It’s often the last plea we make before that student explodes or bolts straight out the door. At this point, emotions are driving behaviours, and any sense of logic and calmness is well and truly out the window.
It’s estimated that on average, we are presented with 2000 + choices to make every day of our lives. Many choices are easy, like what to wear and eat, but others are complex and stressful. At times, choices need to be made in the moment and we think on our feet. Others, we’ll try and plan to ensure that we are well-prepared.
Making good choices is a skill. Like every other aspect of life, we need to practise to improve our performance. For the kids in our classrooms, decision-making is often hard work. To help our students make better choices under pressure, we need to allow them to practice in an authentic classroom environment. Unfortunately, the best learning can’t come from role plays or even a mini-lesson. That all helps, but it generally comes from facing situations where choices are presented and learning with the people who support you and care for you in those situations.
Be comfortable in knowing that bad choices are not your burden to carry. Whilst most students generally know right from wrong, they’ll still make plenty of bad decisions. A wrong choice doesn’t mean a bad kid, and the most helpful approach we can take is to be relentless with our support and accountability. Even if, at times, it’s through gritted teeth. Not only that, our students may sometimes demonstrate little self-control, low care for consequences and little consideration for those around them. That’s part of it too.
To help you step into providing the support and accountability for your kids need to make good decisions, give a little consideration to the dot points below:
- Frame it as a learning experience. If they mess up, give them the chance to clean up.
- Understand the neuroscience. Put simply, the part of the brain that controls how young people react to situations is the last part to develop. You can’t speed this process up.
- Make it about them, not other kids or yourself. Don’t compare to other students and don’t start the conversation with ‘when I was your age’.
- Fight your impulse to tell them why it was a wrong decision. You’d be better off asking good questions to get them thinking about their decision. That’s reflection and something our kids would all benefit from practising.
- Avoid an emotional investment in their decision. We can’t control their decision. We can only give them the best tools and structure to make the right choice.
- Help your students connect their decision to the consequence. Although it seems obvious to us adults, it’s not so apparent to kids.
- Model that you are invested in their choices and try to understand. This is the unwavering support part.
- Leverage the relationship. The stronger the relationship, the more you can leverage.
So, before the next time that you blurt the words ‘make a good choice’, stop and think if you’re creating the right conditions for the right choice to be made. Are you helping your students to take responsibility? I’m all for shifting responsibility to our kids, but if we don’t choose the right approach and put the support in place, we’re setting them up for a bad decision every time.
Making good choices is rarely an accident.
Check out other articles Simon has written here.