EQI.org Home | Education | Parenting - not finished

Pseudochoices

A "pseudochoice" is a threat in disguise as a real choice. Educational expert Alfie Kohn has used the term when describing the "choices" given to students, children and teenagers by teachers and parents, but it could easily apply to any power-based relationship.

Kohn says that one of the main reasons students are burning out and disengaging from school is that they feel powerless and have a lack of a say or choice in what happens to them in school. As Kohn puts it, the "choice" is really just "Obey or Suffer." This "choice" can be presented in a way where it’s obvious that coercion is used or it can be done in a way that’s more subtle, but either way it is not a real choice.

Kohn explains the "Obey or Suffer" situation as follows:

A teacher or parent may appear to be giving a choice, but it is deliberately limited in such a way that there is little true reasonable choice. For example, there are typically just two options given, and neither of these two "choices" are something the person would freely choose on their own. One choice is always something which is obviously very undesirable while the other is obviously something the teacher, parent, etc. wants the other young person to do. Thus, the giving of two "choices" is really just a threat that’s been sugar coated, or as mentioned above, a threat in diguise as a choice.

A parent might say to a child, "You can either chose to stop jumping the bed or have a time out." Obviously, the child would not voluntarily pick either option because they are enjoying jumping on the bed.

2. A parent or teacher wants to make it appear that the student/child/teenager "chose" the punishment, so therefore deserves it and has no reason to complain. For example, a father might say, "You chose to have your cell phone taken away," when the father wants to punish his son for talking on the phone after the father ordered him to stop. But the motivation for staying on the phone was not to get the "reward" of having it taken it away so the father is acting fraudulently and an intelligent person would realize this.

3.

- A teacher pretends to let the class pick out of a few options, but whatever the class picks it is the "wrong" choice. So the class ends up doing whatever the teacher wants anyway.

What are the effects of pseudochoices? The same as if outright coercion had been used – the person would feel powerless, helpless and disrespected . Their wishes and wants have been invalidated. The effects might be even greater, because they might feel that they are being manipulated or controlled but not realise how.

---

2011 - I thought of this one day "Your choice my foot"

12/03/2012 05:48:42 PM

EQI.org Home Page

Core Components of EQI.org


Other EQI.org Topics:

Emotional Intelligence | Empathy
Emotional Abuse | Understanding
Emotional Literacy | Feeling Words
Respect | Parenting | Caring
Listening | Invalidation | Hugs
Depression |Education
Personal Growth

Search EQI.org | Support EQI.org

EQI.org Library and Bookstore


google ad goes here


Online Consulting, Counseling Coaching from EQI.org

Alfie Kohn's writing on Pseudo Choices

(slightly adapted)

In his excellent book, "Beyond Discipline," Kohn begins by asking the important question: What exactly is meant by "choice"? He then writes:

In practice, the word may be misleading; it may be used to describe situations in which students actually have very little opportunity to make meaningful decisions. What is described as a choice may, in any of three distinct ways, actually be a pseudochoice.

1. “Obey or suffer.

Lee Canter (quoted in Hill 1990, p. 75) gives us his idea of letting students make decisions: “The way you teach kids to be responsible is by telling them exactly what is expected of them and then giving them a choice” as to whether they comply (obey).

Here we have a rather peculiar understanding of the word responsible, which looks suspiciously like a euphemism for “obedient”. (See Alfie's Glossary) But Canter’s pronouncement also contains a sharply limited view of “choice,” which amounts to either

(a) doing “exactly what is expected” by the teacher or

(b) facing the consequences (punishment).

 
Alfie's Glossary

In Appendix of his book Beyond Discipline, Kohn creates what could be called his cynic's glossary of terms used by many advocates of the new style parenting and education.

For example:

re•spon•si•ble adj. obedient, compliant.

re•spect n. fear

be•have v. obey

 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsnHySlgf0c&  

Pseudo means: not actually, but having the appearance of; pretended; false, etc. In other words, a pseudo choice would be the presenting of two or more "choices" when in actuality only one could truly be chosen (ie "give me all your money or die").

chacha.com/question/what-pseudo-choice-mean

 
What does this mean? Is it problematic?

