Helping Gifted Children to Make Decisions!! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 07-13-2011, 01:14 PM - Thread Starter
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My ds (6 1/2 yrs old) has a real difficulty in making decisions- to the point that he practically begs us to choose for him because he CANNOT choose. He thinks about all of the aspects of his choices, becomes stuck, and cant go further. For instance, today I took him and his brother to the magic store for some practical jokes. They could each pick 2. They both took about 10 mins or so looking at the selection and finally we had to go. I told them, ok pick because now we have to go. His brother sort of weighed his options, then decided. DS2 panicked, and in the end, I had to suggest that we check out another store (next door). Once there, he couldn't decide again, and I had to "suggest" that he get a magazine instead. We went to 3 different magazine stores, but he couldn't pick one! For instance, there was 1 mag that he really liked, BUT the little toy that was attached was a cheapie plastic toy phone. He said that he already had a toy phone, so he couldn't possibly get that mag. I explained that he could use that phone on vacation, or leave it at his grandmas, or... sell it at the garage sale- the thing was, the magazine was really nice, but he couldn't even THINK about it because of the phone. Finally, I bought the mag, ripped the phone off the package and threw it in the garbage, gave him the magazine and he was THRILLED- almost as if he was relieved!  This is just one instance- he's been like this since he was 3. Does anyone have any hints for excesses or games or websites that can help him to make decisions, and be happy with the ones he's made? Thanks!



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#2 of 7 Old 07-13-2011, 03:44 PM
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I have kids who are a lot like this. Three of them, actually. I don't know whether it's been maturity or something I've done that has helped, but they've got better with time. I think it's linked to perfectionism: these kids don't want to just choose, they want to make the best choice, the optimal choice.


We've played a lot of guessing games. Especially games like twenty questions where a "wrong" guess gets you closer to the answer. Or "I'm Thinking of a Number" where the guesser can only ask numbers, and the thinker says "too big" or "too small" until the right answer is finally discovered. We also played circle rhythmic games (or back-and-forth rhythmic games) where you have to quickly come up with a word that fits into a category.


"Feel - ings!" [clap, clap]

"Jealousy" [clap, clap]

"Vege -tables!" [clap, clap]

"Car - rot!" [clap, clap]

"Mo - vies!!" [clap, clap] etc.


We also practiced a lot of appreciative reflection when my kids were young. For many reasons, but I think it might have also helped them make peace with whatever choices they had made or whatever life threw their way. "What did you like best about this afternoon?" Or "What were your three favourite things from today?" We would all do this at the dinner table. So see the good in whatever came our way.


I think that open-ended choices are especially difficult for kids like ours. Limiting possibilities to two or three can make it easier. When all else fails, I'll randomize the choices for my child. Maybe put the two magazines behind my back, mix them up and say "Pick a hand!" And sometimes, when my kids were too anxious or tired or overwhelmed I'd say "I'm going to choose for you. If you don't like my choice, tell me what you don't like about it and I'll pick something different. But if you're okay with it, that's great."


Hope that gives you some ideas.



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#3 of 7 Old 07-13-2011, 07:10 PM
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My eldest is like this. Impulse decisions are not her forte! We took a more forceful approach with DD. We found with DD the more time and choices we gave her, the more impossible it was for her to decide and the more stressed she became. We learned to stay calm and not show frustration but to also be firm. If we were at the bookstore and she couldn't decide between 2 books, I'd say "OK, I'm going to get some water from the fountain. When I come back I need your decision." If she still couldn't decide between the items, we left with neither. If she couldn't figure out what game to play, one of us would just decide on a totally different activity. If it was something neccessary like choosing a food at a restaurant, we'd just make the decision. It was frustrating to her in the beginning. We had to explain a few times that she wasn't "in trouble" but that it was just unrealistic for her to expect others to wait endlessly for certain decisions and none of us liked to see her so anxious about it. It did improve things pretty quickly. If she really wanted to play a game and couldn't decide, she started to "inny, meeny mi" it (which was better than totally losing her choice.) She started to figure out her own solutions like buying one book but borrowing another from a friend or from the library. She started to plan out her choices in advanced... going to places with a much stronger idea of what she wanted instead ot going blind. At 14, she's still not as cut-and-dry as her brother who ALWAYS knows exactly what he wants, but her quandaries are at least understandable. I think it helped her figure out that even if she didn't know, even if it might not be the perfect choice, the world didn't end.

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#4 of 7 Old 07-14-2011, 05:19 AM
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My DS is younger so I'm not sure my thoughts would be helpful, feel free to discount them if they don't ring true for you!

