As a grandparent, educator and longtime fan of Dr. Seuss, I was thrilled this week to get my copy of What Pet Should I Get? It’s the first new Seuss story since the beloved author passed away in 1991. And it focuses on a common trouble spot for kids who learn and think differently: struggling to make a decision.
The story starts outside a pet store with two kids wondering, “What pet should I get?” Kay and her brother have so many pets to choose from, but they must choose just one and do it before noon. A tall order!
“The cat? Or the dog? The kitten? The pup? Oh, boy! It is something to make a mind up,” Kay and her brother fret.
Along with the usual household pets (including fish and birds), the children ponder tall pets that can fit in small places, things that fly on strings and a “Yent” that would need a tent. The fun task gets stressful fast.
“Pick a pet fast! Pick one out soon! Mother and Dad said to be home by noon!” Four words feature prominently in the book: “MAKE UP YOUR MIND.”
It can be hard for all kids to make a decision when there are lots of choices. But this is especially true for kids with ADHD. It can be challenging to organize and weigh all the options.
The book manages to capture—in a lighthearted way—the pressure that can come with facing too many choices. The book also gives parents a terrific opportunity to talk about making a decision and show kids how to think it through.
I’ve worked with kids who learn and think differently for several decades. And as an educator, I know that making decisions can be modeled and taught to kids. It’s one of the best ways for them to learn to make good choices.
So as my grandkids and I read What Pet Should I Get?, I helped them explore the pros and cons of the choices that Kay and her brother were considering.
“Do you think a pet that needs a tent would be good choice?” I asked. “What about an animal that can fly around the house?”
Asking questions like these is an active way to prepare kids for the choices they will have to make in real life.
Sometimes, there are just too many choices for kids and they get sidetracked. That’s why it can be helpful to limit the menu of options, especially for younger kids.
For example, you might say, “Which of these two shirts do you want to wear to school tomorrow?” Or “Which movie do you want to see? I think you’ll like any of these three.”
It may seem like a small thing, but letting kids make more of these kinds of daily decisions can help build their independence. It can also help them think more about consequences. “You said you wanted a turkey sandwich, so that’s what we’re having for lunch.”
Giving kids more control can be frustrating—and maybe even a little scary—for parents, especially when we’re in the habit of looking for hurdles to remove so we can help our kids succeed. But kids will have to learn how to make decisions eventually. Offering guided choices is a great way to help get them started.
Maybe Dr. Seuss had this in mind back when he was writing What Pet Should I Get? By the end of the book, Kay and her brother narrow their options to just four choices—a cat, a dog, a fish or a rabbit.
But the book doesn’t make clear which pet they picked. Readers are left guessing which pet is being toted home in a basket.
My youngest grandson liked the ending. He called it a “cliffhanger.” And I enjoyed watching my grandkids talk about which pet they think Kay and her brother picked—and why.
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About the author
Rayma Griffin, MA, MEd has spent 40 years working with children with learning and thinking differences in the classroom and as an administrator.