Are today's youth going crackers? Too many choices may be why!


       " Which One... ? ? ? ?  "
" Which One... ? ? ? ? "

Is America's Youth Just to Over Whelmed?

I recently found myself in the grocery store looking for my son whom I had sent in 15 minutes earlier to buy a box of saltine crackers. I could not imagine what would be taking him so long. I located the store directory to find what aisle crackers would be on, after locating where I needed to go I headed for that aisle. When I turned down the aisle, there was my son holding 3 different boxes of crackers and reading the labels. I immediately became sympathetic, replacing the irritation I had been feeling. Here was my son with a very confused look as he was pouring over the labels of cracker boxes. I stared at his bewildered expression and thought to myself, "How can a boy who has such incredible intelligence in the field of engineering and science look so confused over a box of crackers?"

I interrupted his deep concentration when I said, " Brad, what are you doing? ". He turned to me and frustration was all I could read in his face, He replied, " Mom, I am sorry I tried to hurry but there are so many, I didn't know after looking at them which ones you wanted, there are no salt, low sodium, crackers made from wheat, cheese crackers, saltine, low fat and I don't know how many more, I was trying to decide which ones you would get if you were here instead of me." All I could do was laugh, which was the wrong thing to do for my son must have found this insulting, he returned the cracker boxes to the shelf and informed me that he would wait for me in the car.

As I scanned the rows of crackers looking for the plain saltine crackers, I realized my reaction was in fact insulting. I am a well rounded person and now here I was faced with the dilemma my teenage son was just faced with moments earlier. Which one to purchase, there were certainly many to chose from. That is when it hit me, why in the world would American's need 10 different types of plain saltine crackers? What is the purpose of providing such a wide variety of a common plain food staple? It got me to thinking about other items in the store that went beyond what a person really needed that many choices in.

Out of curiosity I headed to the next aisle that held the most absurd amount of choices in my opinion, the cereal aisle. I stood at the end of the aisle and scanned the two shelves that lay before my eyes. The aisle had 2 other shoppers with carts, one shopper appeared to have 3 children ranging in ages with her and the other a single child about 6 I would say. Both mothers were rather frazzled and I overheard the one mother say, " Ok guys, we have been here for 25 minutes, why can't you three come to a decision that you all can accept on what box of cereal we are going to buy? " I wanted to yell the answer back to her, " Can't you see there are probably 300 varieties on these shelves, you are asking three children to make a choice that all three agree on, are you kidding? " Instead I kept quiet, who am I to be sarcastic, I too have been in her position. As I passed the other shopper I heard her say, " Ok Jill, it's time you made your choice, which box are we going to get? " Wow. How often does this happen. Has there ever been a child or group of children who have gone to the cereal aisle and just picked out a box and that was it? Curiosity got the best of me, I just had to know, so I asked the mother " How long have you and your daughter been trying to select a box of cereal if you don't mind me asking?" She looked at me like I was crazy and responded " about 1/2 hour, and now we are running late." I thanked her and went to the register to purchase my plain everyday saltine crackers.

When I got home that night I started thinking of the many trips to the grocery store my three children and me had made. I can honestly say that the cereal aisle was my most dreaded aisle to head down. It was always a fight and took forever to decide. It then occurred to me, my children have allot of options and to many choices they are asked to make, yet they all show trouble in making a decision, they tend to want others to decide for them. I wondered if there were too many options and that is why they can't find direction. They are simply overwhelmed.

On our next trip to the grocery store I took all three to the cereal aisle and I told them, ok we are not spending all day here, so you each can get one box of cereal, but you can only choose from one row, the oldest gets to chose only from the top row, the middle child, the middle row, the youngest, the bottom row. You are also only allowed 5 minutes to make your choice. They started to protest and I let them know they were wasting time. At the end of the 5 minute mark they each had one box of cereal in their hands. I was proud of the hassle free way we were able to do that. So I started limiting the choices of the decisions that they were asked to make. With food it was easy, I just gave them a small section of the chip aisle, like only actual potato chips that eliminated half the aisle. But in other areas of their lives I had a bit more trouble, but with a little creativity I was able to also limit choices. When my daughter was getting ready for her senior prom, I took her to purchase the prom dress, I gave her the limitations that she had to stay within, Cost under $200.00, Must be at least 1" past knees, must have a tactful look and not be slinky, only 2 hours to look for it and no more than 3 stores to look in. She was astounded that I would be so cruel as to put time lines and rules on her prom dress. I just informed her that if I was to pay for it, then I could place the rules on obtaining it. It only took two stores and less than an hour for her to find the perfect dress. We had avoided the "trying on every dress that caught her eye" because she was on a time frame she was easily able to decide which dresses were worth her time to try on and which ones she just sort of wanted to try on. She was also able to eliminate a wide selection due to price restrictions and style restrictions. So in just about an hour she had the prom dress of her dreams and we weren't stuck with her debating over several dresses and me arguing the cost of one over the other. It was a win win situation.

My children are all on their own now, my 23 year old daughter just recently commented the other day on the fact that she remembers me limiting her choices and how much easier things seemed than what her friends and their parents went through. She stated that being a manager at the company she works for, she finds many of her employees cannot make a choice when given more than a few options. So she has decided to only give them the options that apply to a particular situation therefore not overwhelming them with all options that might apply to each different situation. Yet she can make quick decisions and choices no matter the amount of options in record time, she attributes it to my teaching her how to eliminate those that don't really apply and then choosing from the more prominent ones, rather than looking at each as if they held the same quality as the rest.

So my point is, do our youth have too many options, that they have simply shut down and decided to make no decisions rather than be overwhelmed? Could it be best if we limit those options and teach them how to priority select instead of impulse select? Would that make a difference in their anxiety and stress levels? I don't know the answers to the above questions. I can just say that limiting my children's choices they are now adults who can function under pressure and make responsible decisions despite the number of choices they have to error from.

When someone asks any of us where we want to go for dinner, they immediately get an answer from each of us, we all pipe in with a restaurant name and then laugh and decide those are the choices from which we must choose. You never hear us say, " I don't know, where do you want to go?" Just think about how many times you have heard your children or you yourself have said those words and how many times you became frustrated because no one gave you an answer.

I hope if nothing less, I gave all who take the time to read this, some food for thought. I would love your feedback so don't be shy, leave a comment or two.


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