Ever find yourself in a power struggle with your child or one of your students? You’re not alone!
All human beings crave control, and kids (especially those with special needs) often don’t have a whole lot of control in their lives. They’re processing their worlds differently, in ways that can be overwhelming and scary at times. Their bodies may not allow them to motor plan the way they’d like. They may have challenges communicating and advocating for themselves. Not to mention, between school work and all their extra therapies, they spend a lot of time following directions and being told what to do.
This is one of the reasons we may see our kids refuse to do what we want at times, or even do the exact opposite! They are taking a stand and seeking a sense of CONTROL-- which after all is an important and basic human need. So how can we compromise and painlessly reach a common goal?
One easy trick that I’ve found to be super effective in my classroom is providing CHOICES! I find myself in way less power struggles when I hand over some of the control within my control.
For example, instead of saying “Write your name on your paper”, try asking “What color marker do you want to write with?”. Or when you’re at the park and it’s almost time to leave (and you know your child probably isn’t going to be happy), you could put the ball in their court by asking “How many more pushes do you want on the swing before we leave? 10 or 20?”
I’ve really seen it make all the difference with many of my students. It helps develop respect and trust between you and the child, while giving them a sense of control. It helps strengthen their sense of self and allows them to feel like an important and equal participant in their interactions.
I really urge you to try it (if you aren’t already). As with any change, it might be an adjustment at first, rethinking the way you talk to your child or student, but after a while it becomes second nature and you’ll realize you can rephrase almost anything in a way that provides the child with a CHOICE and sense of CONTROL.
-Nikki Squillante, Teacher, Celebrate the Children
Contributions to this blog are made by Celebrate the Children's highly talented, interdisciplinary team and wonderful families.