If it means what I think it means -- giving a toddler or young child two or so options to choose from, e.g. "Do you want to clean up now or after dinner?" -- it is something I've been planning to do because I've heard it works really well. But looking at it I can see that it can be viewed as a bit manipulative. Is it problematic? Any reason to think it's a negative thing? If yes, please give me some alternatives.
 



What does this mean? Is it problematic?

If it means what I think it means -- giving a toddler or young child two or so options to choose from, e.g. "Do you want to clean up now or after dinner?" -- it is something I've been planning to do because I've heard it works really well. But looking at it I can see that it can be viewed as a bit manipulative. Is it problematic? Any reason to think it's a negative thing? If yes, please give me some alternatives.
post #2 of 67
5/3/05 at 7:20am

gaialice
offline

1,236 Posts. Joined 1/2005

Thanks so much for this thread, I really would like to hear opinions on this. For those who did not read the other thread, the pseudo choice idea is from the Unconditional Parenting book by Alfie Kohn. Basically, a pseudo choice is a disguise for punishment. Like "Would you prefer to walk in the store or sit in the cart?". The idea, obviously, being: "If you run in the shop I will put you in the cart" Now, the horrible thing is that I am quoting this dialogue (almost word by word) from a cartoon in the "Talk so that kids will listen and listen so that kids will talk" book, which I thought was a bible for GD and I used for a long while before the Unconditional Parenting. This technique never seemed to work with dc, and I just could not figure out why. Now I do!
Alternatives to pseudochoice:
- acknowledge it is boring to do X
- explain why the dc's behaviour during activity X bothers other people or may be dangerous
- make X more fun
- listen to dc for ideas to make X more fun
Any other ideas?
Mommy to dd1 4-years-old and to dd2 2-years-old
post #3 of 67
5/3/05 at 7:45am

captain crunchy
offline

4,913 Posts. Joined 3/2005
Location: raising the revolution

I completely agree with gaialice's post...

I am also a fan of honesty too, letting your child know (in rare instances) when you aren't willing to let them have a choice "I know you don't like holding my hand when we cross the street but you ran in the road twice last week so we will have to hold hands now" ---kind of thing....

I mean, reality is, sometimes we don't get a choice...even as adults, and I would prefer the honesty approach, with a valid reason why, over the *psuedo* choice example in the above post...

I don't know if "would you like to clean up now or after dinner" is a pseudo choice really. I mean, it IS presenting a choice...just because NOT cleaning up is not really an opinion (you can't leave a mess forever)...it is up to the child to decide when they do clean up...I dunno, it is kind of fuzzy to me that one...I could see myself saying something along those lines...

However, it becomes a pseudo choice of course if you really WANT (or need) them to clean up before dinner but you present a choice anyway than act adversarial when they choose the "after dinner" option...

Does that make sense?

Crap I dunno, I am just here for the beer...

jk :LOL
post #4 of 67
5/3/05 at 8:19am

candiland
Tom Robbins' Wife
offline

4,099 Posts. Joined 1/2002
Location: Waiting for Calgon to take me away.

Hmmm, sometimes there really are only a couple of realistic options.

Example: do you want spaghetti or tacos for dinner?

I might have several types of gourmet meals waiting to be cooked, or have some cookies, tuna fish, and chips in the kitchen, but I'd be giving the child the options that I was willing to deal with at that point.

Another example: my dd wants to wear a sundress and nothing else on a 30 degree day.

"You may wear long sleeves and long pants under the dress or choose a different outfit."

