So, my dear husband has heard play therapy stories, principles and techniques ad nauseum at this point. He truly has worked very hard to integrate the skills into his everyday parenting. He claims that he is a one trick pony, and gets stuck saying the same thing over and over. While this is somewhat true, he has recently experienced insight into how to use Choice Giving and the results that it produced in our son.
Run or Hop?
One of the ways that Choice Giving can be used is to prevent typical problems in the home. In other words, if your child consistently struggles with going to bed on time, you can give choices as a way to prevent the struggle. My son tends to not like the idea of giving up his play to come to the dinner table to eat. Recently, I was putting the food out and my husband was telling our son to come with him to eat. Our son did not stop playing or start making his way to the table, so my husband said, “Kayne, you can choose to run to the dinner table or you can choose to hop to the dinner table”.
I feel it necessary to point out several things here. First, when you give choices, you want them to be mutually agreeable to you and the child. My husband didn’t care how he got there, just that he stopped playing and came out to eat. Second, you choose options that the child equally likes. Kayne loves to run and to hop, so neither one was favorable to him. Finally, my husband is providing choices to allow our son to have a measure of control over the situation, and focus on HOW he wants to get there, not WHETHER he wants to.
Back to the story now – our son looked up at him, considered the choice, and starting sliding on his rear end across the tile to the table. One of the other rules of choice giving is normally to fall back on the original choices if the child proposes a different option. However, in this circumstance with our two year old, my husband realized that our son figured out a way to comply with going to the table in a way that he wanted. There was no coersion, yelling, pleading or arguments.
Door or Tunnel?
After that successful parenting moment, shortly thereafter my husband had another moment of play therapy parenting insight. Our son was playing in an indoor tent with an attached play tunnel in the living room and it was time for bath. My husband told him to follow him into the bathroom and Kayne remained in the tent. Our typical choice in an instant like this is, “Kayne, you can choose to walk to the bathroom, or you can choose for me to carry you to the bathroom. Which do you choose?” Notice that the result is the same either way – he ends up in the bathroom for bath.
However, in this moment, my husband realized that he could use choices based on getting out of the tent, too! So, he said, “Kayne, you can choose to come out through the door in the tent, or you can choose to crawl out through the tunnel. Which do you choose?” Kayne immediately chose the door, and followed him in for bath time. So, the focus shifted not to the end goal, but to the means in which he would get to the bathroom. Very advanced choice giving, about which I am quite proud of him!
I hope these examples from my home illustrate the benefits, methods and outcomes of Choice Giving. If you would like more examples or to read more about this technique, check out my previous articles on Choice Theory. I wish you many successful choice giving opportunities to follow in the coming days with your children!