Lesson 2: Choice Theory

Click for introductory video for Lesson 2

After this introduction of the theory to the student, try to use the strategies consistently in your classroom.

According to Choice Theory, all behavior is made up of four components: acting, feeling, thinking, and physiology. All behavior is chosen, and the only person whose behavior we can control is our own. We only have direct control over our actions and thoughts. We can control our feelings and physiology through how we choose to act and think.

We control ourselves. None of what we do is caused by any situation or person outside of ourselves. No thing, event, or person “makes” us do anything. We do not do what we are told unless doing so satisfies us more than anything else we believe we can do at the time. We are responsible for fulfilling our own needs. Some of our basic needs that can be fulfilled in school are belonging, fun, and power. We behave the way we do to best satisfy our needs.

Strategies to Integrate “Choice Theory” Into Practice

  • Do not allow a student to say someone else “made” her do something or react somehow. “The teacher made me mad” is a way of saying “I am not personally responsible for what I feel, and therefore, for what I do.” Instead, point out to the student that she chose to feel angry, and examine with her the reasons for the anger and her subsequent actions.
  • Have a student use verbs to describe his feelings, rather than adjectives. “I am depressed about school” does not imply personal responsibility or choice. “I am depressing something” or “I am choosing to depress something” is a more accurate and responsible way to express the feeling, as it means that something can be done about the situation. Again, it is important to reiterate that a person chooses to think and react in a certain way. Help the student figure out what it is that he is depressing and point out that this is not a fixed state.

For more on William Glasser’s Choice Theory:

  • Books: Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom
        Choice Theory in the Classroom (see Reference section)
  • <http://www.wglasserinst.com>

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