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Kids and Good Decision Making

How to Help Your Child Become a Good Decision Maker

Have you ever thought about how many decisions you make throughout a normal day?

Some are big, some are minor. Others have a massive impact on your life, some are inconsequential, and the rest cover everything in between. The oddest thing is that we make these decisions without giving much thought to the sheer number of choices we're making.

Learning how to make decisions

We don't do this because we're careless — we simply don't think about the decisions we make because it's a learned skill that most adults have. We might take our time with important decisions, stressing over the details while we make up our minds, but, in general, we humans are pretty good at considering our options and choosing what we want. By the time you're an adult you've been making decisions for a very long time.

But, what about our kids?

Of course little ones aren't particularly good at making decisions; they might know they love chicken nuggets and not spinach, and they might choose a red coat over a blue one, but they certainly can't and don't have the skills necessary to truly be independent beings quite yet.

As parents, we know that we are going to be “the deciders” for our young children; we know what is best for them and act accordingly. But, what about our older kids: our middle schoolers and teenagers who think they know it all and don't want us telling them what to do?

Well, the short answer is that one of our most important jobs as parents is to teach our children how to make good, healthy decisions. We need to teach our kids how to be confident in their skills and give them a process by which to gain those skills, as well as the opportunities to “practice” their abilities in safe ways.

Tips to help teach decision-making to your children:

You can thoughtfully teach your children how to make good decisions while giving them the time and space they need to practice the skill, just give these tips a try:

  • Start the dialogue by talking about how to recognize good decisions. Like adults, kids make decisions all the time, but they often aren't aware that's what they're really doing. Talking about the impacts of decisions, and what decisions are, can help your child hone their ability to mindfully make wise decisions.
  • Help your child understand the problem that has create the need for decision-making. You can ask questions about how they view a situation, how it makes them feel, and what they see and hear. Once this is understood, talk about what can be changed.
  • Work together to brainstorm possible solutions, emphasizing that there's generally more than one solution for all dilemmas. You can also suggest alternatives if your child can't think of any.
  • Walk through the consequences and results of each solution. The best solution will solve the problem while empowering your child and making them feel good about themselves.
  • After, evaluate the results of the decision with your child. Determine whether it worked out well or not. If the decision failed, why? Do this in a positive and non-judgmental way, emphasizing that we're all learning this stuff as we go along. If your child is open to listening, you could even share how you bounced back from a bad decision in your own past.

Sometimes, an unbiased third party can help you break through to your child, especially if they're resistant to your guidance or if you have trouble communicating with each other. Call Foundations Counseling today for a free consultation and to learn more!