Does your child insist on having THAT cup every time? Eliminate your stress. Eliminate the options.

Choices, choices. As parents, we’ve been hammered with the child rearing philosophy to “give your child choices so that he or she can learn to make the right decisions.” But what if having all those choices makes everyone crazy?

Case in point: Teeth brushing…seems innocuous enough, right? On display in my kids’ bathroom, there were approximately 5-6 different toothbrushes available for each child to choose from at all times. Our countertop rivaled the dental hygiene aisle at Walgreens in both selection and quantity. Every night, the bedtime routine would go something like this:

Me: “Dearest Child of Mine, which toothbrush do you want to use tonight….hey, come back here. Which toothbrush do you want?”  (No response due to child running into other room complaining of ill-fitting pajamas.) “Honey, which one? Ok, I’ll choose for you.” (Nothing.) “Spiderman toothbrush it is.”
Him: “Nooooo, I want the Eeyore one! Eeeeeeyorrrrrrrre, aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!”
Me: “Cripes, ok ok, here, here’s the Eeyore one.
Him: “No, not thaaaaaaaaaaat toothpaste, I want the Dora toothpaste!”
Me: “But it tastes the same, it’s the SAME thing, it’s just a different color.”
Him: “No it’s noooooooooooot, I want the Dora toothpaste!”
Me: (rinsing off toothpaste and re-applying brush with coveted Dora toothpaste) “Ok, here.”
Him: “Nooooo, I want the Blue’s Clues toothbrush that spins!!!!!”

Elapsed time: about 10 minutes. For teeth brushing! My point of all of this is, I learned that if I minimize the choices, there physically can’t be a discussion or negotiation around the over abundance of options. While they were at school, I threw away each and every one of those toothbrushes along with the five tubes of overpriced toothpaste. Then, I went out and bought them each a brand new toothbrush and ONE tube of Aquafresh Kids’ toothpaste (refreshingly unbiased with no character affiliation). Guess what? The task of brushing teeth now takes a whole three minutes. Ahhh, peace!

I didn’t stop with toothbrushes. I decided to literally “clean house” because I found that this tactic can be used for almost everything:

Are you one of those houses that keep six kinds of breakfast cereal on hand?  Buy two from now on. And don’t breakdown and buy a new box of cereal until the one at home is gone.

Are your cabinets filled with 13 different sippie cups? Figure out which one is their favorite and buy three more identical ones; donate the rest to a friend or recycle them. (Same goes for the bane of my existence– novelty silverware. Once they reach two years old, regular household silverware will serve them just fine. No more washing the Lightening McQueen spoon four times a day.)

If clothing choices are your main problem, the solution is simple…just get rid of the stuff you don’t want them to wear! My daughter would come down the stairs after donning on some way-too-small shirt/summer dress/ugly pants and it would be a 30-minute long event to get her into another outfit. Why did I even have this stuff accessible to her? That day, I cleaned out her closet and drawers and left her with only size and weather appropriate clothing. Whatever she wore from that point on was copasetic with me.

I’ll be honest, I was nervous at first to eliminate all these options that my children were so conditioned to expect. But like Ferberizing, it didn’t take long. After no more than a week, they had forgotten all about the days when we had five kinds of fruit juice in the refrigerator. Today it’s apple or orange. Red beverages need not apply because I’m done scrubbing pomegranate juice out of my carpets, period.

I’m not saying having choices isn’t important for kids– it is. Decision making is crucial to their maturation and development. But it doesn’t have to be so many choices and it doesn’t have to be at the detriment to your time and/or sanity.  Simplify, simplify. It works, I promise you.

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