A long time ago (1978) over the summer I volunteered at a residential center for children, teens and adults with special needs who had very challenging behaviors and often were violent when they did not get their way. One day one of my supervisors gave me a gift. The gift that she imparted was a skill that has helped me with my own children (my eldest son has ADHD, Tourette Syndrome, Oppositional Defiant Disorder and addictions), teaching Sunday school and working with kids who have special needs. Over time I mastered the skill of shared control through choices. When done correctly, it will reduce power struggles, gives the child a sense of control (no one likes to feel controlled) and empowers them over their feelings. This is important, especially for children often like to engage in an argument or are defiant. Sometimes I will ask the SHINE class, do you want to the lesson now or in 10 minutes? (The choices I give are options that I can live with and do not put any burdens on anyone else.) So whether they choose now or later, it doesn’t matter to me, but gives them time to process what they are doing is coming to an end and lesson will be starting soon or if they are ready to precede that is equally okay with me. Another example, “Sue, are you going to clean your room now or after dinner?” Your goal as a parent is to have her room clean, whether it is before or after dinner isn’t important, a clean room is the result. Sometimes a child has difficulty regulating their emotions and through shared control you can teach them how they decide how they are going to feel. Often young children who are shy or anxious feel like they are “stuck” when they have to go somewhere they do not want to go and often cry. Taking their hands I show them “Hands”. Taking one hand and calling it the “sad hand” and taking the other hand and calling it the “happy hand”. I go onto tell them they have the choice to feel either happy or sad while they are waiting for mom to come get them; “happy hand” is going to have a lot of fun while they wait for mom but not “sad hand”. Then I ask them which hand do they choose; “happy hand” or “sad hand”. Almost always they choose “happy hand” and goes off to play happily.
Some guidelines on control through choices:
* Each choice, only has two options, each of those options have to be equally acceptable to you
* NEVER give a choice that causes more work or burden for others
* If the child doesn’t decide in ten seconds, decide for him or her