When introduced to the Raise Responsibility System, many parents and teachers initially struggle with the idea of offering choices as it pertains to child discipline. Since the more traditional, authoritarian approach to child discipline and child raising focuses on telling youth what to do, offering choices seems like a radical idea at first.
To prove this point, here is a question a reader sent me: “How is offering choices teaching children that there are some things in life they had to do regardless of their mood or sense of power (like bathing, attending school, later holding a job, and being responsible for themselves when their choices are limited)? If everything become negotiable, if they think they will always have choices, what happens when sometimes in real life there are few or no choices, or they don’t like any of the choices?”
This is a valid question. Let’s break it down to see how offering choices is an important part of child discipline.
“How is offering choices teaching children that there are some things in life they have to do regardless of their mood or sense of power?”
These are two different concepts. Everyone makes choices every awake moment. We make a choice to get out of bed in the morning—or stay in bed, what we eat—or not eat, to brush our teeth—or not to, etc. The other concept has to do with responsibility. I expect children to be responsible. The key question is which approach to use—through EXTERNAL motivational and coercive approaches such as bribes to control, threats, or imposed punishments—or through INTERNAL motivational approaches where young people WANT to do what the adult wants. I don’t use coercive approaches for child discipline. I use authority without coercion. The Raise Responsibility System has young people WANT to be responsible. See the Levels of Development Poster and the Hierarchy of Social Development Poem.
“Like bathing, attending school, later holding a job, being responsible for themselves when their choices are limited?”
Choices are not limited, but you may like or not like the consequences of the choices. Bathing is always a choice, for example. Is the young person willing to accept the consequence of not bathing? The consequences of not bathing for a day may be negligible. But not bathing for a week or a month has greater and often not pleasant consequences.
“If everything become negotiable, if they think they will always have choices, what happens when sometimes in real life there are few or no choices, or they don’t like any of the choices?”
Although we don’t usually think about it, EVERY RELATIONSHIP IS A NEGOTIATION. You always have the option of making a choice, but you may not like the options. I offer options. One option is that I offer the child to come up with her/his own options as long as we both agree that the choice fulfills the responsibility.
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