Kids Shouldn’t Make Choices; That’s for Parents


Leaving everything up to your kids puts a lot of pressure on them.

My wife and I were seated in a restaurant when a family was shown a table near us.

Immediately the parents began asking their little girl where she wanted to sit. She tried one chair, then another until she finally settled on one—or seemed to, because as soon as the parents sat, she wanted to move, so she and her father exchanged seats.

This entire process took about three minutes. Then the parents began reading to her from the menu and asking her what she wanted to eat. It was another protracted ordeal.

Then they played musical chairs again. And when the food came, the girl decided that her plate did not look right, and began whining....

I spend lots of time on the road, and so I eat lots of restaurant meals. I've witnessed variations on this same drama all across the country.

Such is the stuff of nouveau, post-1960s parenting, axiomatic to which is the notion that children should be given choices. When asked why this should be, liberal parenting pundits will inevitably say things like, "So they learn how to make choices." As an adult, I've made good choices, and I've made bad choices, but that's life. I see no evidence that today's young people, many of whom grew up with parents who let them decide what they wanted to eat, etcetera, have an improved capacity for decision-making.

A child does not learn self-control unless parents enforce clear boundaries. Likewise, a child learns to make reasonably good decisions by being the beneficiary of parents who model effective decision-making. This is nothing more complicated than good parent leadership.

When all is said and done, this business of letting children make choices is really letting children be in control of things they have no business being in control of. That little girl at the restaurant would be happier if her parents simplified her life by taking the reins of leadership. They could begin by letting her make fewer choices.

Children accept leadership. They abuse control. They don't mean to, but that's beside the point.

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