Warnings vs. Choices: What’s the difference?

What is the difference between a warning and a choice?

A warning tells of upcoming danger. It is an implied threat, exerting one’s power over another. Here are some examples of warnings.

– “Sit down or I am calling your mother!”
– “If that happens again you’re not going on the field trip!”
– “Knock it off or I am going to send you to the back of the room!”
– “I have told you six times either quit blurting out or you are going to the Time Out Room!”

WARNINGS are usually delivered out of anger or frustration. They direct the child to do something or else they are in big trouble! Although they may work for some kids, they fail for others. They often cause feelings of defensiveness and create power struggles because they encourage to children to REACT instead of THINK. They often evoke thoughts of “You can’t make me!”

Offering CHOICES recognizes the right or power of an individual to freely use her/his own judgment. They avoid setting up power struggles between the adult and child. They cause people to THINK instead of REACT. They help teach children responsibility. Here are some examples of choices.

– “You can either sit with your friend and do your work, or if you continue to talk you will have to sit over here. You decide.”
– “I am having trouble teaching. Your choice is either to participate in the discussion and listen to others or if you continue to make noises you will have to go to the Time Out Room. I hope you decide to stay.”
– “Your choice is either to do your work now when I can help you or do it during recess time. You decide.”
– “You have a choice to keep this a small problem or make it a big one. I hope you can keep it small.”

Learning how to offer choices takes a lot of practice and rehearsal.


April 1, 2008. Uncategorized.

One Comment

  1. Gordon Decker replied:

    I’ve noticed that often when you offer choices you express what you hope the child will choose, as in “You can stay and participate quietly or go to the timeout room. I hope you decide to stay.” I really support that message: Even when your behavior is disruptive, I still like you as a student and hope you’ll think about your behavior and decide to stay with us. Separate the child from the behavior.

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