Freeman Medical Musings Blog

The Behavior Traffic Light: Green Light

Posted by Dr. Kimberly Fielding, on April 30, 2015

In the overall theme of the behavior traffic light, the purpose of the green light is to cultivate the perception that we have a choice throughout many important parts of daily living. Adults use green light words to convey freedom of choice. When a person is using the green light in their behavior traffic light, healthy, safe and happy effects are predictable. Children need to become accustomed to what is in the green zone.
Healthy green light examples:

  • “Feel free to go to your friend’s house when your homework is done.”
  • “You’re welcome to watch television when the chores are done.”
  • “I’ll be glad to give you a snack once the laundry is put away.”

The above examples show how to phrase green light communication so that your request sounds as much like choice as possible. It helps children to see how behavior choices are ever-present. Green and red light words show us how we share control through choices. Adults who use “No” because of a particular reason (based on controlling power) can provoke a negative reaction in children. Rather, help adults can find a way to say “no” by saying “YES” under conditions.

Red light: No (The adult has all the control)
Green light: Yes (The adult shares the control with when/then statements)

Red Light Words
No you can’t go to the ball game because your room is a disaster!
You can’t have dessert because you didn’t eat all of your dinner.
You won’t be going to your friend’s house because you didn’t do all your chores.
Green Light Words
You are welcome to go to the ball game when your room is clean.
When you finish all your dinner then you can have dessert.
Feel free to go to your friend’s house when all your chores are done.

The interesting thing about green light words and cultivating child followership: compound interest! Just like a savings account rewards for depositing new funds, children are like a bank. They build up resiliency and the ability to cope with stress when they are used to using their green light. If adults are consistent in offering acceptable options to problem solving, children will follow along expecting that they, too, can figure things out