Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?

The Little Miss is in a very, very annoying phase right now where she just will not decide anything. You ask if she wants a snack, if she’s ready to leave for school, if she’d like to watch a TV show now or do a puzzle instead – it’s always “I DON’T KNOW,” shrieked in a voice of extreme distress, like I’m offering her Sophie’s Choice. GAH.

I mean, I have lived through two older kids who were not always the most self-aware people in the world. Kids who could not for the life of themselves figure out why working on this homework sheet was SO IMPOSSIBLE, and yet, five minutes after having a glass of milk and a cookie, it magically becomes quite doable. Kids who I saw clearly doing the Dance of Imminent Pee, and who yet continued to deny needing to use the bathroom, and although we are all committed to “logical consequences” I made them go to the potty anyway, “just to try.”

But this is different. It’s like any single time there’s any kind of option, she’s paralyzed. And angry about it. And boy, am I ever getting tired of either a) deciding every single thing on her behalf, or b) allowing nothing to happen, then living with the “logical consequences” of having a kid who is too dumb to pick a snack, or weeping due to the stress of having to select a movie to watch on a sick day, to too whiny to actually say “yes” when asked if she wants to sign up for soccer and then freaks out when she finds out all her friends are going and the team is full.

It’s exhausting.

I remember the first time ever that the Captain came over to me – he’d be just over a year old or so – and actually asked me for juice, using the word “JUS!”, and I got him some juice, and he was happy, and I was happy, and OH MY GOD the heavens sang. And I thought to myself, once they can ask for what they want, everything will be so easy! Everything will be awesome! Parenting will be a snap!

But now the youngest one has all the words she needs, but none of the wanting. Do you want to go to the store, or stay home? Do you want to use the bathroom here, or at your aunt’s house? Do you want to wear blue socks, or yellow?


I’d probably be a lot more sympathetic if I wasn’t already deciding a million different things for myself every day. In addition to my own personal needs I have to decide what everyone is eating for lunch and dinner, what everyone needs for appropriate outerwear, what the family errand schedule for the week looks like. I have to decide where we’re going to store everything, whether the garbage needs taking out immediately or if it can wait until tomorrow, what gift we’re getting for our nephew’s birthday next month.

I’m already at the max. It’s time for someone else to start picking some things around here.

11 thoughts on “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?

  1. mdavis94538

    I’ll confess that I haven’t been through this with either of my kids (yet!), so I can’t empathize, but I can definitely sympathize, and I can empathize on a general level because parenting is just full of unexpected challenges like this and it can be really frustrating.

    One of our boys is… very poorly equipped to deal with failure of any kind, and he just completely falls apart when he can’t do something he wants to do (especially when it’s something he believes he is, or wants to be, good at). We’ve tried so many things to help him learn to cope, and no doubt he will eventually, but until that happens we’re stuck with having to endure a meltdown every few days.

    You have to keep trying though. There are definitely cases I can think of where we have just about given up and then after trying so many other things finally hit on the thing that works. Getting the kids to get ready to get to school on time comes to mind recently.

    So don’t be afraid to be creative. And I do believe that in general, kids will come out the best if you quietly let them make their own decisions (or let the neglect them!) and suffer the consequences without you making a big deal of it. Good luck!

    1. Our oldest has historically been the perfectionist – the one who doesn’t want to try things if he thinks he won’t be excellent at them, and the one who has a meltdown if things are not working out exactly like he pictured in his head. That’s a hard one too – I agree, you just have to keep trying and reassuring and trying some more. It sometimes amazes me what a long process parenting is – how some ideas or rules or values can take years and years to teach.

  2. I hear you – this was our kid #2 – I HATE all that advice about “give them choices” as though that’s what’s best for every child. Every expert says that and now I know of at least two kids it doesn’t work for.

    My son needed leadership and help. Choices left him feeling at loose ends and (maybe?) scared, and made all our lives tougher.

    I also hear you about the exhaustion of making decisions. It seems to be hard for other people to understand that I don’t want to be asked “What do you want to do for your birthday?” – the gift would be somebody else deciding what we’re doing for my birthday. A day off from decision-making!

    WRT to your situation right now, I would say, since the choices are being put on you, make the ones that work best for you / make your life easier. You can even tell her you’re doing it and why. E.G. “I’m deciding to sign you up for soccer because it’s good for you, all your friends will be doing it, and you’ll complain to me later if I don’t.”

    In our house growing up, we always knew we were free to disagree with a decision, and my parents would even reverse a decision, as long as we put together a good argument and were prepared to present it effectively (this is how my brother “earned” the right to have his ear pierced as a teenager). Whining, though, did not work!

    So, you could tell her, “I’m deciding this now, because you can’t,” but if she then protests, ask her to think about her reasons and tell them to you calmly.

    I think this whole thing is about them learning to think critically for themselves. Maybe at first she’ll only be able to think critically after you’ve made the choice for her (reactively), but maybe eventually you can get her to use those skills before the decision is made, and she’ll be making her own choices.

    Or maybe I’m wrong. 🙂

    1. mdavis94538

      +1 – this all sounds like good advice. If she can’t make up her mind after a reasonable amount of time, do it for her, and make the choice that conveniences you the most. Who knows, maybe she just wants a break from having to make decisions all the time too. In any case, if these things matter to her she will eventually figure out that it’s up to her to decide.

    2. Thanks Tudor, loved this comment! It’s reassuring to know someone else has a non-decider and love your strategies. Also, WORD to this: “…the gift would be somebody else deciding what we’re doing for my birthday.” I hate surprises, but the relief of someone else just magically producing dinner, or announcing THIS IS WHAT WE ARE DOING would be so relaxing!

  3. Oh, that is SUCH an interesting point about going from the stage where they finally have the words (I remember that so vividly!) to where they have the words but “not the wants.”

  4. I was this kid. I still have a bad time making some decisions and I know I drove my mother crazy, and I’m pretty sure there were tears more than once. I still occasionally drive my husband crazy because sometimes I just don’t know. My mind goes blank, I can’t decide. I have no solution for you.

    1. Huh. I thought it was a stage but maybe it’s a personality trait. I’m at least reassured that you grew up awesome, so there’s hope for the Little Miss :).

  5. I love Tudor’s comment and advice too. I am sympathetic to you AND Little Miss, because I can get to the point where I have a lot of trouble making decisions too (witness my utter inability to pick which post to submit for BOLO). Regarding the birthday thing, on Valentine’s Day my husband came home and said “should we order something?” and I said “you were gone all last week and today I wanted you to bring chocolate home and decide what we were having for dinner and order it and I REALIZE I should have told you this LAST NIGHT, but at least I’m not going to fume silently all night without telling you why I’m mad.” I consider that huge personal growth. 🙂 I had something to say about ‘expert advice’ too, but now I’ve made this comment all about me and it’s gotten too long. Sigh.

  6. Gosh…I get the exhaustion. My 6yo is a little bit like this but not continuously. For her it’s usually a [returning] phase…and when we’re in the phase I become more impatient with every passing minute. And the problem is that walking away from it has other consequences: screaming I have to listen to, lasting sometimes for hours, holding grudges (her…yep, 6yo’s can do that too!) and other assorted issues.

    Have you ever asked her during a calm moment what is causing her all this grief about making even simple choices, like picking out socks? Maybe her answer will uncover some anxiety or something?

  7. Some thoughts: a choice between two things is really a choice between thing a, thing b, and not choosing either. I wonder whether it would help her to walk through the consequences of each? (I.e. You can sign up for soccer, or not sigh up, or you can not decide, which means there might not be space if you want to join later).

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