Posts tagged “teaching children choice theory

Batman vs. Superman


A new Batman and Superman movie, Dawn of Justice, came out last weekend, and interestingly the two superheroes are pitted against one another. How can it be, you might ask, that two “good” guys go after each other? What kind of sense does that make? The answer to that question is fascinating, and even important, and ultimately has a connection to choice theory.


I don’t have a deep knowledge of comic book characters. I was never allowed to go near a comic book when I was a kid, which some would say had something to do with me developing an interest in science fiction later in life. It was troubling enough to my parents when I got into the Hardy Boys mystery series. Over the years I have seen different of the blockbuster summer movies that feature Marvel or DC comic characters, but I am not that familiar with the original writing that brought these characters to life. Apparently, there are a lot of people who are into the comic book genre, though, and one of these people, Abraham Riesman, wrote an article on the conflict between Batman and Superman that appeared in the March 21 edition of New York Magazine.

Lex Luthor

Lex Luthor

Both of them, Riesman contends, want to make a better world, but they differ on how to accomplish it. Superman operates through hope and inspiration, while Batman operates through fear and intimidation. In the movie (I haven’t seen it yet), Lex Luthor, the bad guy, describes them as “god vs. man, day vs. night.” As Riesman summarizes, “Superman has faith that humanity will tend toward goodness if you give it trust and hope; Batman lacks that faith and believes the world only gets in line if you grab it by the throat and never let go.” Of interest is the fact that between the two characters, Batman is by far the more popular. Whether by number of comics or by number of movie tickets sold, Batman predominates.

Batman is by far the more popular.

This is a bit remarkable, given that Batman is only an earthling, which leads us to consider something deeper. That something has everything to do with the way in which Batman’s worldview seems to dominate .  .  . well, the world’s view of how things get done. More and more people, it would seem, are relating to Batman’s approach to solving problems? “It was only in the 70s and 80s,” one writer suggests, “that Batman truly emerged from Superman’s shadow. This was a period shadowed by the assassinations of two Superman-like symbols of hope – Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. Cities from coast to coast erupted into vicious race riots. A sitting president was tied to an insidious crime and resigned on live television. We lost a war for the first time and economy skidded into an oil-slicked slowdown. At the cinema, audiences wanted heroes that were less like John Wayne and more like Dirty Harry.”

Dirty Harry

In a comic book from 1983, “Superman tries to appeal to the better angels of Batman’s nature” and reminds him of their always wanting to serve as examples to others. “But the Dark Knight cuts him off and declares that he never asked for that. ‘I never wanted men to imitate me – only fear me.’” Batman felt that Superman had sold out to a failed system. “My parents taught me a different lesson than yours taught you, Superman, lying on this street, shaking in deep shock, dying for no reason at all, they showed me that the world only makes sense when you force it to.”

And so the newest DC comics movie, Dawn of Justice, pits two good guys against each other, fighting over how to make the world a better place. One through hope, inspiration, and faith in humanity. While the other relies on fear, intimidation, and force.

Dawn of Justice pits two good guys against each other,
fighting over how to make the world a better place.

The rhetoric on display during the Republican debates seemed very much in agreement with a Batman mentality. Trump’s meteoric rise in political popularity has much to do with his tough talk and forceful solutions. It will be interesting to see where we go as voters, and where ultimately we want the country to head. Will a majority of us want tough talk and solutions through force?

Choice theory, whether applied personally or corporately, and even on an international scale, calls us to something better than threats and brute force. As educators, the present political dialogue will make our jobs more challenging. Children and teenagers pick up on the words said and the tone in which they are said and, if these words and tones are modeled at home, will behave in a similar fashion at school. Even as educators have recently made advances against bullying, now the language of bullying has been thrust upon us on a national political stage, and our advances seem poised to be swept away. Whether difficult or not, as educators and parents, let us hold to the promptings and principles of choice theory and keep on teaching our students about discovering their purpose in life, about love and belonging, about freedom, about power (this one is getting more important by the second), and about joy.

The ultimate use of power is to empower others.
William Glasser


Two Lawnmowers


There is so much choice theory in this picture.

Two lawnmowers parked in a backyard shed, their work done for now, resting as the grass grows once again, but ready to get back at it when the lawn once again needs a trim.

