How to respond when someone poses a third-choice escape from a two-choice option

How to respond when someone poses a third-choice escape from a two-choice option

Renee EllisonDec 14, '22

Psychologists talk about how all humans are involved in endless two-choice dilemmas.  Life is full of either/or decisions, and all normal, maturing adults (and children in godly homes who are being shaped for adulthood) work through picking one or the other, all through life, as they go--with big decisions and little.  Each of us makes  hundreds of choices every day.  Now here is the profound thing: as we choose, we actualize who we are.  That is where we must be involved, as homeschool parents, because the patterns are being formed in childhood.  The choices are the warp and woof of how the fabric of  life is set up, and we live within it.  It cannot ultimately be escaped; it can only temporarily be escaped.

Thus, when one encounters a person (often, a member of one's immediate family) who refuses to decide a two-choice dilemma concerning himself/herself, regarding a given matter, but instead chooses a third way (one that is not a valid option), one is then dealing with a person who is involved in an escape of some sort.  This escapism can manifest as an addiction, rebellion, or a behavioral defect of some sort.   Any opting out of reality (kicking the can down the road, ignoring it, constantly switching horses, running, serial relationships, drinking, drugs, misdemeanors, crimes, etc.) is an untenable attempt to solve life's problems by avoiding the two-choice dilemma.

Given such facts about how life works, one should be aware if one is involved in dealing with a person with  a dysfunctional response pattern.  Seeing this, one can respond rationally, saying things like: "You may either do this or you may do that."

The disoriented person is only entertaining third options.  He or she wants "all/and" choices, which don't really exist.  Therefore, he cannot resolve his issues or himself.  In that case, coasting may look like a good option, and/or appearing to obey while not really obeying the household rules and the family values.  For such a one, irresponsibility starts looking better and better.  What they are really deciding is to ditch any relational responsibilities, ignore the family legacy, disdain the upholding of family honor, disregard any implications of making poor choices--just  ditching.   It takes root when the troubled individual digs in his heels and avoids two-choice dilemmas like the plague.

What can you a homeschooling parent do if you have a child who seems to be veering in this direction?  There are various responses we can make that can have great effects in shaping the child's behavior for life.  One is to recognize the two-choice dilemma, to require the child to choose one of the two allowed options.  You do not allow third-choice escapes, creative third choices that you both agree upon are fine, and to make sure that the child fully experiences the fall-out of his/her choice.


For more about child training, see our book or e-Book, Beyond Discipline: Train your child’s character.

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