Being a parent is a little like being a social scientist. You’re an anthropologist studying a strange tribe of lawless pygmies, trying to uncover why they need to take a single bite of every piece of fruit in the basket or rub spaghetti sauce into their hair.
Or you’re a psychologist, studying how the human brain behaves before all the rationalizations and social conditioning. You figure out, for example, that two-year-olds feel compelled to scream “NO!” when asked any question.
Doesn’t matter what it is. They’ll scream “NO!” when you ask if they want water, then cry in frustration when you take the water away. You give it back, only to have them push it away and scream “NO!” again and again.
You ask if they want candy, just to see if they’ll break down, and it won’t work. They’ll just scream NO, right before throwing a massive fit about Not Having Candy. These kinds of constant protests about anything and everything make getting through your day kind of hard.
Well eventually, most parents figure out how to get around the “NO” thing by offering their kid the choice between two acceptable options…
Instead of: Do you want to get dressed? (NO!)
You say: Do you want to wear the red pants or the blue ones? (Hmm, the blue!)
It works like a charm, because it really all comes down to control. The kid wants to feel as though he or she has some say in what happens to them. Offer them a choice, and suddenly they’ll forget that refusing to get dressed is a third alternative.
Strangely enough, this trick will work on adults as well.