I mean, I think it's totally logical. Is there something I'm missing?
post #5 of 67
5/3/05 at 9:00am

mamasarah
offline

457 Posts. Joined 5/2002
Location: practicing my balancing act

Quote:
Originally Posted by gaialice
Alternatives to pseudochoice:
- acknowledge it is boring to do X
- explain why the dc's behaviour during activity X bothers other people or may be dangerous
- make X more fun
- listen to dc for ideas to make X more fun

i think this is right on. i have actually been doing the pseudo choice thing not seeing the negative aspect of it but these alternatives seem like they would be a much better way of dealing with a situation.
post #6 of 67
5/3/05 at 9:32am

dharmamama
offline

4,548 Posts. Joined 9/2004
Location: Bywater, West Farthing

To me a pseudo-choice is something like "Do you want to continue to run away from me in the store or do you want to walk beside me?" because even a very small kid knows the "right" answer to this one.

"Do you want to clean up now or after dinner?"
"Do you want spaghetti or tacos for dinner?"
"Do you want to wear long sleeves and pants under your dress or choose something else to wear?"

All are examples of perfectly real choices, in my book. I think some people believe that if parents exercise any control over a child's choices, such as limiting the parameters of the choice, then that's coercive. I don't believe that. I think it's a parent's job to set appropriate parameters in a child's life.

Namaste!
post #7 of 67
5/3/05 at 9:46am

captain crunchy
offline

4,913 Posts. Joined 3/2005
Location: raising the revolution

I agree DM...

My favorite too, are the REALLY pseudo choices..."DO YOU WANT A BIRTHDAY PARTY!!!" when a kid is acting up... or "DO YOU WANT A SPANKING"...

Of freaking course not...

I cringe when I hear statements to this affect...poor, poor, poor parenting...
post #8 of 67
5/3/05 at 10:20am

cmb123
Blunt object
offline

1,467 Posts. Joined 12/2004
Location: Connecticut

Quote:
Originally Posted by dharmamama
"Do you want to clean up now or after dinner?"
"Do you want spaghetti or tacos for dinner?"
"Do you want to wear long sleeves and pants under your dress or choose something else to wear?"

All are examples of perfectly real choices, in my book. I think some people believe that if parents exercise any control over a child's choices, such as limiting the parameters of the choice, then that's coercive. I don't believe that. I think it's a parent's job to set appropriate parameters in a child's life.
I think those are only real choices if as a parent you are truely willing to accept either answer.

I don't usually use "choices" to get my kids to do things. I usually just use honesty and talk to them like people. I am with you though that it's my job to set appropriate parameters. I just do it very honestly.
post #9 of 67
5/3/05 at 10:38am

captain optimism
Hurrah for the Pirate Queen
online

7,061 Posts. Joined 1/2003
Location: Good Ship Lollipop

Quote:
Originally Posted by cmb123
I think those are only real choices if as a parent you are truely willing to accept either answer.
That's the ticket, right there. Don't offer a choice if there isn't one. Don't say, "Would you like to go outside" if you WANT the child to play outside.

I don't see what's wrong with "would you like to do this now or later." That is, if you really don't have a preference yourself. If you are compelling clean up, there is nothing in the phrase "would you like to do this before dinner or after" that says otherwise. My child is two and I think he would understand that I was not giving him a choice about cleaning up.

I am surprised that Faber and Mazlish would offer a false choice. I have another of their books (Liberated Parents Liberated Children, maybe?) and they don't do that in that book.
post #10 of 67
5/3/05 at 10:46am

lizamann
offline

63 Posts. Joined 12/2004

I think that "do you want to walk in the store or sit in the cart" can be a real choice in the right circumstance. If you really want to know dc's preference and accept either answer, then it's a perfectly valid choice offering.

And Captain Crunchy, those REALLY pseudo choices that you mentioned I hear all the time. "Do you want a timeout?" I've heard that from plenty of self-described gentle parents. And the whole idea behind 123 Magic is that kids have the choice to comply, or not to comply and get the timeout. "You chose the timeout," seems to be a very common thing to say and feel. Not a real choice at all!
post #11 of 67
5/3/05 at 11:08am

dharmamama
offline

4,548 Posts. Joined 9/2004
Location: Bywater, West Farthing

Quote:
Originally Posted by cmb123
I don't usually use "choices" to get my kids to do things.
I don't use choices to get my kids to do thing either. I ask the choice questions to find out what they would prefer.

