If you saw my email on Friday, you know I talked about the importance of giving your teen a choice to de-escalate situations. Rather than making a demand(i.e. “Get off the computer” or “Stop bothering your brother”), you can give your teen a choice between two options (i.e. “You can get off the computer within the next 5 minutes or you can get shorter computer time tomorrow by 10 minutes. It’s your choice").
Now, giving your teen choice will automatically begin to reduce the number of power struggles you have with them since, rather than demanding their compliance, you are giving them a chance to choose the route they want to take (following your request or dealing with a consequence).
However, if you read my two examples of choice last Friday, you’ll notice I always put a specific time limit on their choices. Look at the ways in which I made the options time-bound:
Putting a time limit on their choices helps teens get clarity on what their choices specifically are. If you say, “You can get off the computer,” that could mean they have the option of shutting it down immediately, within one minute, or within 10. This ultimately leaves you pulling your hair out when they say, “But I got off the computer!” which is technically correct— they did. Moreover, giving teens time-bound choices encourages them to make a decision immediately rather than having an opportunity to argue back and forth.
So when you give your teen a choice between two options, be specific! Let them know how much time they have to make the choice. When teens are given a choice, when that choice is clear and when it is time-bound, your interactions will go more smoothly.
I’d love to hear how giving your teens choice has been going so far. Any successes or struggles? Let me know!
I am a teen-empowerment coach. I work with teen girls, ages 14-17, who struggle with self-acceptance, perfectionism, seeking attention from others, and deep sadness or anger.