Friday, April 20, 2012

My Way or the Highway: choices with Conscious Discipline


When I go there, I almost always see something that makes the teacher in me start having heart palpitations.

My right eye starts twitching at the interactions I observe.

I start thinking of which one of my "Come to Jesus" talks I need to give the snot monster sweet darling and the person I assume is the adult.

I did NOT grow up in an environment where I was given choices to help foster my independence and autonomy. It was You do it or You get it!

These are actually offering false choices.
You can eat what is on your plate or starve.
You can go to sleep now or never have another slumber party again.
You can do the activity the way I told you to or you are never doing a fun activity again.
If you act this way when we go to the store than you are never getting another toy. EVER!!!!

According to CD, you are trying to manipulate the child. You are also setting them up to believe that when they think, feel, or choose differently than you, they are bad, wrong or disrespectful.

Here is my opinion on part of that....we do need to let a child know that there are choices that are wrong because they can be hurtful, unsafe, or disrespectful. I think that making choices is supported by bringing in some of the language of CD and the noticing.

This chapter in Conscious Discipline is so powerful and yet, there is still a part of me that struggles with the fact that life is not always going to be about choices....and especially 2 positive ones. Sometimes, you just have to do things you don't want to do.....go to the female doctor, go to boring meetings  faculty meetings  engaging professional development opportunities after school, do lesson plans, and even stop blog stalking and step away from the computer to do something like clean the house and do laundry.

Here is the BIG IDEA: 2 Positive Choices

Yeppers, the choices need to be positive...both of them! =)

The book shows a hilarious picture of a teacher giving a child (with arms crossed and a defiant look on her face) the choice to get in line or go to the guillotine.....too funny! But in the eyes of the child so true!!!!

Go out to lunch with your friends for a hour or cram a yucky cafeteria meal down your throat in 20 minutes....hard decision, right??!!????

The 2 positive choices are wonderful because young children are trying to assert their autonomy and often feel as if they have to have the LAST word.

But I......

But Ms. Price.....

But they were.....

I want to tell them the words Ms. Price and but should never be in the same sentence but that is a bit much for the brain of a Firstie.

Here is what giving 2 positive choices offers the child: page 140

*Attend to the thing that you think is important
*Obey what you are asking
*Learn decision making
*Feel empowered therefore reducing power struggles
*Redirect their behavior and learn impulse control
*Establish and maintain self-control

Here are 5 steps to follow (pages 141-142)

1. Take a deep breath and think about what you want the child to do. Remember, How can I help the child most likely choose to __________.

2. Tell the child in an upbeat/positive voice "You have a choice."
If you need to practice that voice first try it out on your hubby, friend or pet. Yes, I have practiced on my kitty and my bunny. =)

3. State the 2 choices "You may __________ or you may __________."

4. Ask the child for a commitment. You might say, "What is your choice?" You might have to repeat the choices several times.

5. Notice the child's choice. You can say, "You chose __________!" in a very encouraging voice with loving intent. You can also celebrate the child with a Way to Go or a You did it!

I am sure right now you have a sweet little friend in mind....I have my little toot darling picked out. =)

You know the one that brings up the What if's or reminds you of those kiddos that you read about in college that might be a wee bit defiant....a little stubborn donkey.

Here is what you have to understand first. A young child begins to develop a sense of self, figuring out where they begin and where mom and dad stop. The terrible twos are about a child testing boundaries. They are not trying to make you angry.

Remember, you want to focus on what you want the child to do. If you start trying to focus on what you want to stop....the crying, stomping, hitting, just stepped into a power struggle. I have done this...I have even been told NOT to get in a power struggle with a child because the child will always win.

I can be a bit of a stubborn donkey myself and I love like to win.....enough said!!!

This is where the parroting technique comes in to help the donkey.

You keep repeating the 2 positive choices over and over and over and over.

Teacher: Carla, it is time to clean up your center. You have a choice. You may clean up the cards first or the letters. What is your choice?

Carla: Noooooooooooo!!!!

Teacher: Carla, it is time to clean up your center. You have a choice. You may clean up the cards first or the letters. What is your choice?