I think going to 5 stores might be too much for a kid who has trouble making choices. It doesn't seem like he needs more choices... if anything, maybe he needs fewer choices? Maybe it's just because DS is so young but the more he struggles to make a choice, the more I need to limit his options and decisions. I know there is a lot of info saying kids needs choices to feel autonomy & control and all, especially here on MDC, but that doesn't work for every kid. Sometimes my kid just needs me to make the choice for him. Sometimes he needs me to just give him 2 options to choose from, instead of 20. Sometimes he needs me to say no to a set of choices -- he sometimes even asks me to say no, like he can't tell himself no so he needs me to. So in your situation, I would have gone to only 1 store. Toward the end of 10 minutes, I'd give him the opportunity to make a choice, and if he couldn't, I'd do something like pick 2 up and ask which he wants. Or just pick up one and hand it to him. He might be thrilled, or he might say, "Oh, I really wanted XYZ, not this," and then he can get XYZ... Taking off the pressure and/or handing over a less-preferred option may make it crystal clear which one he really wanted. Same thing happens to me all the time... DH will say, "What do you want for dinner?" I'll say, "I don't know, whatever." "OK, how about lasagna?" and I'll respond, "Actually, I am really craving potatoes." I can't explain why this is... I swear I'm not trying to be contrary to him lol, but I just didn't know I wanted potatoes until he said lasagna! My other thought is that maybe your DS is holding out for just the right option. So he doesn't see the PERFECT option at store 1, so rather than pick the next best thing, he is going to every store trying to find something that doesn't even exist. So if you cut that off right away by only going to ONE store, it will free him up to choose the best option AT THAT STORE, rather than the best option in the world!

I also like the idea of rhythm games like the pp suggested. I wonder too if those 'choose an ending' books would help him explore the consequences of various choices in a way that is less overwhelming & personal? I think they are called Choose Your Own Adventure or something like that.

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#5 of 7 Old 07-18-2011, 09:41 PM
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I don't know what the answer is, but I can identify.  In our case, my ds can feel really blocked when faced with some school decisions.  It started out with not being able to finish coloring pages in kindy because he couldn't decide on the right colors, to now not being able to decide on a topic for journal writing, or being able to write on demand.  We are starting to work with the idea that there may be an anxiety component to all of this.

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#6 of 7 Old 07-19-2011, 01:16 AM
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ugh i can relate to you both as a mother and a person who gets overwhelmed with choices. 


dd shy of 9, still struggles with this. 


dd is the thinker - oh gosh we can be there all night. sometimes she even wants me to choose the icecream flavor for her. 


i am not sure if i have really helped her. 


the two things i have done is first - not given her the choice to think. so for instance we'd be at the toy store. or cake store or any store. and i'd say choose a or b without thinking. then c or d without thinking. and we'd go on with about 5 things. then we'd go back to the choices again a and b and figure out if she had time to think what she would choose. of course this was a game we played coz we obviously couldnt buy anything but it was fun to play. and she'd discover more often then without given the choice to think she actually made the right decision. 


i even talk to her that sometimes that's what life is. u just gotta do. you have limited time and you do the best you can. again its one of the things we talk about a lot. always. since she was 4 i think. 


i know that feeling of being paralysed at the thought of decision making. overthinking. 


sometimes while dd is choosing i show her an option that she hadnt really thought about. we were at a local icecream shop and as usual she was overwhelmed coz they didnt have her then favourite flavor. there was one icecream that didnt look that appetizing and dd didnt even look at it. i just happened to be reading the options and commented on 'folsom prison blueberry' to the clerk on how clever the name was. dd perked up and what the heck. lets try something new. and got that icecream. 


i also show dd my own struggles. sometimes truly what looks like a choice is not really a choice. in my world it looks like paper bag vs plastic bags. 6 of one, half a dozen of the other.  in dd's world the principle might be similar. i specially share the 'wrong' decisions i made. lack of time i wasnt able to research the issue most so i just went for the best option of that time. well it didnt pay off - but its ok. wasnt that big a deal. 


also when we are not actively 'doing' i 'work' through decisions. for her 6th bday she wanted those individual princess cakes. which princess? so we started looking at the faces and started noting how they looked. it surprised dd with how terrible the princesses actually looked. that choice went flying out of the window. 


now at almost 9 dd is getting the hang of it. sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. however i know just like me, its one of those areas where dd will always struggle. i think it just helps her knowing others struggle too. and i am ok with her struggling. 

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#7 of 7 Old 07-24-2011, 09:02 AM
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Hi there, I completely understand your son's problem! I was a gifted child and as an adult I am still like this. The problem is, for gifted children there is so much opportunity in everything, and due to their long attention span and their ability to plan in their own mind, they realise that each option would be successful and challenging. For me now (I am 24), I still have trouble with this, however I have learned to pursue one thing at a time. I often have several things going at once and I too feel a sense of relief when a decision over something minute is taken out of my hands (eg if something is out of stock at the supermarket then my brain can stop planning for that meal or whatever). What I have done is find ways to just focus everything on one thing at a time. As soon as I stop or finish all the choices overwhelm me again. Then I choose another. I learned the hard way that it pays to make a choice and then pursue that one to the best of my ability.  I am unsure as to what to suggest, however I believe it is perfectly normal that he would be acting in such a way, and the simplest thing I can offer is to limit the choices and don't overwhelm him with a lot of good choices.  I believe though, that this is something he will have to work out in his own time.


Anyone reading who is interested in gifted children or gifted education, feel free to join a facebook group I am in called "Gifted Support". Email me at for info. The group is a few mums in a friendly place :) 

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