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An Example of Pseudochoices

Alfie Kohen says "pseudochoices" are not real choices. Here is his article.


This is based on a true story which I saw in Australia in about 2003. Suzy was 5 years old at the time. S. Hein

Suzy: I am not going to bed. You can't make me. I will go to bed when I feel like it. 

She was smiling at first. But then the mother ordered her to go back to her room and go to bed. She screamed, "NO!" in protest.

Mother: 'You have a choice. You can either sleep on your bed or on the floor."

Suzy: "I want to sleep in your bed." 

Mother: "That is not an option."



Immediately, I wondered why the mother was the one who decided what the options were. I thought about this more the next morning and wrote a fictional continuation of their conversation, based on what an informed, aware, determined child might say in response. I wanted to dramatize how a child or teenager might start to feel after years of not having real choices.


Then I hear Suzy say: 

I am so sick of "You have a choice." No, I don't. Don't lie to me. If I had a choice I would do what *I* want to do, not one of the things that you want me to.

Why can't you just tell me why you want me to go to bed? Why do you make it seem like it is always good for me and it is always my choice? You want to talk on the Internet to that guy again, don't you? That is why you want me to go to bed. You just want me out of your hair. I am not that stupid.

You say, "You will be tired and cranky tomorrow." So in other words you don't want to be bothered by me tomorrow. You are thinking of how it will affect you, aren't you?

You don't really care about me. All you care about is yourself. You call me
selfish when actually you are the one who is always thinking about what you want and what you need and what you are afraid of. I am sick and sooo tired of it. 

When I turn 6, I am moving out. (Suzy mistakenly thinks the laws in her country let her move out at 6, but it is really 16)

When you say I am "cranky" it just means that I don't obey you obsequiously; I don't do every little thing you tell me to. I protest. I "answer back." I speak up for myself, in other words. I question things. I let you know in the only way I can how I feel. And by the way, you never ask me to do things. You always tell me to. Even when you "ask" me to, I know that you are really ordering me to. Once again, I am not that stupid.

Leave me alone! I am sick and tired of you. Go away or help me leave. I never, ever want to see you again. I have figured you out. You are really pathetic. You are 28 and haven't figured out how to meet your own
emotional needs, so you try to meet them through me. 

Well I am not going to let you use me anymore. 

The only way you can make me do something is if you physically force me, but if you ever touch me again I will call the police.

I will make my own decisions from now on.

If you really love me, you will help me get away from you. If you don't help me leave I will stay here as a prisoner till I can legally get away from you. If you change, maybe I will come back. But help me get away from you and live someplace where I feel safe and can make real choices until you change.

If you are not willing to change for me, then I will know that I am not that important to you. I can accept that. But I can't accept this kind of abuse anymore.


I wrote this story to show how some strong willed children become rebellious and defiant. And how they learn to express their strong feelings when no one has listened to them for years and years. When the child is five, they can't express themselves this way of course. And they can't articulate what they see and perceive. They can't see that their parents are using them to fill the parent's unmet emotional needs, or sometimes unmet sexual needs. They don't understand what is going on. But if they did, this is how they might sound.

In the real story, the mother, who was a single parent, actually did a relatively good job of talking with Suzy later and getting her voluntary cooperation. But some mothers would have hit their child. While I wrote this I was thinking of a teen I know whose mother has hit her all her life and who tried to kill herself - (Steph)

Here is the original full version of the Suzy story (warning contains a lot of profanity)

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