5 Steps to 2 Positive Choices: An In-The-Moment Approach to Positive Guidance

Youth voice and choice is a powerful, proactive youth development approach that fosters decision-making skills, self-efficacy, and independence. In addition to on-going program opportunities for youth voice and choice, kids need in the moment skill-building support. The five steps below can be used to help with the decision-making process when time is short or as part of a guidance strategy to redirect behavior.

STEP 1: Take a deep breath.

  • Think about what options might work for the young person and for you.
  • Check your emotional state before responding. Breathing deeply will help you move forward constructively.

STEP 2: Communicate calmly.

  • In a calm, but authentic tone, say, “It seems like you have a couple of choices.”
  • Your positive attitude and approach may change the dynamic of the situation, especially if the young person feels reluctant or despondent.

STEP 3: State two choices that will help both of you achieve your desired goal.

  • Say, “It seems like it would work for both of us if you ________________ or if you ________________.

STEP 4: Ask for a commitment.

  • Say, “What choice do you think would be best for you?”
  • Practice wait time. Give the young person a moment to think and process the information while you wait quietly. Remember, if this is a new approach, and has not been practiced by adults or young people, it may take time. After a few minutes say, “What do you think? Which choice works best for you?

STEP 5: Notice and affirm the choice.

  • Say, “You chose __________! What do you need to do to get started?” in an encouraging voice.
  • Repeat the choice to make sure you and the young person agree and to make sure they have everything needed to successfully follow through with the choice.

For this approach to be successful adults need to:

  • Articulate true choices – two positive options or two options that are both acceptable to all involved.
  • Think in positive terms about the outcomes they want.

This article is part of the Choose Choices blog series focused on helping OST professionals identify and apply youth choice strategies as part of regular program practice.

Contributed by Heidi Ham, vice president of programs and strategy, National AfterSchool Association

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