We all know that one of the best tactics to keep a kid happy and on the right track with priorities in place is to offer them a choice as opposed to asking, "what do you want?" or instead of just giving them something and hearing a huge tantrum when they...didn't want to eat that for breakfast, for instance. This way, they made the choice. So they can't complain. Right? Wrong. But that's not even what this post is about.
Giving a choice between two things is fine, the problem comes when the kids don't accept those choices and ask for something else. Seems innocent enough. Oh, you don't want a fruit bar or cereal...you'd rather a bagel? Okay. But don't let them fool you. This is a trap. After three or four days of this, they start listing ludicrous alter choices, like ice cream and chocolate, and freaking out when you don't give it to them. And if you try to direct them back to their two choices, they're like, "bullshit! (not a direct quote), just yesterday, those two choices meant squat. They're supposed to have meaning now?"
So then you (and by you, I mean I) open up the playing space a bit, give them more than two choices, in an attempt to get them back to your system. Another trap. You'll soon find yourself listing off 20 different kinds of cereal, not once or twice, but dozens of times. Then the kids will ask you to choose for them. Then they'll cray when you choose wrong. (TRAPS EVERYWHERE. Also, my kids are apparently spoiled to hell.)
At this point, or at any of the points before this one, once the choice train gets derailed...take away the choices. No more choices. Not one. Not you can have this or that. No bargaining. In fact, no talking at all. For the past three days, I have given my kids breakfast. Without their input. And the worst consequence has been that they'll mildly ask, why this breakfast? So. Much. Better. than hearing them hem and haw and fight and squabble over whether or not they're having oatmeal or cheerios, seriously. Best thing I ever did. Do I feel bad that I'm not letting them choose? A little. But they don't need that choice. I had ruined the system and we needed to start fresh.