In a world where the bad surprise can unhinge the entire day and the unexpected punches the wind out of someone more easily than falling out of a tree, Control is paramount.
Controlling one’s environment, one’s choices, one’s friends, one’s, well, everything. If one controls everything, then surprises and the unexpected just can’t happen… for the most part. Whether the moment of self-realization happens – Aha! I wish to limit surprises, and I’ll do so by controlling my environment – or not, that’s what’s going on here.
This is why our loved ones draw little boxes around themselves, and why their comfort zones are so clearly defined and protected.
Choices help maintain control and comfort zones. Given the choice of staying at home and reading a book, or venturing forth to experience a theme park… well, we know what that choice will be. It may be different for each person, but everyone will have a preference.
I learned early on to skew the choices I present to my son. Does he want to do his homework, OR do his homework plus an extra worksheet? Finish his chores, OR finish his chores plus helping with the laundry?
No, I’m not a manipulative person. Far from it. But some things one has to do to help our lovable, wonderful, smart but resistant and somewhat mulish children.
It helps at school, too. Giving him the power of choice satisfies his need for control. Our second grade teacher – bless her – used The Deal far better than I ever could. She could make our boy do anything, and leave him smiling when it was done.
Here’s The Deal:
- Finish your work, skipping every other line, OR do the whole thing.
- Finish half the work within one minutes OR do the entire thing.
- Do X (what needs to be done) OR do Y (something related to X but unappealing)
And so on.
Of course, it’s vital that the adult be the one making The Deal. We all know how our children love to make their own deals. No, it doesn’t work that way. Also, no third options or bargaining. Take it or leave it. Deal or No Deal.
Teachers like this don’t come along every day. I still revere her, and am thankful for every lesson she ever taught. And that includes the ones she taught me 😉
Note: Thanks to F. Knutson for her selflessness and for sharing her gifts with the rest of us.