Young children learn to manage their behaviour and get on with other people through the rules and guidelines set by the family. In recent years discipline has had a bad press and has become associated in some people’s minds with punishment.
Parental guidance involves setting boundaries to support a child’s development until they are able to be independent. Effective parental guidance builds a child’s capacity to understand the purpose that underpins each behaviour expected from them. The Stop, Think and Choose Programme has been developed to help parents create a clear, simple and effective way to teach children self discipline.
Summary Stop, think, and choose gives families a complete system to guide their child’s personal and social development based on 4 core rules:
- safety rules
- social rules
- wellbeing rules
- family rules
Stop, Think, and Choose allows every family to develop their own set of rules reflecting their values. As children mature the family can adapt their expectations and can also make it clear why different expectations are made for older/younger children.
Getting started is straightforward. Parents first decide what their priorities are for each area. Then arrange a time for all the family to get together and discuss the Stop, Think, and Choose system with the children. Where possible encourage your children to suggest what they think you will put in each section before you tell them. The Stop, Think and Choose system is designed to help children to understand the reasons behind the rules.
A wall chart with the 4 rules and some key words or pictures as prompts can be a useful reminder for the first few weeks.
Using Stop, Think, and Choose is also straight forward. When your child breaks a rule there are 3 steps:
Step 1 – You say “Stop. This is your first warning, remember the…. ? rule” and then ask “what could you do instead of this?
Step 2 - If your child continues, you then say “this is your second warning. Think about what will happen if you continue to break this rule”
Step 3 - Remind your child that they have chosen to continue the unwanted behaviour and must take time away to think about what has happened.
The consequence is not a harsh punishment but is calm and quiet time to reflect on how they have let themselves and the family down. Agree a quiet, toy free place which your child will be taken to in order to calm down and to think about why the family has this rule. This quiet place is not the same as a naughty step which children see as punishment and which encourages defiance. Use the thinking place for 1 minute per year of their age to prepare for an apology.
The Benefits of the Stop, Think, and Choose Programme
Stop, Think and Choose teaches children to be responsible for their behaviour.
- Parents develop a strong framework of rules which guides and informs their child about managing their own behaviour and getting on well with other people.
- Families find that communication improves
- Relationships gain from calm discussion and understanding each other’s needs
- Children learn about the intentions behind the behaviour
- Stop, Think, and Choose is flexible and adaptable as children grow and become more responsible and independent
- Positive changes in behaviour give children pride in their achievements
- Parents feel less pressured and more in control
- There is more time to relax and have fun together
Deciding on your family rules
First of all feel free to decide on your title for each rule. You may prefer
- Keeping safe
- Getting on with other people
- Helping me to grow and learn
- Looking after the family
What you decide to put into the 4 areas will change as your children mature and can be given more responsibility and independence. The system is flexible and developmental.
The rules teach reasoning
Safety rules: are there to prevent harm and reduce risks. Safety rules allow families to discuss what is harmful and dangerous and how to avoid accidents. Younger children will learn about physical dangers in the house and at play. Older children will also learn about emotional and health risks associated with anti social behaviour.
Social rules: focus on teaching children to understand other people and to be sensitive to their needs. Relationships, making friends, avoiding bullying and being polite all require regular adult support and guidance if children are to be socially skilled and confident.
Well being rules: a child’s happy, healthy confident development is every parent’s priority. Often what is good for a child’s long term interest is not what appeals to the child right now. Parents have to look into the future and make long term decisions. Food, sleep, hygiene, playing and learning all have to be actively encouraged despite the child’s present inclinations.
Family rules: families need to work together as a strongly connected and supportive team. Families may not always be the traditional two parent families and can include relatives who offer regular care to your child. Family rules may include helping around the house and rules about making joint decisions on shared activities.
Learning any new skill takes time and needs incentives and positive feedback to retain the effort and momentum. Taking good behaviour for granted may discourage children.
Praise is a very powerful reward and also gives children feedback on their progress. Praise which is positive and specific is more satisfying than general comments about being good. The concept of what is good is unclear to young children and they often have to ask “am I being good?”
The effect of being told you are good is also lost following the next mistake or indiscretion. This can make children feel very insecure.
In contrast, specific praise is a lasting acknowledgement of progress. Children can earn more praise each day as they move forward.
Families may also want to have some joint rewards which benefit everyone and acknowledges the smooth running of the household. Children at Primary School often earn golden time over the week which is then “spent” on choosing free play. The rationale is that positive achievements deserve acknowledgement. A similar system at home can be useful to ensure that the improvements in behaviour are not taken for granted.
Stop, Think, and Choose can be fun
The 4 core rules are there to help children understand that parental guidance is rational and purposeful. Children can understand that parents have made informed and consistent decisions. This may sound regimented on the page but in real life it frees up everyone in the family from those endless arguments that go round and round making everyone tense and upset.
Children enjoy learning new skills and becoming more grown up and independent. Stop, Think, and Choose gives children a pride in their achievements.
Children appreciate being included in discussing what rules are needed now and making adjustments as they mature.
Stop, Think, and Choose saves time and gives families more time together to have fun and enjoy being a family.
If you have any questions about using the programme contact Jeni Hooper on +44 (0) 1962 889437