Two lawnmowers. One real, heavy, dusty, its grasscatcher hanging out the back; the other small, plastic, unimposing, a toy.

Of course, the picture captures more than these two objects. It captures something about a relationship, something about the caring habits, and something about lead management. You can see the lawnmowers; do you see choice theory sitting there, too?

When I get the mower out to mow the lawn, my grandson invariably grabs his mower and wants to join me. He will ask, “Grandpa, can I help you mow the lawn?” And I will answer with something like, “Yes, I could use the help. Thank you very much.” I can imagine an adult answering that question with “No, I need you to stay out of the way. Lawnmowers are dangerous and you need to keep your distance.” Or maybe “No, I don’t need your help. You can play on the lawn after I am done.” I don’t like those answers, though, since I really like my grandson’s help with the different projects in which I am involved.

As I mow he is pushing his mower across the grass, too. Sometimes out in front of me, sometimes behind me, sometimes off to the side. He has a system, a plan that he follows, much the same as me having a plan as I work to efficiently get all the grass cut. He laughs a lot as he darts around, and I do, too, for that matter. When I stop to empty the grasscatcher, he stops, too, and walks with me to the green trash can, where we empty the clippings.

This last time, after we were all done with mowing, I pushed the mower to the back of the property, where there is a shed that keeps stuff like lawnmowers. I pushed it up the little ramp and was about to shut the shed door, but noticed that my grandson was now pushing his little mower up the ramp, too. I asked if he was sure he wanted to leave his mower there, as he wouldn’t be able to play with it if it was locked in the shed. He said he understood that, but that he wanted his mower to be in the shed, too, ready for the next time the lawn needed to be mowed.


I suppose I could have said, “No, let’s not put your mower in the shed. That’s not where it goes.” But that didn’t occur to me. I was so touched by our two mowers sitting there together.

So where’s the choice theory? A lot of you, as you read this, have already come up with multiple examples. Here are a few that come to my mind –

The Relationship
My grandson and I have a really good relationship. I enjoy being with him and I like it a lot when he wants to help me. He talks a blue streak as we work, some of the talk related to the job, but a lot of it not. And while sometimes he actually can hand me something I need or carry a board to where it is needed, not all of his “help” is actually helpful. But I want him close, I want his “help”, all of it.

The Caring Habits
Words like accepting, encouraging, and listening come to mind as I think about our mowing the lawn together. Yes, he is just pushing a toy around, and yes, I could respond in kind, but I don’t think our two mowers would be sitting in the shed together right now if I used one of the deadly habits like criticizing or complaining.


Lead Management
My grandson loves helping with projects. A few weeks back I constructed 75’ of new fence. It was a grueling job that involved the removal of the old fence, disposal of the old boards, removal of the old fence posts, and the digging of the new holes. It was hot, too. And yet he was with me a lot of the time. Out there in his Crocks and his underwear, talking, listening, handing me stuff, and doing stuff on his own. He is growing up to be an involved, helpful young man, not because we are making him be that way, but because we are open to his being involved. We are supportive of his interest and his efforts. At times we invite his participation or try to persuade him to join in the work. Usually, it is more about accepting his offer to help.

The picture of the two mowers captures what is possible when we place a high value on relationships and keep the caring habits in mind. Whether young or old, people thrive when the elements of lead-management are present.


Me and Chris Kinney.

Me and Chris Kinney.

The talk at Lower Lake High School this past Thursday evening (9-11-14) went well. Chris Kinney, a teacher at the school and one of my former students, organized the event and recorded it, too. There are administrators and teachers at the school that want to head in a choice theory direction and Chris is fueling and supporting that vision. I will be sharing more about this in an upcoming blog. Well done, Chris! It was a great evening all the way around!


We have been stuck on the number 16 when it comes to Amazon book reviews for Champion of Choice. It would be great for the book, and by extension the ideas of choice theory, if that number could go significantly higher. Reviews don’t have to be long and they are simple to do.

Now priced at $17.23 on Amazon; 16 reviews have been submitted. (We've been stuck on 16 for a while.)

Now priced at $17.23 on Amazon; 16 reviews have been submitted. (We’ve been stuck on 16 for a while.)

The eBook version can be accessed at –

The paperback version can be accessed at –

or from Amazon at –

Signed copies of Champion of Choice can be accessed through me at –


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