They might seem like easy decisions to us grown ups, but choosing which toy to play with, what fruit to have at snack time or which toy to snuggle at naptime are all giant conundrums to a toddler.
A child who is able to make quick decisions feels good about herself because she has some control over her life. But if yours regularly seems to be unable to make up her mind, it can be frustrating for both of you. It’s up to you to put the frustration aside and help her out of her confusion.
Why decisions appear scary to your toddler
There’s several possible explanations why your toddler has trouble making up her mind. She could be lacking in self-confidence, and therefore starts off with the assumption she’ll make the wrong decision.
It could be she realises that making a choice means she will miss out on the other option. The concern about what she’ll miss may be so strong it holds her back.
At this age, your toddler generally wants to please you, so she might be scared she’ll disappoint you with her decision. Or it could simply be that she’s so used to you doing everything for her, she expects that you will also take responsibility for all her decisions.
Explaining about decisions to your child
So how do you help her change the process? First of all, explain to your toddler that making decisions is good fun and that she shouldn’t be afraid to make up her mind about something.
The decisions she makes at this age are minor and unlikely to have any major long-term effect (such as choosing a game or breakfast cereal), so she needn’t be afraid of making the ‘wrong’ choice because she can make a different selection next time round.
The more she makes these minor decisions, the more she’ll realise that nothing dreadful is going to happen as a result of her choice, and her confidence in her choices will grow.
5 ways to encourage decision-making:
- Be supportive. If you get impatient with her difficulty over decisions, she’ll just become even more indecisive.
- Back her up. When you tell her she has to make a choice, accept the decision she makes even if you personally preferred the other possibility.
- Give her space. Even the most decisive of toddlers occasionally needs time to make up her mind. Not all decisions can be made instantly.
- Encourage discussion. When you see your toddler struggling to make up her mind, ask her what she thinks about the possibilities.
- Soothe her doubts. She may wonder if she’s made the right decision, so tell her you think she made a good choice.
The next time your toddler has to make a decision, sit with her and talk about the positive and negative implications of each option. Ask her to think what she would feel like when she’s made her choice (for example, a certain DVD). Will one make her happier, or be the most fun, for instance? Then encourage her to make a decision and back it up with praise.