If it's not a choice, I don't ask a question. I would just say, "We need to clean up before dinner."

Quote:
Originally Posted by lizamann
"Do you want a timeout?"
I don't see that as a choice issue. I see that as a way for parents to let their kids know what will happen if they continue undesirable behavior. I don't see it as any different than saying, "If you keep doing that you will get a timeout." Just different phrasing. The desirablity of timeouts aside.



This issue becomes really important when kids get a bit older.
They figure out that what you are saying is do you want A (the wonderful choice that I want you to make) or B (the stupid choice I am manipulating you with) and once they see through it, the only way to really feel like they have any power in their choice is to chose what we don't want them to chose. I agree that the two choices need to be equal in our mind or it doesn't work... it is too manipulative and therefore dishonest. This is a lot more work for us, but really worth it.






I don't usually use "choices" to get my kids to do things.
To me, this is the crux of a pseudochoice- that it is used to get someone to do something. It's not a choice, it's a ploy.

I aggree that if there is a "real" choice you will be willing to accept any answer or most answers.




I think asking kids if they want to do something when it's really an "order" is a bad idea. Like, my stepfather used to say (in this annoying fake-cheerful voice) "Would you like to do the dishes now? Ooh, how lovely!" And it would just enrage me b/c no, i didn't want to do the dishes, but i knew i had no choice in the matter whatsoever. To this day, just thinking about it brings up negative feelings and every now and then my husband will say something in a similar way and i get really upset about it.

I know this isn't exactly the kind of "choice" the OP intended, but personally i think a choice or question is good only if it's genuine. If there is something you want a child to do which you will make them do no matter what, then for goodness' sake just tell them so. It really is the manipulation and deliberate, blithe disregard of the child's feelings that's so irritating and aggravating.
post #15 of 67
5/3/05 at 1:39pm



If there is something you want a child to do which you will make them do no matter what, then for goodness' sake just tell them so. It really is the manipulation and deliberate, blithe disregard of the child's feelings that's so irritating and aggravating.
:
post #16 of 67

A couple thoughts-

I loved the Alphi Kohn quote that went somehthing like, "Saying that children choose to misbehave is like saying that poor people choose to be poor." Some things are not entirely within people's control.

That is the reason why I dislike the phrasing, "You chose a time-out." Kids would never choose a time-out! Granted, they chose to continue doing what was prohibited, but depending on the child, the circumstance, and the age, their "choice" to "disobey" may have been somewhat beyond their immediate control.

(I think kids have a lot going on in their lives that we don't give them credit for. It must be hard to learn to speak English, learn to move your mouth to pronounce words at all, learn to use every muscle in your body- even though the demensions of your body keep changing, learn to block out a million peices of info comming at you at all times and focus your attention, listen to words spoken from way up high in the sky, etc. We tend to think that kids have nothing going on but to do what we say or not. In fact, I think they are very busy.)

Anyway- Second thought-

There's a difference between choices and options. When I want dd to brush her teeth, I'll give her the option of doing it herself- or having me do it. I don't make a big deal out of it being a "choice", but she does have some control.

The truth is that all choices are constrained by some limitations- I can choose what to wear in the morning, but only from what's in my closet. I can choose what to buy, but only within my budget.

Of course our kid's choices are going to be constrained by the limits of our time, patience and money, not to mention the rules of the universe. But I think that Mr. Kohn's point is to help kids to have as much choice as possible, and most importantly the ability to make choices that we don't necessarily aggree with.

I think it's really important to learn to get behind your child's choices. Obviously we're not going to let our kids make choices that endanger their lives, or cause us physical pain, but part of growing up is learning to think for yourself. I think it's a great gift to give your child to support them in that.

So today my dd is chosing to wear a bathing suit and a ballet skirt. I'm guessing she'll pair that with her new rain boots. I would rather her wear something more "normal", and I will probably point out that bathing suits are usually for swimming and ask if she would like to change. However if she sticks to her outfit, I'll deal with my embarrassment.

