The Choice is Forced

In an effort to really sell the “terrible” in “terrible twos”, my son has become a very selfish, defiant and lazy guy. Lately, trying to get my son to do anything usually results in him screaming for five minutes.

We’re dealing with this stage as best we can, all the while reminding ourselves that it is just a stage (and if it’s not, there’s always military school) and all the while self-medicating ourselves into being excited that he’s learning how to express himself and grow more independent and have opinions, if you can call “no!” and “mine!” opinions.

He knows what he wants and he knows what he doesn’t want, and never the twain shall meet.

Since time-outs are so ineffective and cages and tranquilizers are frowned upon, we’ve had to resort to other methods to attempt to control the beast.

indiana jones, the last crusade, the holy grail, choose wisely, toddlers, terrible twos, discipline, parenting, dads, moms, motherhood, fatherhood, movies, pop cultureIt’s all about choices.

My son never wants to do anything that he doesn’t want to do. He only wants to do what he wants to do and he wants to do it now and immediately and forever.

Unfortunately for him, his parents have responsibilities and desires and short-fuses and not enough booze in the house, so when his preferences butt up against ours, things can devolve pretty quickly. It’s like Game of Thrones some nights, and just like in Westeros, the shortest guy often seems to be winning.

The latest attempt to control the fire-breathing dragon that is my toddler is to offer him options – lopsided, terrible options – and making him choose.

The key is to always include what he wants to do as part of a package deal with something you want him to do. And to make the alternative something he would rather shit himself than choose. Which may not sound like a big deal for someone who has grown quite comfortable with shitting himself, but you get the point.

For example:

“Okay pal, you can either eat your dinner and then watch some George OR… you can go straight to bed.”

“Okay pal, you can either clean up your trains and then have a cookie OR… you can go straight to bed.”

“Okay pal, you can either take a bath and then Daddy will read a story OR… you can go straight to bed.”

“Okay pal, you can either eat your meat and then have some pudding OR… you can go straight to bed.”

The goal here is to get the kid to bed. I don’t care if it’s 11AM. A sleeping two-year-old is a well-behaved two-year-old.

pink floyd, the wall, how can you have any pudding, fatherhood, parenting, motherhood, toddlers, terrible twos, discipline, time outThe choices approach works. Not every time. Nothing works every time, except Sex Panther Cologne, and that only works every time 60% of the time.

Unfortunately, when he’s at his worst, I tend to go a little overboard with the choices:

“Okay pal, you either sit still during Facetime with Pop-pop and Grandma OR… YOU’LL NEVER SEE THEM AGAIN.”

It’s very easy to become frustrated when you have a two-year-old. I should probably carry a pillow around that I can scream into so he doesn’t see me Hulk out but I’m afraid I’ll use it to smother myself after he screams at another stranger for getting onto “his” elevator. But so far the “choice approach” has at least been moderately effective at limiting reining him in, and by “moderately effective” I mean it’s worked a handful of times out of fifty.

The key is to actually follow through on your ultimatums because by the time he’s two-and-a-half, the days of him forgetting anything you’ve ever promised him are long gone. I’d swear that he keeps a log-book listing “Shit My Parents Owe Me” under his mattress if I didn’t know he can’t write.

Kid can’t even stay between the lines when he colors but he remembers that time six weeks ago when I muttered something about ice cream just so he would get the fuck out of the bathtub.

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12 thoughts on “The Choice is Forced

  1. The “terrible twos” were never so bad at our house. However, at 8 and 4 we still use the ultimatum approach and with limited success with our kids. They both inherited my stubborn streak and would rather take the awful option over their desired action with caveats.

    1. Its worth it, allright. Every time they look at you with their big eyes, or when they say something adorable, or when they do something in public that makes you so proud… its very worth it!

  2. I just visited my nephew this weekend, who is turning two in a few days. He has definitely, reached the mine stage, the defiant stage… oh, and the hitting stage. Now, that I remember that there is such things as the “terrible twos” it all makes sense now.

    By the way loved all your references. Gave me a good laugh. Also, the choices thing is pretty effective as they get older too. It is pretty how I became such an awesome nanny. ha

    1. My wife actually discovered the choice technique and it is pretty handy. I assume it will be even better when my son truly understands consequences. It certainly can’t get much worse than it’s been the past few months (says the guy who doesn’t remember his teenage years…)

      Thanks for reading!

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