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Using choice to combat oppositional behavior

April 16th, 2019 by Cara Johnson


Maria Montessori recognized that providing children with productive choices in the classroom drove engagement and focus. This became a guiding principle in her classrooms. Choice empowers children and gives them a feeling of agency. Think back to when you were small. Remember the things that you were or weren't allowed to do? Were you told that you were "too young" to be in charge of even the simple things, like choosing your own clothes? This can be very frustrating for the child and may result in patterns of oppositional behavior. This is the child's way of trying to reassert control over some portion of their lives. 

Giving children the power of choice is good way to address challenging behaviors. However, you, as the parent must be prepared ahead of time with the right choices. This means thinking ahead, planning potential choices, and then offering choices rather than directives. Make sure that both choices meet your aim, for example, getting dressed: "Would you like the blue shirt or the red shirt?" 

Sometimes behavior escalates especially when time is pressing. Choices are still a powerful tool, but always be sure that your choices are something you are prepared to follow through with. For example after offering a choice of clothes tell the child that they have 10 minutes to dress or they will have to go to school, the store, grandma's house, etc. in their pajamas. Most importantly follow thorough! 

This nifty infographic is a wonderful illustration of the art of choice! 

Click on the image to read the whole article by Dana Howell. 

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