Friday, July 4, 2014

Independence Day: The Power of Free Will

I was working with a child recently as we were preparing to go outside to play.  He was resistant to putting on sunscreen. I had already set an assertive limit that all children must wear sunscreen for their safety.  So, I knew right away that I needed to exercise the Power of Free Will.  The Power of Free Will helps me deliver two positive choices, connect with his need for control and reach our goal of getting outside to play safely!
I took a deep breath and said, "You can help me put lotion on your right arm or your left arm.  Where shall we start?"  He paused and looked and me sort of stunned and then said "right!"   Then he proceeded to put out his hand for sunscreen so we could get started.   
This Independence Day lets focus on the Power of Free Will.  The Power of Free Will is one of the Seven Skills for Conscious Adults from Dr. Becky Bailey.  This power reminds us that the only person we can make change is ourselves. 
Many of us have the belief that if we come up with just the right reward or punishment we can get children to do what we want.  This belief often leads to power struggles and frustration.  It is true that we may be able to use manipulation and coercion to make children behave, but they are doing it out of fear, not by choice.  This type of behavior is driven by external forces.  What happens then when you aren't around to make them behave (or heaven forbid there is a substitute teacher)?  Isn't it our goal to help children develop the internal desire to make helpful choices and reach their goals? 
Dr. Bailey teaches us five steps to help us get started empowering children with the skills needed for cooperation, impulse control, and attention.     
Delivering two positive choices:
1. Breathe deeply.  Think about what you want the child to do.
2. Tell the younger child, "You have a choice!" 
    Tell the older child, "Seems to me you have a couple options."
3. State the two choices.  "You may _____ or _____.  What is your choice?"
4. Ask for the child's commitment.
5. Notice the child's choice.  "You chose _____!"
Let's try an example using the picture below.  This was taken in my preschool classroom.  Children love learning about the science behind popcorn!  As you can imagine it could be dangerous unless we set some clear limits for safety.  I put a large quilt on the floor and place carpet circles around the edges for each child to sit on.  If there were any issues with children staying within these limits I could use Two Positive Choices to help them.  It would go something like this...

If the child gets off their circle rug I would do the following:

1. Take a deep breath and remember that I want them to sit on their carpet circle.
2. Say, "You have a choice!"
3. "You may sit on your circle on your knees or on your bottom with your legs folded."
4. "How will you sit?"
5. "You chose to sit on your knees so you would be safe.  That was helpful!"

If the child is touching things I would do the following:

1. Take a deep breath and remember that I want them to keep their hands in their space on the rug.
2. Say, "You have a choice!"
3. "You may put your hands on your knees or fold them just like this."
4. "What do you choose to do with your hands?"
5. "You chose to fold your hands so you would be safe.  That was helpful!"
Whether you are cleaning up, getting coats on, or listening to a story giving two positive choices  helps you connect with children.  They also feel empowered to make decisions, follow the rules, and be safe at school--by choice!
It's difficult when you are faced with a resistant child.  Some days you just wish they would comply and do as you say.  Wouldn't it be nice if there were an easy button?!?  Adults hope to raise children who are cooperative, willing, and respectful.  We  have to accept that  it is not force that creates a respectful child, it is connection!   
If you have an especially resistant child that needs special help follow this link over to my blog and learn more about using choices with more resistant children. 

For more about the Seven Powers for Conscious Adults see my blog post Becoming Your Best Self:  Super Powers.  There is even a free printable poster for you to use as a reminder. 
I wish you well!
Jenny Spencer
Conscious Discipline Certified Instructor--Indiana
Ignite Learning with Conscious Discipline LLC

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