Santa Claus or Satan?
I told the class, “Your behavior controls my behavior.” I said, “You get to choose. Who do you want standing up here, Santa Claus or Satan? Santa Claus is a jolly, white-haired, old man who gives presents and grants favors. Satan is a mean guy who enforces the rules to the letter of the law without pity or consideration for your situation. Now who do you want standing up here?”
This strategy is a variation on my Two Choices Technique. I’ve written about it before. I used Two Choices Technique when a child simply needed to see a necessary but possibly unpleasant course of action (like actually doing some school work) in a more favorable light (by a creative boosting of confidence or self-esteem – this is often called reframing). I also used Two Choices Technique when a child had moved from mere misbehavior into tantrum or dangerous behavior.
Two Choices Technique works just like its name, after you reach some sort of behavioral impasse, you give your child two choices of action. In this case I was trying to let the kids know that I was willing to be open minded about their needs and wants if they were respectful of me and my program (teacher as Santa Claus). But if they were foolish enough to disrespect me or my program they were choosing to accept every classroom, school site or school district rule or policy without any consideration for the circumstances (teacher as Satan).
No idle threats
One thing I never do is give an option I’m not prepared to go through with. I have used options such as: ‘You can either put away the phone and get to work or you can give me your phone and pick it up in the office after school.’ or ‘You are here to get an education. You can get to work here or you can help us find you a new school.’ or ‘If you don’t want to be at this school why don’t we call your mother and ask her what she thinks.’ All such options are fair game. I worked hard to get a reputation for consistency, and if a child chose the negative consequence they’d get it.
You’d think the choice would be obvious. But when I asked, “Who do you want standing up here, Santa Claus or Satan?” One fool said, “Satan.”
Be careful what you wish for.
Because he asked for it and then later violated the School District’s use of headphones policy (if headphones are out they can be confiscated and held for a parent to retrieve), he got Satan. I confiscated his headphones and held them until the end of the day (which is an eternity of punishment for a teen). Had he said, “I choose Santa Claus,” and shown some respect, Santa would have given back the headphones at the end of class.