The Illusory Alternative

The Illusory Alternative

The « illusory alternative »

In his book “Obtenir sans punir”, Christophe Carré tells us about the “illusory alternative”.

Here is how it works:

Instead of asking directly your kid to do something, ask him to choose several options.

For example, don’t tell your kid “do your homework now”, ask him “at what time do you want to do your homework ? Now, at 2 pm or at 5 pm ?”

The choice is illusory, because whatever he chooses, he will have to do his homework before the end of the day. So how does this work?

  1. Kids like their freedom of choice. Proposing different options preserves that freedom of choice, so the kid is less likely to get angry, even if the freedom is illusory.
  2. It harnesses the power of commitments. By selecting an option, the kid implicitly commits to doing his homework at the chosen time.

Here are a couple of examples for you to try with your kids:

  • “At what time do you want to go to bed? At 8 pm or at 7.45 pm?
  • “Do you want to take a bath before going to bed, or do you prefer to put your pajamas on in the bathroom?”

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