Right now is a great time to make a good choice.

Technique helping kids learn to make good choices.

Teach kids to make good choices with good values and step out of the momentum of bad choices

Ever notice how bad choices tend to snowball? I mean the way one bad choice can pick a child up like a giant snowball that starts them rolling downhill—picking up mistake, upon bad attitude, upon hopeless tantrum, into a giant mess of tears and snot? Well, next time you see your kid trapped in a snowball barreling downhill, here’s my secret weapon.

A technique for redirecting away from bad choices

Illustration from Be Proud Children's book about making good choice with good values

Sometimes, I find that my kids get trapped in a problem and don’t know how to get themselves out of it. For example, my son knows he shouldn’t play video games until his room is clean. I discover him mid-game with piles of laundry and toys all over the floor. He starts throwing a fit about how he never gets to do what he wants and why should he have to clean his room anyway—laying on attitude and defensiveness and accusations. He thinks he’s in trouble, so he goes into an automatic, defensive fight or flight response (well, fight response if we’re being accurate.) In a moment, he could have shifted the situation by acknowledging his mistake and starting to clean his room. But instead of changing course and rerouting away from a bad choice toward a good choice, he digs himself in deeper.

If your children get stuck and seem to be making the problem worse by layering on more bad choices, here’s a tip: calmly state, “Right now is a great time to make a good choice." And then wait. Just pause and let it hang there.

Rooted in Decency Book on COmmon Decency and Moral Values

How this good values technique works

The phrase “Right now is a great time to make a good choice” interrupts the automatic fight or flight response and gives children a moment to think. It reminds them that there are better choices available to them. It gives reason a chance to override defensiveness and knee-jerk reactions. And here’s the beauty of this phrase: “Right Now” is always a great time make good choices. Even if a few bad choices have already happened, we don't have to be tied to the path we've been on. It's always a good idea to put an end to a bad choice by course correcting. Don't wait until more damage has been done. Right now is a great time to make a good choice.

Calmly making this statement stops kids in their tracks and gives them a moment to gather themselves and start thinking less emotionally or with less panic. Sometimes you have to repeat the phrase at patient intervals until the child really hears you. But once they pause their automatic reaction and really hear it, this phrase helps them see a path to a new choice and a new course.

Expanding the lesson

Book Be Proud- a story about making good choices you can be proud of

Wondering who came up with this helpful phrase? It's from the Oak Tree, in the book, Be Proud, from the Talking with Trees series. This wise, old tree has seen it all and helps a boy learn how to listen to his conscience and to enjoy the pride that comes with making good choices. Learn more about the book here or download a free poster to help you and your children pause the downhill momentum and think about other ways of handling the situation.

Colleen Doyle Bryant

Colleen Doyle Bryant is the author of five books and more than 50 learning resources about making good choices for the right reasons. Her Talking with Trees series for elementary students and Truth Be Told Quotes series for teens are used in curricula around the world. Rooted in Decency, Colleen’s most recent release, written for an adult audience, explores how the decline in common decency is affecting wellbeing, and how we can build more trust and cooperation. Learn more at ColleenDoyleBryant.com