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Two Choices

Updated: Mar 29, 2020

When a person is escalated there are several effective ways to respond. (See my post on redirection strategies

One strategy often used with success to redirect an escalated person is to offer them two choices of WHAT they can do, HOW they can do it, or WHEN they can do it. This allows the escalated person to choose the more preferable option. Also, some people do not like being told directly what to do, so giving them two choices is a more indirect and collaborative approach.

Example 1

A child is yelling and throwing a tantrum because she doesn't want to run errands with you. Out of frustration you yell "Get in the car now you're going!". Your child continues to sit in the house and not listen to you. Another way to respond is to say, "We need to run errands so we can have food and put gas in the car. You can bring a book or a tablet to look at while we drive".

The choices you offer should ALWAYS available to her. Avoid making up two choices that are only available if she throws a fit. Teach her that these options were always available to her, and in the future she just needs to ask. The goal is to fade out giving choices towards her just requesting these options.

Example 2

You and your spouse are arguing over all the work that has to be done around the house. Your partner asks, "What would you like me to do?" You begrudgingly reply with a dozen tasks that would take several days. The open ended question led to a long list of answers and you get no where. Instead, your partner could have asked "Today I can either hang pictures up or fix the book shelf. Which one would you like done?". Or, you could have replied with, "I'd like the dishes washed and the book shelf fixed. Which can you start with?"

Narrowing your question down to two choices can be less overwhelming than asking an open ended question. Open ended questions can be answered in several different ways and not always in the way you want. Giving two clear choices has a higher chance of getting a clear answer and in gaining compliance.

Example 3

You give your class an assignment and everyone begins working except one student. He instead is texting on his phone. You approach him and say, "Are you ready to put your phone away and start working?" The student replies, "No" and continues texting. A more effective redirection statement may be to say "It's time to work. You can put your phone away and begin working, or if you choose not to work you will get 0 points".

By stating your directive this way, you are not giving him a chance to answer "No". You are telling him his options and leaving the choice up to him. Make sure you follow through with the consequences of his choice.

If he is a student that needs extra motivation to comply, you could state the choices a few different ways.

  1. One way is to tell him what he will earn for completing the task such as, "It's time to work. Once you complete this task you can play basketball or play on the iPad. Which one would you like to work for?"

  2. A second way to motivate the student to begin work is to decrease the effort of work. This could look like, "It's time to work. I can help you or you can work by yourself. Which would you like?"

  3. A third way to increase a student's motivation is to make the work task itself fun. For example, "It's time to work. You have two options - a scavenger hunt around the classroom with a partner or go online to research your favorite actor and write a report. Which one would you like to do?"

Any of these three ways can be combined and obviously tailored to the age and ability level of your student.

If you have any questions or would like more examples on using two choices to redirect someone please contact me.

Sara Athman, MS, BCBA

Online Behavior Consultant

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