For as long as I can remember, we have always given J choices. “Would you like to wear this shirt or the other one?” “Peas or carrots?” It was never a question of do you want to wear a shirt or eat your vegetables. I taught other people to give him “two acceptable choices.” It is okay to say, “Would you rather sit at the table in class or sit in time out?” I don’t care if he picks time out if it is something you offered him.
We were doing “Love and Logic” before there was such a thing. We allow him to make as many choices as possible now so that when there isn’t a choice, the struggle is less. (well that’s the way it is suppose to work.) I learned early, before he was even two, that the battles weren’t worth fighting over the color of clothes or what we ate as long as we were dressed and fed.
Now we use questions to help him make behavior choices. In the car on the way to school, “What kind of day are you going to have?” (Great) “What does a great day look like?”
When he is escalating, “Are you planning to have electronics later on or would you rather do chores?”
When he is thinking about being destructive, “Do you have the money to replace that?”
I have been trying to coach the specialists at his school to do the same. Mrs. S and I have been modeling it for them. “J, is this the kind of behavior that gets you electronics after school?” “What do you need to do to earn your privileges?” “If you decide to leave school and be untrustworthy, will mom be able to take you on trips over school break?” The last one is a trigger right now. On the first day of school it was announced that the 6th graders were invited to go to Disneyland over Fall break as a school sponsored trip. For several reasons, J can not go. He is really upset about this. So I made a deal with him. If he can behave and keep getting his work done, then I will take him and his brother on a great trip over Spring Break. Besides perseverating on the trip he can’t go on, he has also been detailing a plan to leave school on days he really doesn’t want to be there.
In these moments, it is important to pose questions to him that break the loop in his brain. He has to think about the end results of his actions. The last question is the last resort because it is a long term goal. The other questions are short term goals. Last year though, he had a rough month and he would say things like, “no I don’t want electronics today! I’d rather keep doing (insert bad behavior.)” At that point the questions stop (sort of) and the consequences begin. I say sort of because the questions change, “Would you rather use a pooper scooper or a baggie to clean the yard?” The yard will get cleaned, no question about it.