This week my boys and I went Wendy’s to get a bite to eat and were treated to a behavioral lesson which unfolded over the course of about a ten-minute period. The restaurant was empty when we got there, but right after we placed our order a busload of teens and chaperones filed in.
“Look at the board and decide which dessert you want before you get to the register.” It sounded like a reasonable request from the teacher, but one that did not play out in the way the adults had hoped. When the students got to the front of the line, confusion, frustration, anger and often regret was the result. “Wait! I don’t want that! Can’t I have both? But I want sprinkles too! I changed my mind!”
Finally, out of desperation, the adult in charge had all the students sit down. After deescalating the group, a simple announcement was made. “Everyone’s getting a shake. Chocolate or Vanilla?” Immediately, tears and sadness turned into happiness and joy – and all ended well for this group of high school vocational students.
This lesson is not about pumping up kids with sugar, or how dessert cures all. It’s about narrowing our focus. When we try to concentrate on too many options, we get overwhelmed and behavior escalates. [I speak from experience, as I often do this to myself.] However, when choices are limited, we are better able to self-regulate and soothe. So whether it is a strategy you use with yourself or others, find ways to simplify. It’s the right strategy and the right choice.