Giving Kids Too Many Choices

In our modern world, the amount of choices kids have is mind-boggling. Just look at the toy stores or how many movies or series you can watch on streaming apps, then you realize how overwhelming choices can be for young kids.

As shared in our previous blog post Giving Children Choices: giving choices may be the single most helpful tool parents have for managing young children’s lives. It is almost a magic wand until children are about five. And even into the teen years, choices help children learn to manage themselves. But how many decisions can we give our children?

An excellent way to start giving children choices is to select two or three things and let them choose from them. Make sure to offer age-appropriate decisions. When given effectively, giving options can reduce conflicts and help you avoid tantrums. 

When you give too many choices to your child – yes, that means asking open-ended questions like “What do you want?” or offering more than three options – your child can feel overwhelmed and may suffer from the stress of choice overload. As a psychologist argues, an excess of choices can leave us paralyzed and dissatisfied. Not exactly ideal, especially for our kids.

It would be too much for kids to think about too many choices and weigh one option against all others. Psychologists have found evidence of how an abundance of choices affects children, particularly how having many effects the child’s engagement with the option they ultimately chose. And once he chooses one, he might second-guess his final decision. He could be more concerned about the choices he could have made instead of being happy and content with what he chose. 

As studies have shown, there can be negative consequences to giving children many options to choose from. Several studies have shown that when kids pick from a large set of options, they spend less time engaged with their choice than when they select from a small group.

Always narrow down your child’s options to two. And if two choices aren’t possible, narrow it down as much as you can. If you’re asking him to choose four toys to bring on the road trip, you can say, “Pick four toys from this pile” instead of letting him choose from all four boxes of toys he has. 

Choices offer both you and your child plenty of benefits, especially when you avoid common mistakes.

Remember not to give a choice when there isn’t one to begin with. And when you offer, offer only two or three choices and make sure these choices are parent-approved. Make sure not to provide too many choices as it can overwhelm your child. 

Avoid giving choices frequently. And don’t expect that by providing choices you can solve everything. You shouldn’t give up easily either because it didn’t work a few times.