The closed choice

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Since the publication of my most recent book, Saving Danny, in which I used a number of strategies for managing Danny’s behaviour, including the closed choice, I have received many emails from readers saying they’d tried the closed choice and were amazed at how successful it was.

It’s a very simple but effective strategy to ensure cooperation and works with all ages of children, teenagers and adults. It’s a clever ploy that allows the child to make a decision while complying with what you have asked him or her to do. It is highly successful and greatly reduces confrontation, while increasing cooperation. The end result is that the child has done as you have asked without it becoming an issue. It works like this. You want a child to do something which you think is going to be an issue, as it has been in the past, so you offer two alternatives which lead to the same result – i.e. the child does as you want.

Let’s say you want Tom to clear up his toys which are strewn all over the house. Tom has had a great time playing, but you know from previous experience that he is less enthusiastic about clearing up and likely to refuse, ignore you or throw a wobbler. Now is a good time to use the closed choice. Instead of simply saying, ‘Tom, put your toys away, please,’ you say, ‘Tom, it’s time to put your toys away. Which room do you want to clear up first?’ Rather than refusing, Tom will find the answer (the decision as to where he wants to begin) already on his lips – ‘This room first.’

Or Claire needs to put on her shoes, because you are going out, but you know from past experience that Claire doesn’t like wearing her shoes and would rather go barefoot, as she does in the house. Instead of saying, ‘Claire, we’re going our shortly, so put on your shoes, please,’ and then bracing yourself for a tantrum, try instead: ‘Claire, we are going out soon. Here are your shoes. Which one would you like to put on first – left or right?’ You say this positively, while offering her the two shoes. Claire will already be taking the shoe she has chosen to put on first without realising she is completing your request. The number of situations where it can be used are limitless.

For a teenager there might be issues around keeping their bedroom tidy. Instead of ‘Tom, can you clear up your room now, please?’ which is likely to be ignored or at best acknowledged with a grunt and no movement to tidy, try: ‘Tom, do you want to clear up your room before you have your shower or after?’ Tom now has to make a decision, both of which result in some tidying of his bedroom.

If Tom or Claire says ‘Neither’ in answer to your closed-choice question (more likely in the older teenage Tom), then see it through with the 3Rs (explained in my book Happy Kids).

I hope you find this helpful, and that you had a happy Easter break.

Cathy and family x (