Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Do you like number one or number two?

I recently went for my annual eye exam. My vision is poor, even without all that blue light at night, so I try to be as good to my eyes as possible. I have a good rapport with my eye doctor; she is amazingly gentle with the battery of vision and pressure tests and she understands why I giggle during the main vision test (thanks, Brian Regan).

But let's talk about that vision test for a moment. I like it: It's simple: Do you like number one or number two? That's it. Two choices. And I take a lot of comfort from that.

You see, there is a breadth of research available on how having too many choices can make you miserable. The research on this is intriguing: We are always second-guessing ourselves, hoping that we didn't miss out on a better choice than the one we picked. There is so much anxiety around the decision-making between two good choices, that it can make people miserable.

And this is what I try to keep in mind when I give my son a choice. Asking a four-year-old to choose between two really excellent options causes anxiety, the same as it does in adults. Granted, I don't want to make decisions for him by giving him an "obvious" choice and a "awful" choice, but it is something to keep in mind. This is why I am less likely to give him more than two choices at a time (do you want to go home and build with Legos or do you want to look at Halloween costumes at the store?) I'm trying to allow him to make decisions in his life without overwhelming him.

And I think he is picking up on this, because I see the same behavior from him when he plays. When he wants my attention, he'll give me a choice: Do I want to watch the monster truck show or help him build a pirate ship? And I make the choice and we are both happy. (Even though I sometimes still wonder if the other choice was secretly better.)

How many decisions a day do you muddle over after making them? Share the pain with me in the comments.


  1. I really like this. I have a two year old and am introducing choices. She doesn't get it completely yet but I can tell it won't be long before she does. My latest is, do you want to pee in your diaper or the potty? She chooses the third choice: running around naked peeling in the floor.

    1. Toddlers are really excellent at coming up with their own choices. Hang in there!