Not choosing is still a choice

There's a story behind the choice of title for this article. At a Soul Circle, in December, one of the other women expressed her intention for 2023 as being to exert her power to choose rather than just go along with what others suggested or what her partner wants to do. She said she wanted to work on having a choice. 


The next day I was watching 'Emily goes to Paris' and in the story, she can't choose between working with her old boss and working with the breakaway group with whom she had a great creative bond. So she juggled her day between the two of them so that each believed she was working with them. 

Eventually, her friend said "You know Emily, not choosing is still a choice". 

This got me thinking, because of how often I have found child and teen clients find it hard to choose - especially when working with compelling outcomes - which is all about focusing on what they really want as opposed to focusing on what they don't want. I take this to be another form of not choosing. Choosing is about making a positive choice, choosing what we want more of. 

They find it hard because they fear failure quite often. If they don't choose then, if it doesn't work out, they haven't failed. Instead, they say they 'don't know' or they 'don't mind' or go along with what parents or teachers suggest. This is a safe option because they haven't committed to anything. They haven't chosen this path or course of action so they are not invested in it. If it doesn't work out, it doesn't matter because they didn't want it anyway and if it does then that's fine but not that important. 

Not only is there no failure involved, but they haven't drawn attention to themselves and can continue to blend in and not stand out as being different. They also can stay friends with everyone because they haven't done anything to annoy or anything that other kids can be cross about - so if their group wants to play a particular game in the playground, even if they want to play a different one, rather than express a choice they will say they 'don't mind'. 

I work with teens who get caught up in drinking and drugs, casual sex, and restricted eating because their friends do. There's a lot of body shaming and social media pressure, of course. A client recently told me that not choosing was easier than saying 'no, not right now', or 'no, I'm not in the mood' so they just go along with whatever their friends are doing rather than be judged and draw attention to themselves. 

As parents, we also find ourselves not choosing sometimes. We maybe don't choose consciously what we focus on, what we choose to put a value on. We may automatically expect our kids to do their homework after school but what if they might find it easier to do it first thing in the morning when they are less tired or at the weekend? We may tell them off every time they are a bit cheeky or don't do as we ask rather than choosing which misdemeanours warrant attention. 

A big part of therapy is to encourage children and teens to realise that they do have a choice. This is about autonomy. They have so little power in their world. So much is decided by others. Parents often give children choices about small things like what they want to eat, but what if you were to give them choices about whether to believe what they're told, whether to go along with their friends' ideas, and so on? 

Think about how you can integrate this in your parenting. Ask "and what do you think?" or "what do you want to do?" "Do you think this is true?" and get them to exercise their autonomy and make conscious considered choices. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
Slough SL1 & Hove BN3
Written by Judy Bartkowiak, Energy Healer - low self esteem, anger, anxiety in families.
Slough SL1 & Hove BN3

Judy Bartkowiak is an NLP & EFT Trainer and Therapist working with children, teens and young people on whatever they are struggling with.

Contact Judy for training as an NLP & EFT Kids Practitioner.

Books / Podcast /You-Tube channel

Free resources for parents on website.

Show comments

Find a coach dealing with Parenting

All coaches are verified professionals

All coaches are verified professionals