wants to quit playing and lie down in the dark all by themselves and be bored until they can fall asleep?

Me:  Okay that's enough of that kind of talk. You go in there right now and get your jammies on. It's time for bed.

Otto:  But you asked if I wanted to and I said No.

Me:  I only asked if you wanted to because I thought you would want to.

Otto:  Well I don't want to.

Me:  Well you should want to. That's the sensible thing to want. I'm exhausted and I want to go to bed, so you should too. Plus, I'm the mom, so you do what I say. And I say that you want to get your jammies on.

Otto:  But....

Me:  No buts... you get your jammies on or else.

Otto:  Or else what?

Me:   Or.... or else..... or else I'm going to go live in a hotel and rent some children who want to get their jammies on. I'm sure there are starving children in the world starving for jammies.  They'd be grateful for jammies.

Otto:  Okay then. C-ya later.

Me:   What do you mean seeya later? You'd say goodbye just like that? You're not even going to put up a fuss?

Otto:  No, I'm not in the mood to fuss.

Me:  Well, then I'm telling Santa about THIS one! If you don't get in there right now and get on your pajamas and put up a fuss about me wanting to leave, I'll tell Santa not to come. Don't make me do it.

Otto:  Oh... original mom....the old Santa trump-card trick. Ok. Alright. I'm going. But don't forget to put an ad in the paper for those children.

________________________ * _________________________ 

After awhile, I wizened up, and learned to ask better questions so I didn't have to give threatening answers.

Me:  Would you like to get your jammies on before or after your bedtime story? 

That way it was a matter of when not if they wanted to get ready for bed. A subtle but brilliant difference!

Kids need the opportunity to make decisions about things that matter to them, like going to bed or hanging out with friends on a schoolnight. So, I changed my tactics purposely giving choices that:
  • limited the options
  • guaranteed the most appropriate outcome for the situation
all under the guise of free agency.

Is this a manipulative mommy trick? I don't think so. It is simply a more effective way of empowering children with the ability to make choices...choices where both child and parent can honor the final decision.

________________________ * _________________________

Sometimes I wish the best path was a narrow one-way street lined with cobblestones 
to clearly mark the way.

As our children have gotten older, the stakes have been raised. The decisions have become harder with more choices, the consequences more enduring with heavier weight. My 16-yr old son is facing a difficult decision right now. He's at a crossroads and whichever road he chooses has the potential to affect his future. It's a big deal in his teen-age world.

It's humbling and scary to watch my children make consequential decisions. And to give them the trust and latitude to do so. They might screw up. The chances are high they will at one time or another. I certainly have. That's the roll of the life dice. And the risk of agency.

I hope we've taught our children the steps to good decision-making and how to listen and recognize answers from prayer. And how to accept what comes. I hope that all the little opportunities to make decisions like when to get jammies on, or whether to go to a football game if it means staying up till 2 am doing homework, have taught them what they need to know about choice, accountability, the ripple effect on others, and following their inner voice.

I hope with my son, I have the strength to not chime in and make the decision for him. I'm a chimer. And a rhymer. I'm a joker. I'm {not} a smoker. I'm {not} a midnight toker. I sure don't want to hurt no one. ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh...

Sorry. A Space Cowboy came riding by. Where were we?

Oh ya...chiming. Ok, Mr. Fish, I'll admit you are right. I kinda maybe sorta have a tendency to once in awhile slightly accidentally innocently sometimes with best intentions chime. When it's not my time. But I sure don't want to hurt no one. ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh.

One thing is for sure: no matter what choices my children make, I am no longer in the market for rental children. Mine are keepers and all I want.

________________________ * _________________________

How do you teach or learn decision-making skills? I'm still learning. And would love to learn from you.

Keep swimming and making good choices,
Ms Fish

PS: In the mood for some Steve Miller Band now? Listen to The Joker here.

________________________ * _________________________

Warning! Spoiler ahead.

Congratulations to commenter #11 (selected by random.org) JULIE, who emailed me all the correct answers.

Julie said, "Okay. Finally. I want you to know that I spent WAY too long on this and had to enlist the help of my husband and two daughters, ages 4 and 6 to see the differences. Wow. That's just sad

Well, Julie...it's not sad anymore. You're persistence (and subscription to HIGHLIGHTS magazine) paid off. Watch for your gift card in the mail. And enjoy Olive Garden. When you're there, you're family,  ya know. Ciao!

Now, here are the differences from this week's game. And don't forget to come back and play another round on Monday.

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