Thoughts About Love & Logic: The Choices Technique
The beauty of offering a child a choice is that the child exercises control of his or her behavior with the parent’s blessing. The parent must be able to live with either choice the child makes. The first formula is a straightforward choice between two options. In the second formula, a positive consequence is proposed to the child if she makes one choice, and a negative consequence is proposed if she makes the other choice. In this way the child chooses the positive or negative consequence freely, freeing the parent from the blame for inflicting a punishment on the child.
Although the Love and Logic course presents several ways to phrase the choice, some of those ways actually sound like threats. The one that I think is by far the best is really not emphasized, but I find that has a power that the other formulations do not. Thus, I believe it is important that the parent start both options with “Would you rather…..” In this way the two options are clearly presented to the child as her choice. (The child essentially answers the question that is posed by saying, “I would rather do A instead of B.”) It is also important that both options be something the parent can live with, and can actually enforce without the child’s cooperation.
1st Formula: “Would you rather A OR would you rather B ?”
This is the straightforward choice between two options that are both acceptable to the parent.
2nd Formula: “Would you rather A + B, OR would you rather C + D?”
Where A+B = What the parent wants + what the child wants, and C+D = What the parent doesn’t want + what the child doesn’t want.
This formula sets up a choice like this: Would you rather choose A + B, OR would you rather choose C + D? The child is free to choose either option. The first option, A + B, is what the parent wants and what the child wants (a positive consequence for choosing what the prefers the child to choose). The second choice, C + D, is what the parent does not prefer and what the child does not prefer either (a negative consequence, in a sense a punishment).
DAD:Honey, your toys are all over the place, and I’m afraid people will trip on them or step on them and break them. Would you rather put them away and be able to play with them again next time, OR would you rather have me pick them up and put them where they’re out of the way for a couple of days?
MOM:Would you rather do your homework now and then be able to go out and play, OR would you rather do your homework later and stay inside tomorrow?
DAD:Jim, would you rather agree to get home by the 11 o’clock curfew and be able to use the car again next time, OR would you rather just not make any agreement at all about the time you will be home and forfeit the use of the car for a week?
Notice how each option, each “would you rather,” contains a consequence. The one the parent would prefer contains a positive consequence. The one the parent does not want (but fears the child might choose) has the negative consequence. The parent can live with the negative choice.
A father in one of my classes started using this technique with a very defiant 12-year-old boy. The child responded, “Dad, now you’re making me think. I liked it better when you just told me what to do, and I could just say “No.” This is a good statement from a child about the power of this technique.
3 Steps to Parent-Child Harmony is my ebook that describes in detail the differences between the Old School Parenting model (based on power, control, and punishments) and the New School Parenting model (based on dialogue, agreements, and accountability). The ideas contained here can transform a stressed parent-child relationship from conflict and arguments to one of cooperation and harmony. Please see these links if you are interested in more information or wish to purchase.