I am all for offering choices. But, sometimes, when we talk, we’re sounding like we’re offering choices… but they’re not really choices. It could be the, “Okay?” tacked onto the end of sentence. Or when we’re telling our kids to do something that HAS to happen and we say, “Would you ____?”
If they say, “No,” that’s unfortunate. We make them do it anyway (again, this is on a “have to” not a “would be more convenient”).
I do this sometimes – I’m not perfect – but I am working really hard on trying to eliminate this as much as possible.
And while I’ve heard people say, “Well, there are very few ‘have to’s,” I know that, in my life, there ARE things that HAVE to happen (unless we want legal repercussions, which, I assure you, we do not). Legally, we are required to provide a phone call to Kai’s mother from Kai every day that he’s with us (the reverse is true – they must call Joe when he’s over there). Kai hates this. He never wants to do it. And I can understand that because, frankly, I’d be pretty annoyed if I had to make a phone call and talk to someone every day regardless of whether or not I wanted to – and get no reward for doing so. (I don’t know if the same thing happens at her place, but I would not be surprised to hear if it does. This is “Kai does not want to make the call” not “Kai doesn’t want to talk to his mother.” Those are different things.)
So, we no longer ask, “What would you like to talk to Mama about?” because I happen to know the real answer is usually, “Nothing.” Instead, we ask, “What are you going to talk to Mama about today?” (We have him think of something in advance because it’s hard for him to decide that on the fly.) We try to still give choices but, in the end, he HAS to make that call. There have been times where he’s thrown a fit or said, “I don’t want to.” The answer is always, “I know you don’t want to and I’m sorry that you have to do things you don’t want to do and I’m sorry you’re upset, but she loves you and she wants to talk to you. We have to make the phonecall and that’s just how it is.” This has actually made things EASIER. It’s no longer an argument over “Will you?” It’s now, “You have to do this. Let’s make it as pleasant as possible.”
There are other things that are, “I know you don’t want to and I’m sorry that you have to do things you don’t want to do and I’m sorry you’re upset, but that’s just how it is.”
Sometimes, like it or not, we can’t offer a choice. And that’s just how it is.