Giving two choices that result in the same positive outcome is a way to help the parent stay calm, be consistent, and allow for the child to still feel in control because they are making the choice for themselves.
When you practice this, state “It is your choice to ____________ or to ______________. Which one are you going to pick?” Make sure both options will result in the desired and positive outcome. Repeat the choices and phrase again, if needed. If there is still a struggle you can say, “I am going to count to 3 and you can choose to _____________ or to ____________.” You can also state further reminders like, “You can choose or I will help you.” If at 3 the child still hasn’t chosen to follow through with what you’ve stated you can ask them to find some space or let them know what the consequence is, depending on the situation.
It always helps to have both parents onboard using this language because the child will learn what the expectation is. It’s important to use simple phrases and help the child problem solve through the task at hand, preventing it from becoming a repetitive behavior.
You may need to use this technique with different behaviors but the idea is basic:
1.) You are giving them the control to choose for themselves, resulting in a positive outcome.
2.) You are setting the expectation, teaching respect, and avoiding behavior escalation between the child and parent.
3.) You are using a consistent positive discipline approach that will help your child’s development through stages of social and emotional development.
Believe it or not, this is something you can use through all the adolescent years to come by just modifying it to their level!
Positive Language & Discipline
Here at Kid Logic Learning, we strongly believe in the use of positive language and discipline in our classrooms. We want to teach our children positive problem solving by modeling a positive message. This approach of phrasing things positively helps our children to process conflict and struggles in a way that promotes safe learning and identifying what “good” choices look and sound like.
Of course, all of our interactions are intended to be “positive” but many times we do have to work with children as they navigate their way through a seemingly “negative” conflict or struggle. Having this conflict throughout their day is developmentally appropriate and also a great learning opportunity for themselves and peers. The modeling and use of positive language and discipline in these situations helps the child to openly express their frustrations or concerns while still learning safe ways to resolve their conflict and how to proceed safely in the future.
Let’s break it down a little further J We want to give our children positive options to express themselves rather than continuously limiting them. Ultimately, let’s help them figure out what they can do versus what they can’t do. Our positive language is recognizing a behavior or action and verbally acknowledging it in a way that asks for the positive alternative to the situation. Say the action you want to see! And don’t forget, it’s OK to be mad sometimes!! Let children feel the way they feel and help them finds ways to process those feelings!
After modeling and using positive language, sometimes there are situations that require us, as adults and educators, to take a firmer action or response. “Time Out’s ” or “Take a break” are usually the household phrases. Let’s steer away from those a bit, as they focus on the negative behavior rather than emphasizing on the positive outcome that’s trying to be achieved. Here at school, we use the term “Find some space”. This indicates that a child needs to find a space, either of their choosing or one that’s chosen for them, so that they can calm their mind and bodies enough the be able to process and resolve the conflict at hand. Suggest tools that they can employ to achieve self-soothing. I.E. Read a book, get a stuffed animal, lay on a pillow, sing a song to yourself, etc. You can suggest that once they’re ready to be “friendly” or “kind” (or whatever the action is you’re trying to achieve) he/she can join back into the situation/group. A second option is to use a timer (visual timers or sound timers). This can help many children settle themselves down knowing that there’s a limit of time for how long they are taking space away from the situation. Then the timer’s signal is a great re-fresher and starting point to calmly revisit the situation. It’s all about giving them the tools and suggesting ideas that they might not have otherwise thought of.
If a child hits a friend (for any number of reasons), instead of saying “DON’T HIT!” you could acknowledge the result of the hitting (“Ouch! That hurts my friend.” OR “Ouch, that makes my friend sad”). This helps to demonstrate the Cause/Affect for both children. The next step is to offer a safe and friendly alternative to the behavior, “Our hands are for gentle touches” or “We can use our hands for giving a hug!” Coordinate those words with the actions, “This is a gentle touch” and model giving a hug.
A huge goal is to also acknowledge the child’s frustration which led to the behavior in the first place. It’s OK to be mad sometimes! You can share your empathy by saying things like, “I can see that made you mad. Instead of hitting your friend you could say, ‘I want a turn!’.” If the negative behavior escalates after several attempts to demonstrate a safe and positive way to be, suggest “You can find some space until you’re ready to use gentle hands.”
STEP BY STEP SUGGESTIONS:
1. Acknowledge the AFFECT of the behavior
“That hurts my body”
2. Suggest & model a POSITIVE alternative
“We could roll the car instead of throw it”
3. Say the action you want to see. Create opportunities or dialogue that allows the children to SAFELY express their initial feelings or need.
“The floor is for banging.”
4. Give them tool to recognize their own feelings and ways to self-sooth.
“It looks like you’re mad. You could find some space (or read a book, or get a stuffed animal) to help you feel better.”