Creative Parenting -Providing a Worse Alternative

by Jeff Dwarshuis LMSW ACSW

The direct discipline approach with kids doesn’t always work. Parents can however use UNUSUAL yet effective communication techniques to get increased control of their kids (AND ADULTS!).


Children and young people will often oppose a parent’s suggestion to follow through on requested tasks and it can be difficult to motivate kids through direct requests. Also, parents generally want for their kids to learn how to make their own decisions while still being under the direction of a parent. Both of these things can be done at the same time if the parent provides for the child a set of alternatives. By doing this, the parent is allowing for choice and opposition is taken out of the equation since the parent is creating the options. Motivation can be created in the child by suggesting something that they will oppose yet providing a more pleasant option. Follow this process – think of what you want the child to do then give a suggestion of something that is worse. After this return to the statement of what you want for them to do and say it. For example –
“Do you want to go to clean the shower now or in 15 minutes?”
After they make their decision you can continue to use this method to suggest more of your desired behaviors.
“When you clean the shower would you rather wash the shower curtain or clean the drain?”
This method follows the basic understanding that people are motivated to do things when they feel empowered by choice.

 All ideas are taken from Jay Haley’s book – “Uncommon Therapy: The Psychiatric Techniques of Milton H. Erickson”.





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