Lesson 71: Giving Choices Instead of Commanding Your Kids

Sometimes, does your child disobey your demand to perform well? Sometime, does your child resist your advice to behave well? What should we do when our children make a mistake or show inappropriate behavior?

The great aim of education is not knowledge but action (Herbert Spencer)

Disobedient kids are not bad but they are just kids who do not now how to display good behaviors. Our responsibility is to teach them what are the right behavior.

For instances, there was a mischievous 7 years old kid, Venn, who always disturbed his classmates, disobeyed the coach, and did not afraid of any scolding. He was crawling under the desks, playing with his friends' feet when I was observing the class. The classmates were very annoyed, complained, and were not able to listen to the lesson.

"Coach, he touched my feet!"

"Coach, he disturbed me!"


The coach raised his voice amidst the noises, "Venn, come out! How could you disturb your friends?" 

However, Venn became worse, brushed through and hit his classmates' feet under the desks. All of them shouted loudly, "Venn! Stop it!" The coach was more vicious in his tone, "Venn, DON'T do that! COME OUT!" But it fell on the deaf ears. 

That was too much! Was this your playground? I wished to grab and throw him out of the classroom.

But it was not what we should do. Even if we throw the kid out, he might just shred off the dust on his butt, thinking that 'this is fun!', and repeat his actions.

So, what should we do?

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazline, the authors of 'How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, How to Listen so Kids will Talk' suggested that, sometimes giving choices to the kids is a way to replace punishment.

Thus, I caught him, remained serious but spoke softly, "Venn, I know you would like to play but it is time for class now. Two choices, one, sit down and listen; two, I allow you to play for one more minute, then you may sit down to listen."

Venn remained silent for a while, and said, "Play for one more minute."

Hence, I let go my hands, said, "Count down one minute. After one minute, Venn is going to stop." 

After one minute, I reminded him, "One minute is up."

He ran for a while before he sat down on the floor. He got color pencils from somewhere, started to throw them into the air and created his own game. The coach starred at Venn as if he was going to scold Venn while he was teaching.

Before the coach started his scolding, I quickly approached Venn, showed more seriousness, "Venn, you chose to play for one minute before you sit down and listen to the class. But you didn't keep your promise. Now, you will either stop now, or sit with the other parents outside the classroom."

He did not reply but continue playing his own color pencils game. Since he showed his answer through his actions, I had no other choices but to grab his hand and said, "Since you chose to continue throwing the color pencils, it means that you would like to sit with the other parents outside the classroom." I grabbed him so that he could stand up.

He was very reluctant and shouted loudly, "NO!" That was a real headache. Choices were given but he wanted more.

Some children were a little bit cheeky whereby they would try to challenge you to test how much they could go beyond your limit. When you encounter these children, you must teach him the right way to behave, never ever let him be.

Thus, I said to Venn, "This is your own choice because you did not keep your promise. So, now you have two choices, one, sit down and listen to the lesson; two, stand here and listen. You choose."

Again he showed great reluctance, thought for a moment and said, "Sit down." Then, he sat immediately, following the lesson  until the end without saying a word. 

If you change the method, it will work out in a completely different way. (Joshua J)

We tend to scold, punish and even embarrass the kids by saying something bad when they are not behaving well or when they disobey us. There will be many kids who turn out to be like Venn, playful, mischievous,  trying to smart off adults to avoid their own responsibilities. 

Why the children do not understand and do not learn even if we try to  restrain their inappropriate behavior? 

No one would like to be controlled even if they were just children. They have lots of unwillingness when we force them to do something. 

However, if you change the method by giving them choices, they would think that they make the choice with their own will without being forced by anyone. The children are more likely to listen in this circumstance.

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