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.
Thoughts About Love & Logic:
Limitations of the Choices Technique
In another article I described what I like about Love and Logic’s technique for offering a child choices that allow the parent to essentially give a command and/or pose the threat of a punishment in such a way that the child actually is responsible for making the choice, rather than the parent being responsible for imposing a command and a threat of punishment.
I like this technique a lot, and many parents in my classes have found it to be very useful, especially with younger children. It does provide children with a certain amount of “say” in the little everyday things that affect their lives (such as whether to eat what served or go to bed without eating till breakfast). Here I will describe the limitations of this technique. (See “Thoughts About Love & Logic: The Choices Technique” for a description of this technique.)
The First Limitation
First, the technique is, in a sense, a sleight-of-hand maneuver. It provides the parent with a tool for limiting the child’s behavioral options to those that are acceptable to the parent–including the use of punishment if the child makes a choice that is disagreeable to the parent (say, NOT picking up his toys, and then suffering the negative consequence of that choice). This is a not bad thing. It is an Old School power-and-control technique to get a child to do what the parent wants, and it can be effective and relatively painless for both parent and child.
However, if the child is able to see that in fact he has other choices available than what the parent offers, the technique can just as easily lead to a power struggle. Continue reading