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Positive Guidance: Giving Choices

Positive guidance is a great way to discipline a child.  It allows children to grow and learn in a way which is actually effective.  Punishment may seem like it works, but eventually resentment, anger and sadness will bottle up in the child.


One of my favourite methods of positive guidance is offering choices.  I hate to brag, but I can almost get any child to follow my instructions, and whenever I encounter a child who does not want follow the rules, I would give them a choice.


One time, I was having circle time with a class of 3 year olds.  All the children were sitting on rubber dots on the floor, except for one child. He did not want to.  He was rolling around, going on his stomach and making noises. Now all I really need him to do is to sit in circle, and listen with the rest of the class.  So I gave him a choice. “Would you like to sit on the rubber dot in a circle, or a chair at the circle? You can choose” I told him. And sometimes he would sit on the chair.  “Good choice, thank you for choosing so quickly” I tell him. Is he in trouble? No. He is sitting quietly, in the circle, with his peers. Once in a while, I may encounter a more difficult child who refuses to choose and doesn’t want to sit at all.  Well since standing is not an option, I would repeat myself once more. If the child doesn’t choose, I would give another choice of option. “Do you want to choose, or do you want Ms Selina to choose?” If that don’t work, I would tell the child that I will be choosing and after I choose the chair or dot, I will ask whether the child wants to go by themselves, or would they want me to put them there.  Believe it or not, more than once a child would like me to carry them to the spot! In the end of the day, the child may just want some attention from their teacher.


Sometimes one choice is not enough, there might need to be a series of choices before a child would listen.  The most important thing is to offer good choices, and also not too many choices. We as adults know what is best for the child and need to make sure we make good decisions for them.  Do not allow children to make decisions and dictate things that should be under the adults jurisdiction. A child should not dictate when their nap time is. We should not allow children to eat candy whenever they want, when we as adults know it’s not good for them.  We must set boundaries. We need to respect children, but ensure that children respect us.


I want to end with this a story.  It was the end of preschool and a mother could not get her child to put on her boots to leave.  It is raining outside and I watched the mother struggle for 10 minutes, chasing the child around and the child throwing a fit about having to put her shoes on.  I did not want to undermine the parent but finally I felt that I had to step in.


“It’s raining outside!  Do you want to get your feet and socks wet?” I asked the child.

After pondering, she replied, “No I really don’t want to get my socks wet”.

“Well mom is being really nice. She doesn’t want your socks to be wet either. You can choose right now to go outside with your socks and get everything muddy and wet, OR you can choose to put on your boots and you can even have fun jumping in puddles!” I said.

She went and put her boots on.  It took me one minute.


Here’s a great resource on guiding children’s behaviour http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/library/publications/year/2003/com015.pdf

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