I was going through my old counseling handouts I used to give to parents, and came across a few really good ones. I always kept them to one page for easier reading, because as we know, parents don't have much time to read and too much information overwhelms us. So I thought I would post a few of them on my few next blog posts.
Today's is on Giving Choices. It's mostly like the blog posts I've talked about here and here but this is an awesome cheat sheet (adapted from Gary Landreth, at CPT).
"Her entire life you've been telling her what to do. When will she ever learn what it feels like to make a choice? When will she ever learn what responsibility feels like if you keep telling her just exactly what to do?"
-When setting limits, give a child a choice which includes a consequence. You MUST use the word 'choose' in your choice or it will not work. It makes it clear where responsibility is being placed. And do not give threats "if you don't do this, then you.." as it does not teach self-control.
Rule of Thumb: You give big choices to big kids. You give little choices to little kids. You don't give big choices to little children.
Example #1: A 3-year-old wants to eat a huge pile of Oreo cookies.
"You may choose to keep one cookie to eat and put the rest back, or you may choose to put all the cookies back. Which do you choose to do?"
What if she insisted on two cookies? You fall back on the choice:
"I'm sorry, I know you'd like to have two cookies to eat, but that's not a part of the choice. The choices are: You may choose to keep one cookie to eat and put the rest back, or you may choose to put all the cookies back. Which do you choose?"
When parents always take control & stop children's behavior, children learn to depend on parents to control them- rather than learning to control themselves.
Example #2: School aged kids fighting in the back seat of the car
"When you choose to fight in the back seat of the car, you choose to give up TV for the day. When you choose not to fight in the back seat of the car, you chose to get to watch TV that day."
If the behavior continues after the choices have been given (girls continue to fight), you're immediate response will be:
"I see you've chosen to give up TV for the rest of the day." (There are NO MORE Chances)
What if the children are good all the rest of the way home in the car? When you arrive home, the children ask if they can now watch TV because they were good the rest of the way home. You MUST stick with the choice the child made. NO negotiation. This won't work if you back down. So you respond:
"I know you'd like to watch your favorite TV show, but Sarah, the very moment you chose to fight in the back seat of the car, at that very moment you chose to give up TV for today."
You have taught your child self-responsibility by giving them a choice- they chose to give up TV rather than the parent taking it away. Once they learn to control themselves, then the child will begin to correct their own behavior.
-Remember to adapt the choice to the child's age. A 9 year old's consequence may be no TV all day, compared to a 3 year old's consequence of no TV that morning. For children under 7, never use consequences that are too far out such as tomorrow, this weekend or when you get home from school this afternoon.
-The hardest part is sticking to it! You must be consistent and follow-thru. We are teaching children a lifelong lesson: The VERY moment you make a decision, you are COMMITTED. At the very moment a 15 year old swallows a pill that could alter him forever - at that very moment he is committed- no matter how much you want to take it back, you can't.
-Five years from now, which will matter: missing out on a pile of Oreos or learning to live with the consequence of a choice?