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Should you give a 2 year old choices'?

Updated: Jan 11, 2022

For most of us, we don't give the fact we have 'choices' too much thought, that is, until we have to choose something, then we realize we have too many options that we can't decide, what we want.

Overchoice. ... or choice overload is a cognitive process in which people have a difficult time making a decision when faced with many options.

The term was first introduced by Alvin Toffler in his 1970 book, Future Shock.

We live in a society where we can choose, what we want to wear, what we want to eat and what we want to drink.  

Most of the time in our day to day routine the decision making is easy. Maybe we have to toss a coin between which cocktail to have with dinner, or which dress to wear for a wedding, but we make our decision and move on. Most of the time not giving it too much second thought.

It can become more complex when redoing the kitchen or a large renovation in the family home: What granite to have, What tile on the backsplash, What sink to install.

It also means we can choose things that years ago were not even options

Such as:

What 'Parenting style' shall I follow?

Parenting style
Parenting style

- Instinctive

- Attachment

- Helicopter

- Authoritative  

- Permissive

and there are more!!!! 

What eating style shall I follow for my infant? 

Toddler Eating style
Eating style

- The French approach

- Baby led weaning  

- Purees / mashed foods

and there are more!!!!

What potty training method shall I follow?

Potty Training Made Easy Dawn Whittaker
Potty Training Made Easy

- 3 day method

- Child led (or know as child orientated) - 

- EC - elimination communication - 

- Trip training -

- My Method !

and there are more!!

It's overwhelming isn't it! 

So do these choices make us feel better or worse about our parenting?

Working in the parenting industry, I think worse and I believe it's becoming harder and more stressful for new parents. Even though technology is much more advanced and we have answers (choices) at our finger tips. Are they the correct answers? We don't know?

The fact that now there are so many different styles & labels - makes us question our decision making and makes us doubt ourselves even more.

Years ago, parents didn't sit around, questioning their decisions. They didn't have many options to choose from, so they just did their best and accepted this.

Now we worry about failure.  

But guess what!!!!  Our children love us regardless, babies and children have basic needs, good quality food, good quality sleep and a pair of loving arms around them.

If you over think these basic things, it can get a little messy.

I think anxiety is on the up, parents are having a more difficult time following their gut instincts, WHICH if you did, you would actually come up with the right answer for your family.

Remember that your family dynamic is unique, I'm not a fan of parenting on labels,  I like to tell my clients to parent 'from within' - make your decisions for your family based on your values and PLEASE follow your gut!

Now, lets look at how a 2 year old might feel, if they have too much choice.

We will start by looking at the development of a 2 year old and where they are cognitively.

Most children by age 2:

Begin to understand simple time concepts. But not long term bigger picture time management. Example: now / later versus forever.

Follow simple requests. Example "bring me your cup." But not two-step instructions, such as "Wash your hands and find your shoes," this can be overwhelming, as they are not able to multi task.

Recognize basic forms of non verbal communication, such as nodding or shaking of the head for yes or no.

Often want to do two incompatible things at the same time. As parents we may think it is funny initially, but might become frustrated because we know that its not the correct thing to do. Toddlers may fixate on it though. Example, a 2-year-old may want to go out in the rain and wear his or her slippers

Start to play "pretend," such as pretending to talk on your new iPhone.

Emotional and social development

Most children by age 2 are:

Developing self-awareness. Although its an exciting time, they will also struggle with their emerging independence. Your child may appear conflicting, "I want water, I don't want water etc"

They understand and use the word "no" as a way to assert themselves and it will come often! Tantrums will ensure but are only a reflection of frustrations and conflicting feelings. Hence, why parents who are in the potty training process often feel perplexed and stuck, when they ask their toddler ' DO you want to sit on the potty' and the child will just say NO. But you are offering them the choice, instead of direction.

Aware that they may not always get what they want or that they may have to wait for it. Although many toddlers will start to connect dots between how they act and what happens next. Behaviour can appear impulsive and inconsistent, because they can't yet completely anticipate the consequences of their actions.

So taking all this into consideration offering a toddler who is going through so many changes emotionally, socially and cognitively, offering too much choice will create the same feelings that we are parents face when putting that new kitchen in!!

I often get asked by parents if offering toddlers choices makes them feel empowered, I think too many choices makes them feel overwhelmed.

When they feel overwhelmed, this can actually INCREASE the number of tantrums. This is often a source of anxiety for parents in its own right, so you go round in circles, worrying about them not feeling empowered and worrying about the consequence of setting them off.

In fact alot of parents will want to avoid a tantrum at all costs as some of them are wild.

Its not about NOT ever offering choices.

The best way is to offer limited choices when you can and you don't mind the outcome.

In situations where they can't choose, you make the decision for them.

Be aware of your language use.


Toddlers behaviour at the table

What do you want for lunch? (too overwhelming) for a young child.

Would you like a ham or a cheese sandwich ? ( limited choice)

Lunch today is a ham sandwich

Struggling with your toddlers behaviour?

Need to talk something through?

Contact Dawn or book a quick fix package to talk through anything parenting related!

All quick fix packages are for a set amount of time on the phone, and email support as follow up!

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