Question: My daughter has a 2 1/2-year-old son. We think he is pretty smart for his age. He is talking in complete sentences. But he also experiences tantrums and does not sleep well. I think my daughter parents from guilt and that has contributed to his sleep problems.
This is my question: She asks his opinion on everything. I have suggested that she not do this all the time, that he is a little boy who does not need to make decisions all the time. For example, we were at a restaurant recently and the waitress asked my daughter did she want his meal now or should she bring it with everyone else's meal. My daughter turned and asked my 2 1/2 y.o. grandson the same question. I thought it was ridiculous to ask him and that being the MOM she should answer the question. Not a decision he needs to make!! She does this all the time. I'm afraid that she is creating anxiety in him because he sometimes goes back and forth. Another example is asking him if he wanted to walk into town or ride in the stoller. He couldn't make up his mind which turned into a tantrum. What do you think?
From: Deborah, Marstons Mill
I do agree with you, there is a limit to when and how to involve children in decision-making. In general, children at all ages benefit from the opportunity to make age-appropriate decisions and to feel some sense of control over their lives. The trick is to know what is "age appropriate." When the decisions are beyond their level of ability or cognition, or when their sixth sense tells them that a parent is giving them choices and/or control for the wrong reasons, they end up feeling anxious and insecure. And that, in turn, can contribute to a whole array of behaviors that could include tantrums and sleep issues. It is, of course, a pattern of these behaviors by the parents that could have these results, not an occasional occurrence.
It's similar to the way children of all ages feel most secure when they know what their (again, age-appropriate) limits are, when those limits are consistent and when there are consistent consequences for infractions.
So what's an appropriate time to consult with a 2 1/2-year-old for his or her opinion? What color shirt does he want to wear today, red or blue? Does she want her bedtime story before or after her bath? Does she want one cookie or two?
By the way, you and your daughter might find this previous post about parenting styles helpful.
I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with
some aspect of child-rearing, just write to me here.
The author is solely responsible for the content.