She is not me. I don't need to base my sense of self on her choices.

(She'll probably change three more times today anyway, and I'll probably like at least one outfit. )
post #17 of 67
5/3/05 at 2:00pm

I am currently reading Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline. Bailey's choice suggestions bother me a bit, because they do feel manipulative.
She has it under her heading of Power of Free Will- "which reminds us to resist the temptation to try and make children mind. It asks us to acknowledge free will in others and structure situations whereby children are more likely to be cooperative. When children feel free to make choices, the value of commitment is taught."

The example is of a preschooler who had already been very appropriately guided into getting dressed for school. When the mother came back to check on her, she was naked in her toy box. The mother responded "You have a choice. You may climb out of the bin and put your shirt on, or you may climb out and put on you pants. Which do you choose?"

Now these are two fair choices, but they seem to manipulate a young child's ability to reason. The child might think oooohhh I have a choice. I am in control. While really the mother didin't present the child's preferred choice. The mother was making the choices.

Does anyone see this example as similar to the pseudo choice idea?


post #18 of 67

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mammo2Sammo
The example is of a preschooler who had already been very appropriately guided into getting dressed for school. When the mother came back to check on her, she was naked in her toy box. The mother responded "You have a choice. You may climb out of the bin and put your shirt on, or you may climb out and put on you pants. Which do you choose?"

Now these are two fair choices, but they seem to manipulate a young child's ability to reason. The child might think oooohhh I have a choice. I am in control. While really the mother didin't present the child's preferred choice. The mother was making the choices.

Does anyone see this example as similar to the pseudo choice idea?
Yes, this is an example of that kind of manipulation. Now, I am asking myself, why do I think that? The choice between putting the pants on and putting the shirt on is real, isn't it?

It's mainly the wording. If the mom had said, "Come on out of the toy box. Which would you like to do, put on your pants or your shirt?" I wouldn't have had that reaction. The issue is that it seems like there are two choices for the naked child in the box. Really there are many more! She could choose to stay in the box and cry while her mom drags her out. She could choose to run naked around the house! I wouldn't tempt fate, YKWIM?
post #19 of 67




I am currently reading Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline. Bailey's choice suggestions bother me a bit, because they do feel manipulative.
She has it under her heading of Power of Free Will- "which reminds us to resist the temptation to try and make children mind. It asks us to acknowledge free will in others and structure situations whereby children are more likely to be cooperative. When children feel free to make choices, the value of commitment is taught."

The example is of a preschooler who had already been very appropriately guided into getting dressed for school. When the mother came back to check on her, she was naked in her toy box. The mother responded "You have a choice. You may climb out of the bin and put your shirt on, or you may climb out and put on you pants. Which do you choose?"

Now these are two fair choices, but they seem to manipulate a young child's ability to reason. The child might think oooohhh I have a choice. I am in control. While really the mother didin't present the child's preferred choice. The mother was making the choices.

Does anyone see this example as similar to the pseudo choice idea?

Sounds manipulative to me, too.

I'd say, "you have to get out of the toy box and get dressed." (Pause to let that sink in.) "What would you like to wear to school today?"

I think an importantpart of choice and free will is being very clear about what we have no control over. Isn't there a saying like "Change what you can't live with, and live with what you can't change?"



Quote:
Originally Posted by mommyofshmoo

She is not me. I don't need to base my sense of self on her choices.
Exactly-- so many parenting decisions seem to be based on this kind of 'reflective' egoism.

And of course, you can always rotate the clothes that are out for the picking so that they co-ordinate to your liking, more or less. It is, once again, offering a kind of controlled choice. Personally, I think it's good to keep some toys and clothes put away so that when they are brought out they are more special.

