In a recent presentation, one parent asked about the importance of giving children constant choices. She related her personal experience that this eventually became exhausting with three children, all making dozens of decisions before even getting out the door in the morning.
Bingo! She is on to something vitally important.
We only get a limited quantity of decision-making ‘juice’ each day.
In last week’s article, I introduced this concept briefly, but I would like to explore it in a broader context today. Let’s imagine something – every day upon awakening, your children (and you) have been given a gift from life. This gift comes in the form of a brand new daily dose of ‘Results Juice.’
The ‘Results Juice’ is refreshed each day, with adequate sleep and nourishment. For every choice we make and every decision we ponder, we use a bit of that precious juice. The juice allows for discrimination, good judgment, application of intellect, and even willpower…all in service of the results we want
But here’s the catch: Each of us is only allotted a certain amount of this daily juice. Once used up, then there is no more available for today. Every time we ponder a decision, we are draining that juice. When it’s dry for the day, we have no juice left for making good decisions.
Some of us use our ‘Results Juice’ very wisely and conserve this juice so we can create great results when it counts. We end up with more of what we want in life. For others, we waste this juice and it shows up in our daily life and in our children’s lives.
Wasting the precious juice…making decisions when we don’t have to!
There are many daily tasks that simply must be completed every day, in order to lead a healthy, productive, and responsible life. Some examples would be showers, brushing teeth, preparing meals, and getting homework done.
We could turn every single event in our child’s morning into a choice, of course. We could have them choose which clothes to wear, whether to dress before or after breakfast, what to have for breakfast, where to sit, what to watch, what snacks go in their lunch box, and so on. We can surround them with constant choice and decision-making.
Over time, children will begin to debate, negotiate and argue over these choices. In doing so, there is even greater drainage on the limited juice available. They fight to put off their homework or argue about brushing their teeth and debate endlessly overeating their veggies.
What just happened here?
The problem is this: When we give children too many choices, inevitably we have allowed the child to drift into the decision-making world of the adult. In other words, the decisions of what time to get up, what’s for breakfast, brushing teeth, picking out clothes early on, belong in the parent domain, not in the children.
If we bring them into the adult domain, we will see them quickly become bogged down in the decisions. They will use up half their valuable ‘juice’ before they even get out the door. In essence, they’re wasting their juice on decisions that don’t belong in their routines. However, there is a simple way out.
How to use our juice wisely? Thought-free routines?
Let’s view this juice as sacred, special, and never to be wasted. Therefore, we want to avoid making decisions when we don’t have to. Why would we make a decision over and over again every morning, when the decision could be made once and never considered again?
Routines are meant to be routines. In other words…thought-free.
Remove most of the choices, and allow for a pre-determined game plan. This brings ease, predictability, and comfort. It is proven to reduce anxiety, as well as debates and arguments. This pre-determined approach reserves that beautiful juice for the important stuff, like solving math problems and choosing good sentence structure.
Keep it simple. Don’t debate, then offer incessant choices and think that this chaos will get better. You’re wasting valuable juice. You are teaching your kids to waste this juice on the little stuff…and proportionately, leaving little for the major stuff. Your goal…thought-free routines. Life will easier, smoother, and have few conflicts.