Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lori Gotlieb, Barry Schwartz - Too much choice is not the problem !

Lori Gotlieb in her newspaper article ' 

says            ' children today have too much choice.'

She recalls  ' As a parent, I’m all too familiar with this. I never said to my son, “Here’s your grilled-cheese sandwich.” I’d say, “Do you want the grilled cheese or the fish sticks?” On a Saturday, I’d say, “Do you want to go to the park or the beach?” Sometimes, if my preschooler was having a meltdown over the fact that we had to go to the grocery store, instead of swooping him up and wrestling him into the car, I’d give him a choice: “Do you want to go to Trader Joe’s or Ralphs?” (Once we got to the market, it was “Do you want the vanilla yogurt or the peach?”) But after I’d set up this paradigm, we couldn’t do anything unless he had a choice. One day when I said to him, “Please put your shoes on, we’re going to Trader Joe’s,” he replied matter-of-factly: “What are my other choices?” I told him there were no other choices—we needed something from Trader Joe’s. “But it’s not fair if I don’t get to decide too!” he pleaded ingenuously. He’d come to expect unlimited choice. 

She then quotes the expert Barry Schwartz  that well-meaning parents give their kids so much choice on a daily basis that the children become not entitled, but paralyzed, because they cannot cope with so much choice.

So Lori Gotlieb and Barry Swartz say the problem is too much choice. I believe that they have got it wrong.  It is not a problem of too much choice but how choices are given. 

A   Pseudo choices or Plan A –.Caregivers   direct children to a limited number of adult-selected options. Giving a choice still means ' Do it my way ', my way can still  be a  choice from  A, B, C, or D.

B   Children generating choices in the context of planning and problem   solving.

Ann Epstein – ' the intentional teacher ' says Planning is choice with intention. (Her words apply to the home as well as the classroom.)  That is, the chooser begins with a specific goal or purpose in mind that results in the choice. First we must differentiate real choices in which teachers offer multiple options (“What colors do you want to use in your painting?”) from pseudo-choices in which teachers direct children to a limited number of adult-selected options (“Do you want to use red or blue?”) But planning goes further than selecting from open-ended choices. When we engage children in planning, we encourage them to identify their goals and consider the options for achieving them. For example, they might consider what they will do, where they will do it, what materials they will use, who they will do it with, how long it will take, and whether they will need help. Planning thus involves deciding on actions and predicting interactions, recognizing problems and proposing solutions, and anticipating consequences and reactions.'

The process of collaborative problem solving means that the concerns of all parties are put on the table, the problem is defined , then  the parties put their heads together and brainstorm and generate choices and solutions that are mutually satisfactory.  A mom commented after she had been through the cps process that she felt it was the first time she was being heard. The process helps kids internalize a concern for others . Decisions and choices will  therefore take into account their impact on others. Kids learn to make their individual choices in the context of values like family, classroom of kids and community. Kids will become effective decision makers and make moral choices. 

Traditional parenting recommends giving kids choices as a way to get compliance. Because giving choices  is a clever way of imposing parental will , kids see the choice not as part of a plan or a solution to a problem but a chance for letting them express their counter -will ignoring the concern of others.
Kids will wish for or expect unlimited choice when they don't participate ,in real decision making , planning , problem solving and given the opportunity to generate choices. They will also have difficulty in handling choice.

Lori Gotlieb, Barry Swartz  - the problem is not too much choice but the context in which choice is given.


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