You're not free if you can't leave

 
maybe mostly a duplicate...

what exactly is meant by “choice”? That’s the question we need
to ask anyone who claims to endorse the concept. In practice, the
word may be misleading; it may be used to describe situations in
which students actually have very little opportunity to make meaningful
decisions.
What is described as a choice may, in any of three distinct ways,
actually be a pseudochoice.

1. “Obey or suffer.” Canter (quoted in Hill 1990, p. 75) elaborates
as follows on his idea of letting students make decisions: “The
way you teach kids to be responsible is by telling them exactly what
48
BEYOND DISCIPLINE: FROM COMPLIANCE TO COMMUNITY
is expected of them and then giving them a choice” as to whether
they comply.

Harmony With Nature And Evolutionary Trends

Here we have a rather peculiar understanding of the word responsible,
which looks suspiciously like a euphemism for “obedient”
(see Appendix 2). But Canter’s pronouncement also contains a sharply
limited view of “choice,” which amounts to either (a) doing “exactly
what is expected” by the teacher or (b) facing the consequences.

nsistent with a pattern we have already noticed, the philosophy
and techniques of Assertive Discipline are echoed in the New
Disciplines, notwithstanding the claims of the latter to be substantially
different. If a child is late returning from recess, for example,
Dreikurs suggests that in the future we give her “a choice of returning
with the others or standing by the teacher during recess until it is
time to return to class” (Dreikurs et al. 1982, p. 123).
But children may not even get to recess in the first place if teachers
have offered them the sort of choice described in Discipline with
Dignity. A student who for any reason has not completed a task on (the
teacher’s) schedule is to be told, “You can do your assignment now
or during recess” (Curwin and Mendler 1988, p. 15; also see Charney
1991, Collis and Dalton 1990). Remarkably, this is even commended
to us as an illustration of letting students make decisions.
To begin with, notice that the options for the student have been
gratuitously reduced to two—a practice that can sometimes be justified
but ought not to be accepted without careful reflection.10 On
closer examination, though, these sorts of examples do not present
children with a real choice at all. Typically no child wants to miss
recess. The teacher is really saying, “Finish your work now or I’m
going to take away something you like”—or, in generic terms, “Do
what I tell you or I’m going to punish you.”
Wrapping this threat in the language of choice allows the teacher
to camouflage a conventional use of coercion by pretending to offer
the student a chance to decide—or, in the sanitized language preferred
by one proponent of this technique, the teacher is “using
choices . . . to elicit or motivate desired behaviors” (Bluestein 1988,
p. 149). The fact that these behaviors are desired—indeed, required—by

49
Punishment Lite: “Consequences” and Pseudochoice

someone else means that the putative chooser doesn’t really have
much choice at all. “As soon as we say ‘Either you do this for me or
I’ll do that to you,’ the child will feel trapped and hostile” (Faber and
Mazlish 1995, p. 90).

2. “You punished yourself.” In a variation of this gambit that is
a hallmark of Assertive Discipline, students are punished after disobeying
the teacher’s command, but the punishment is presented as
something they asked for: “If they choose to behave in an inappropriate
manner” as determined unilaterally by the teacher, “they will
also choose to accept the negative consequences of that choice”
(Canter and Canter 1992, p. 169). Thus: “You have chosen to sit by
yourself at the table” (p. 81); “you will choose to have your parents
called” (p. 194); and so on.

Once again, the New Disciplines follow in lockstep. In Discipline
with Dignity, we are encouraged to tell students who break the rules
that they have “chosen to go home for the rest of the day” (Curwin
and Mendler 1988, p. 15) or have “chosen five minutes in Siberia
(time-out area)” (p. 107). In Cooperative Discipline, a child is likewise
told that she has “chosen to go to [time-out in] Mr. Jordan’s
room” (Albert 1989, p. 77). And in a book called Teaching Children
to Care, we find the same thing: “I see you are choosing to go to
your time-out place” (Charney 1991, p. 114).11

Again, the appeal of this tactic is no mystery: it seems to relieve
the teacher of responsibility for what he is about to do to the child.
(Apparently, students not only always choose their own behavior,
but also choose the teacher’s response! Teachers would seem to be
exempt from the axiom that people are responsible for their own
choices.)

