On Sunday a friend of mine introduced me to a video by expert play therapist Dr. Gary Landreth. In this video he was talking about giving children choices and allowing them to own their consequences. He discussed the importance of phrasing things to your children in a way that the feel they have choices, rather than mom or dad is the punitive enforcer and I have no freedom.
It’s Your Choice
Three very powerful words. I’ve been trying them out the last two days, and the difference is amazing!
When it started to get rowdy during breakfast instead of “Eat politely or you will be excused” I said “If you choose to eat politely you choose to stay at the table. If you choose to be loud or rude then you choose to leave the table. It’s your choice.”
When siblings were arguing “If you choose to speak unkindly then you are choosing to be alone in your room”
While grocery shopping “If you choose to walk and keep your hands to yourself then you are choosing to have a treat at the checkout” then “Looks like Maddy is choosing to get a treat, good choice! Leah it looks like you might be choosing not to get one, is that the choice you want to make?”
While picking up cat food at Petsmart “If you choose to stay with me then we can choose to go look at the animals”
When the almost 3-year-old wanted to play instead of cleaning up instead of simply taking his toys and sending him to his room I said “If you choose to play instead of clean then you are choosing to put your toy in the trash” He looked up at me grinned his impish grin and said “I will throw it away.” He then marched to the trash can, threw his toy away then marched back with a huge smile and started helping clean. Not quite sure he understood his choices there, but he owned them happily and I hated that toy anyway!
Giving Kids Control Brings Peace
It may seem a bit counterintuitive. If we let our kids have more control won’t they run wild? Won’t we be facing the possibility of outright anarchy? Well I can tell you after doing this for only two days I’ve seen huge differences. I am calmer and kinder in the way I speak. Because I am presenting them with a choice without any negative emotions they are able to more rationally think through the scenario. Because they feel in control of their choice they are much more willing to own the consequence of that choice without fighting, crying, or pouting. Overall our home has dramatically increased in peace and kindness over the last two days and I can’t wait to see the long-term effects of my new power words.
It’s your choice.