Carla: You can't make me!!!! I hate you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


At this point Carla is going to do one of 3 things:

1. Start to clean up but with a bad attitude.

2. Continue to verbally assault you or even try to hit you.

3. Throw a full blown hissy fit or even try and run away.

You can tell Carla that she is right. You can't make her.

Real Life Example: my friend's little boy would not eat his carrots. The carrots were forced into his mouth but you cannot make someone swallow. The carrots were in his mouth for over 48 hours. He finally spit them out when they were discovered still in his mouth by the dentist at an appointment!!!!!

After telling Carla that, turn and walk away. When she calms down, have her clean it up and celebrate the choice with her.

Here is where my opinion comes in. I then talk to the child about obeying quickly and about how we sometimes have to do things we might not want to do and we might just need to say yes ma'am and do it. I usually share with them an example of when I  have to do something I don't want to do. I talk about if I threw a hissy fit when my principal asked me to do something I wouldn't have a job and I couldn't buy food or other fun things.. I also tell them that I care about them and will never ask them to do something that is hurtful to them or that is not going to help them be a kind and helpful person...a bucket filler.

There are times I do bring in consequences but I have no step by step process I follow about how many times I will ask a child before a consequence is given.

BTW- Consequences come in the very LAST chapter of the book and there is a very good reason for that.

There are also going to be children who resist choices because of parenting that fails to meet the child's needs, permissive parenting and family troubles. These are often going to be your kiddos who want to get in a power struggle with you because they have a life that is so out of control. These are our little ones who are trying to survive. Take time to build trust with these kiddos and make connections.

My opinion:  I have kiddos like this. These are the kiddos that when we do Our School Family circle time I try and buddy up with. I try and give these kiddos more hugs or rub their backs and really, really try and notice every positive thing they do and celebrate all of the baby steps they make. The sweet part about building your School Family is that the other kiddos notice it too. They do an awesome job celebrating each other. And for me and my type A personality, I sometimes just have to let a few things slide. I often ask myself this: Are the child and others safe? Can learning still happen for this child and others around them?

There is a great cartoon in the book about a teacher and a child pulling on a rope and having a power struggle. The next picture is a child trying to hand the rope to the adult who has his arms crossed across his chest refusing to take it. Power struggles require 2 willing participants.

Here is what happened today:

A little one came in today in a bad mood. I am trying to talk to him and find out what is wrong. I am saying I notice your arms are like this (and I model it). Your face is like this (and I model it). Your face is telling me your upset or frustrated. What happened?

I continued to ask during breakfast ...remember, to not be jealous that I have the joy of breakfast in my classroom.....we came to the rug and this little one didn't. He walked around the room and kicked a chair every now and then. Here are the choices...the 2 positive choices:

H(me): It is time for Word Study. You have a choice. You can come sit by me and I'll help you calm down and start working or you can choose a friend to go sit by and they can help you calm down and get started. What is your choice?.

L(little one): no response

I continued to repeat myself several times. I then told little one that he knew what the choices were and that we would be happy to help him when he was ready to make a choice.

He grumped for about 5 minutes and then came to sit over by me on the rug. Before, I could even celebrate him and his choice, one of my kiddos was adding him a helpful heart for changing his choices and for coming to work and the Cheerleader was celebrating him for the same thing....all before I could even say anything.

And he did have a reason (a sad one) for having a rough start to the day.

I know you probably have questions and I will try my best to help answer them. Remember, I am no expert and also bring in things I believe about being encouraging and respectful.

The next time I post I will have charts you can hang in your room to help you remember what to say. This post has taken me forever to write but I hope you find it helpful. It really is amazing. Between noticing and 2 positive choices, amazing things will happen in your School Family.

I would love a heart note letting me know what you think.

This is post 99 for me! WOWzers!!!!! That blows my mind out of the water! =)

48 heart notes:

Sara said...

Are you sure you don't teach at my school? LOL It sounds like you are describing a few of my darlings! =)
The Choice factor... ahh, yes... it does works sometimes when done correctly and consistently. I do admit I have to do it more in my classroom since I just took it over mid February and I am working towards building a community in the classroom.
Keep posting away... I love your posts on CD! I just ordered the book and can't wait until it comes in!

Heidi said...

I am definitely going to have to get my hands on this book. I have loved everything you have been posting on and have been in the middle of teaching and realize I am doing so many of the things that I should NOT be doing. Mid sentence I will change the way I deal with a behavior in the classroom and the difference it makes by using positive choices rather than ultimatums and encouraging the children rather than yelling has made such a difference.

Thanks for posting. I have learned a lot in such a short time and can't wait to actually ready the book in its entirety. :)


Patty Rutenbar said...

I am enjoying these articles. Your writing style holds my interest as does the topic. I wish I could buy this book for some of my parents.


Second In Line

~ LJ said...

Heather, you do such a great job of describing what can be challenging principles. We are also a CD/PBIS school and we are always learning and trying new things. I think Dr. Becky and Shubert would be very proud!! Please keep writing!

Angel Read said...

I think I do this too much... my cooperating teacher and assistants do it, so I started too. I mean, giving only the choice you want them to do, and the choice that is really a consequence. Like, "Sit down now or you'll have minutes." When I do give them choices, it seems to work pretty well... even if the choices are both things they don't want, such as, "Its time to stop coloring. Will you put away your markers, or should I put them by my desk until free time?" (I try to say it in a pleasant voice, not like its going to be a consequence, just giving her the choice of me doing it or her doing it.)

Jenalyn said...

I am finding these posts to be so very interesting!! I plan on getting the book for my summer reading! I've always approached my class as "we're all in this together, we have to help each other out, we're a family..." but this will add even more to it. I'm trying stuff out from your posts and already see a difference! Thanks for the positivity!!!

Jessica said...

Even though I have the book and read the book and tried to fit it and work it into my classroom I find your posts SO helpful. They are great reminders and you give great examples! Love how you write them. You are inspiring me to do a better job at implementing it into my classroom. So thank you!!

Apples and Papers

Jenn Long said...

Hi Heather!
Thanks for posting about this amazing book! I'll definitely be reading it this summer! We try to make our classroom feel like a family but I'm getting so much out of your posts and I just know that this book will be the icing on the cake for me! Can't wait!

A Pirates Life for Us

Tracey said...

I finally followed up and published a ton of comments and ran across yours on my blog <3 I'm your newest follower and LOVE this post. One additional thing some children need is for the adult to recognize their feelings. Just by saying "I see that you are upset" it gives nonverbal children comfort in knowing "my teacher understands me even when I can't explain what's happening inside me". I'm so happy to have found your blog!

Jillian's Just Tinkerin'! said...

Let me just say that I completely agree with all the previous comments, and THANK YOU for this very informative post. You are doing a great job outlining the book for all your followers (AND making us want to get the book, too!)

Have a great weekend!
Just Tinkerin’ Around

sspeller said...

Our entire school district is adopting CD. We are being trained monthly for each skill. Although I fully believe in CD and use it in my classroom as well as with my own children, it is refreshing to hear somebody else reiterate my feelings about the choices sometimes. I struggle with that. You are right - sometimes we just have to do things we don't want to do. I LOVE being able to give my kids choices and allow them to feel that success, but I also want to make sure that they are prepared to go out into this mean world and have the coping skills to handle it. It is a fine line that I struggle with daily. They NEED to understand that when your boss tells you to do something, sometimes it isn't a choice. You just DO it because you want to keep your job, etc. I just don't want them to go into their adult life thinking that "they are in charge of everything" and get to make decisions when and IF they want to. Thanks for sharing this - I know that with practice I can find the balance and hopefully help teach my kiddos to understand that sometimes there are choices for them and that sometimes we just do things because we are asked to or expected to. A hard concept to teach to 5 and 6 year olds, both at school and in the home.

Sarabeth said...

i am loving this series on CD. i want to read the book this summer.

Valerie said...

Simple but SOOOO effective! I use choices with my 3 year old, not just my students! It is sometimes hard to have a discussion about it once he has calmed down because he may not always understand as much as a 6 or 7 year old would. Regardless, it works! It sometimes takes a long time to get him to make a decision but, once he does, we always make sure to celebrate his choice :)

All Students Can SHINE

Stacyfud said...

I got my book in the mail yesterday and can't wait to start reading it. I teach in a Title school and I am the lucky first grade teacher with the ED students mainstreamed in my room most of the day. They fit in well, which tells you a lot about my class. I know this book will help me and my little ones. Thank you for sharing.

Leah Zilberman said...

I can't stop talking and thinking about your posts. I'm telling everyone that will stop and listen about CD. Is the book you quote the one with the giant head? Should I order just one book for summer reading or do you recommend another book as well. Thank you for your wonderful posts.

Kara said...

You hit on what I struggle with regarding choices, too - sometimes in life, we do not get a choice, or we do not get choices we enjoy. I try to use positive choices most all the time in my room, but sometimes it's difficult. We all have to do things we do not want to do, after all! I always tell my students it is always their choice what kind of attitude they can have about a certain situation. I love that you bring in the times you have to do things that may not be your first choice!

I will be interested to hear about the consequences chapter. I struggle with philosophies that do not offer or believe in consequences, because that does not teach about real life very accurately! There are consequences for actions, and I think it's important to practice receiving consequences in a loving, supportive environment so children are better equipped to deal with consequences in "real life."

Thank you for your post, Heather - as always, I really value your insights!


Mrs. Anderson said...

I really enjoyed this informative post. I am very interested in reading this book. I've always believed in giving kids choices, although I was not brought up that way. Thanks for taking the time to share your insights!

luckeyfrog said...

I'm with you- students have to understand that there are choices, but also that sometimes it's the best choice to do something you don't want to do.

Just the other day, I was telling a kid that I really dislike grading papers, but it's part of my job. If I didn't do my job, I wouldn't have money to do things I enjoy. Sometimes you have to do things you don't enjoy in order to make those other things possible.

I just try to tell them that it has to be worth it. "I know you want to stay here in the classroom instead of going out to meet your dad at the car. Let's think about your choices. You can stay here, like you want, or you can go. Now let's think about the consequences of each decision. What will happen for you? What will I have to do as the teacher?" And we talk through that one of the choices gets him what he wants at the time, but in the long run, is it worth getting what he wants for the other consequences that would have to happen? Basically... you can have what you want RIGHT NOW, but keep in mind that it may have other consequences you DON'T want.

I will have to check out this book :)

Thanks for your thoughts!

Luckeyfrog's Lilypad

Mrs. Gaither said...

I love these ideas--I give choices and it is more thought to get in the habit of 2 positive choices--I want to read this book. Going right now to find it!

meet me at the zoo...

Tessa said...

We've been doing Responsive Classrooms as our management model as my principal is a trainer. I really like what you have posted from CD and it matches RC well. I think I'll want to get this book soon!

Tales From Outside the Classroom

Elizabeth said...

Thank you so much for this post. I'm really enjoying reading your take on CD and how it can be applied very easily.

Fun in Room 4B

Kelley Cirrito said...

I like the two positive choice idea! Thanks for sharing Heather! I hope you have a great weekend!

Colleen said...

It is like you are speaking directly too me. I have a couple of students that I need to be better about not getting into a power struggle with. Thanks for giving me another option. I will definitely need to get this book!


The Teaching Chameleon

Ziggyfriends said...

Your posts on CD have me intrigued. I have a friend who's district uses CD and she believes it's too permissive. That opinion had colored my viewpoint. Many of your points have really hit home and made me take a look at how I maintain control in my class... Thanks and I'm going back to read your other blogs on this.


Allyson Butler said...

These posts are so encouraging to me as a future teacher. I am so intrigued by Conscious Discipline, and am definitely going to have to check it out soon!


LindaC said...

Just went to my first CD workshop today and I'm really excited about implementing this in my classroom next year. This program makes so much sense. Please continue to post about it.


Christine said...

This sounds like a great plan for classroom managment but what about teaching to obey quickly the first time? My concern would fall with fire drills, tornado drills and emergencies and with the fact that I am the teacher and if I allow a child to win an argument with me then the others will follow suit. Now of course that doesn't mean I have to be mean about it I would just go about this a different way. Teaching obedience to the teacher first and then introducing choices as the children show they are ready. I teach 4 year olds so the discipline and classroom management are definatly different than in first grade. Thank you for sharing!

Jessie said...

Thank your for posting about CD--your words have been helpful and inspiring!

Christine said...

Thank you for the posts on my blog, I love to talk back and forth about classroom management and discipline. I do agree that we can give positive choices and kiddos can be successful and it sounds like you have a great system going with the concious discipline. A few years ago I read a book called Love and Logic which truly turned the corner for me on discipline. This book taught me to give the children some responsibility and to take some of the discipline off of myself. The techniques I have inplemented from this book I think go right along with the book you are reading. My favorite Love and Logic trick is to tell the students, "I will wait until you are ready" I say it nicely and I say it once, at first it took them a while to get in line or whatever the task was but now they know that they miss out on fun things when it takes them too long (usually we are headed for the playground). I know that my Pre-Kers can be successful with a system like concious discipline and I intend on looking into the details of it more. I think because Pre-K is so different from the other grades that I may need to tweak it a little bit to fit my group.

I am also enjoying reading through your blog, I have found some great ideas for next year!


Gesin's Gallery said...

This is the perfect time of year for these reminders! Last week was a rough one! Thank you for the "pep talk"! Sometimes giving students the 2 positive choices are tough- especially when I am tired and frustrated and the 2 choices that pop into my head are "do it- or else!" :) Hope you have a great week!

Gesin's Gallery said...

This is the perfect time of year for these reminders! Last week was a rough one! Thank you for the "pep talk"! Sometimes giving students the 2 positive choices are tough- especially when I am tired and frustrated and the 2 choices that pop into my head are "do it- or else!" :) Hope you have a great week!

Abby said...

Your blog is always SO encouraging to me. I've been dealing with one of those defiant kiddos and trying to relearn some of MY behaviors when it comes to dealing with stubborn kids. I've always loved giving two positive choices, but sometimes I feel like it isn't working because it takes a while for the kid to make a choice. It's nice to hear someone else's experience with it so that I know I'm not failing. Thanks for sharing all of this with us!


Jill said...

this is great thanks, also on the RTI thing, it got worked out and the child is getting help, that is all I wanted for him.

SLandry said...

I will definitely work on this NOW as it's getting close to the finish line and I feel like we have all gone crazy! Thank you for sharing all your knowledge!

Jaycee Weaver and Lohren Nolan said...

Just wanted to thank you for this post! I tried it out and the mood in my classroom was so wonderful! They responded so well. It was a little hard to come up with two positive choices on the spot, but I'm sure with practice, it will be easier. I shared it with my team and we are all trying it out! Thanks so much!

Lohren Nolan

Raina said...

You are so inspiring. Keep blogging....FOREVER!! Then I can keep teaching :)

Smoran892 said...

This post was great! It is so important to be reflective as a teacher and this post makes me THINK! Thank you for that :)

I will certainly be getting this book to read for the summer.

Thanks for stopping by my blog too :) I added you to my sidebar.

T.G.I.F. Review

Jessica said...

I needed to read this! I think I will be referring back to this post many help me keep my sanity:)

Crayons and Curls said...

I so wish our school had money to send me to one of these workshops! I so need this! Thanks for sharing all your wonderful, inspiring posts! :)
Crayons and Curls

Lesson Lady said...


These sound just like my kiddos, although repeating what you are saying does not always work because then they get mad that you keep saying the same thing. Although, I work at a special needs school with students who could not stay at their regular school for these types of issues. Funny to read that other people experience the same things!

I am your newest follower. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Jennifer said...

Thank you so much for your posts on CD I'm looking into the book and will probably get it for my Kindle this summer so I can read it!

I use choices a lot but have to admit they are often loaded choices.

Thanks for the encouragement!

Mrs. Hall
Mrs. Hall's Fabulous Firsts

Heather G. said...

Thank you for the inspiration. Even after 12 years of teaching, I forget some of the basics. Even on my second day of summer vacation, I find myself reading blogs like yours and wanting to get the next year started! :)

The Frizz said...


I have just started CD in my classroom this year after finding your blog this summer. I am only 2 chapters in, but can see the difference it has made in our school family. Thank you for spreading the word.

I have a quick question for you:

What do you do if the child you are offering the 2 positive choices to refuses to pick one of those choices? And say for instance, they continue to scream "I hate you" at another student, or run around the room kicking tables and chairs, swinging backpacks, or making unsafe choices?

I would LOVE for you to email me your thoughts:

Thank you for your wisdom :)

lee woo said...

Love it! Very interesting topics, I hope the incoming comments and suggestion are equally positive. Thank you for sharing this information that is actually helpful.