Even in cases where we really can state unconditionally that a
child has “chosen” to do something bad—notwithstanding the concerns
about such sweeping statements raised in Chapter 2—the child
certainly does not choose to be punished for it. The teacher does
that to him. In short, this is a fundamentally dishonest, not to mention
manipulative, attribution. To the injury of punishment is added
the insult of a kind of mind game whereby reality is redefined and

50
BEYOND DISCIPLINE: FROM COMPLIANCE TO COMMUNITY

children are told, in effect, that they wanted to have something bad
happen to them (see Crockenberg 1982, pp. 65–70).

“You’ve chosen a time out” is a lie: a truthful teacher would have
to say, “I’ve chosen to isolate you.”

3. “Choose . . . and Suffer.” In yet another version of pseudochoice,
children are allowed or even encouraged to make certain decisions
specifically so they will suffer from their own poor judgment.
This technique falls under the rubric of what Dreikurs called natural
(as distinct from logical) consequences, which he defined somewhat
circularly as “the natural results of ill-advised acts” (Dreikurs and
Grey 1968, p. 63).

Of course, there is a kernel of truth here: many times, we do
learn from the unpleasant results that follow from poor choices. If I
leave my books too close to the edge of the desk, they may fall over;
if I stay up late, I’m probably going to be tired in the morning. However,
letting a child experience the “natural consequences” of her action
may not be particularly constructive, depending on her age, the
nature of the action, and other factors. Many people like to point out,
for example, that a child who constantly insults her peers will soon
have few friends as a result. But to conclude that this will “teach” her
to be a nicer person overlooks basic human psychology—specifically,
the reciprocal relation between perceptions and behaviors, and
the way they can spiral out of control. The fact that others steer clear
of this child may simply cement her disagreeable image of them—or
of herself.

Similarly, an aggressive child may eventually get his teeth
knocked out by someone bigger than he is, but this will likely teach
him the importance of making sure that he wins the next fight, not
the futility (much less the immorality) of fighting. Lilian Katz (1984, p.
9) has observed that “the school of hard knocks, although powerful,
is likely to provide the wrong lessons to children”—and the same
could be said about many natural consequences.

In a program called Discipline with Love and Logic, children
aren’t merely allowed to live with the results of their actions; they are
“forced to make . . . decisions” so that they will come to regret the

51
Punishment Lite: “Consequences” and Pseudochoice

bad ones (Cline and Fay 1990, p. 48). As a result, “children don’t get
angry at us; they get angry at themselves” (p. 78; also see Dreikurs et
al. 1982, p. 118). The authors are quite clear about the intent: “We
want our kids to

xx hurt from the inside out”

(Cline and Fay 1990, p. 91;
emphasis in original).

The sample dialogues offered in this manual
suggest a smug satisfaction on the part of the adult who watches as
children “learn” (read: suffer) from their own mistakes.
The salient questions here are these: What message do adults
send when they deliberately allow something unpleasant to happen
to a child even though they could have intervened? What conclusions
does the child draw about how much the adult cares about him, or
whether he is worth caring about, or how he should come to regard
other people in general?

Incredibly, the authors of Discipline with
Love and Logic talk about the importance of empathy, even though
precisely the opposite of empathic concern would seem to be communicated
to a child by an adult following their prescription.

In conventional punishment, a child is at least left with a sense
of self intact and the capacity to stand in opposition to the punisher.
Not so with this insidious strategy,

Xx which tries to turn the child against herself.

Any doubt about the lack of respect for children
demonstrated by this approach is erased when the authors give us
leave to ignore any objections that children may make to something
we have done to them: “Once you encounter resistance, you’ll know
[the technique is] working” (p. 103).

A caring adult wants to help children learn to make responsible
decisions about the things that matter to them—and to help them see
the results of those decisions.

That, however, is very different from
what has become of the concept of choice in the New Discipline
programs. Here, “consequences” are neither logical nor natural.