One of the most powerful tools you can impart to your child is to teach him how to become good decision-maker. Decision-making is a life-long skill that shapes a child into the mature adult. Decisions need to be made after carefully examining the risks and rewards for short and long term consequences.
You, as a parent, are your child’s best model and motivator for decision-making. Parents need to have an appropriate approach for guiding decision-making for their child. The setting has to be physically calm, verbally engaging, and non-threatening.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when guiding your child to be a better decision maker:
Young children are confused by too many options. Four- to 6-year-olds need two options at best, not four or five from which to choose. Too any choices overwhelm what children can handle and filter. As they get older, you can increase the number of options. At the same time, parents need to show children the consequences of their decision-making. When a wrong decision is made, parents need to discuss why it was wrong. Explain in detail the effects for the child and others involved.
Building decision-making is a long process. Parents have to slowly and seamlessly weave decision-making into the everyday lives of their children (Examples: What do you want to wear—the blue pants or the brown pants? Do you want chicken or fish for dinner?) Usually young children respond without deliberation and act without thinking. Parents need to teach children to stop and think before responding. While processing the issue through a slow and thoughtful manner, bad decisions can be avoided. Good decisions are generally made at times that are free of stress and conflict. Parents can help build decision-making skills by discussing scenarios and hypothetical situations during these quieter times of the day. Children need to weigh the consequences of a decision in terms of its benefit to themselves as well as the decision’s effect on others.
Books in which the characters have to make decisions can promote sound decision-making. Parents can discuss the character’s decisions and the processes the character went through to make the decision. They can ask the child why the decision was a good or bad choice. The child should back-up her choice with documentation from the story. Parents can ask the child what options she would choose in the same situation.
Games can help children learn about consequence when rules are broken. Game playing helps children learn to make choices and see the consequences of their decisions. Children need to experience reasoning through a decision by having the appropriate information and responding in a mature, thoughtful manner. This helps to build confidence in avoiding peer pressure in risky situations. The child develops confidence in his choices when supported by the safety net of home and family.
Let children make some mistakes. They need to see that the consequences of their actions matter.
Many poor decisions are concerned with money. Teach your child the value of money and how to make decisions that involve economic issues. Providing an allowance can help children begin to make monetary decisions.
Join organizations that support your values. