Bobby Caples (Education)

Education & Youth Development Consultant

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Category: Behavior Management

Authentic Choice

Note: This blog post has been cross-published on

Most of the time when we give kids a choice, it’s pretty clear to them what we want them to choose. Sure, you’re giving them the choice between finishing their work and missing recess, and they can choose, but my experience has been that giving such choice is only step 1 of building authentic choice. Step 2 is, not shockingly, respecting that choice and communicating such respect.

Easier said than done, right? Too often, when a child makes the choice we don’t want them to, we get angry or otherwise try to convince them of the better option. Here’s the problem – in a discipline model in which the end goal is building accountability to self rather than accountability to authority, your voiced disapproval actually hurts rather than helps. By coercing them into your preferred choice, you’re actually taking away from their ability to make their choice, thereby moving agency/authority from their sphere into yours. You’re teaching them to behave for you, and make choices that you like, not ones that actually benefit them.

Again, back to “easier said than done.” So, one thing that makes it “easier done” is doing a bit of “under the hood” work in your own mind with expectations. The first step is to stop wanting them to make your choice, and seeing wrong choices as potentially right ones. What does this mean? This means that really, truly letting kids make any choice presented to them, then experiencing the results, builds a stronger perceived connection between their own agency with decision-making and the end result. In short, they start to see themselves as the ones responsible for good or bad results of their choices. They start to remove you as the middle man, and start to see themselves as the ones responsible for their actions.

Listen First (Behavior Management)

This is going to be one of those posts that sounds obvious, and sort of is.

Every so often, it seems I have to re-learn every lesson I’ve ever learned regarding behavior management. Most recently, I had to go back to square one: Listen. I’ve now come to see this lesson as needing to occur periodically in a fairly predictable cycle: I start off listening as a general approach to behavior management, then slowly I start “talking” more and more. Then, I find that I’m talking so much that I’m not listening at all. Then, I realize what I’m doing and go back to the beginning.

By “listening” & “talking,” of course, I don’t mean just the physical act of actually verbalizing vs auditory intake – I mean a general posture toward behavior manage. Listening involves receiving – taking in cues, letting others talk first, trying to first understand before being understood. Talking, on the other hand, involves putting out information into the world.

Both are important, for sure, but I think a lot of us probably get into the habit of talking when you are the one who “owns the goal,” so to speak – when you’re the one who is more motivated for something to happen. Like control in general, though, the more we apply pressure to the world, the less likely it is to change, at least with some things.

So, for now, I think I’m back where I need to be.

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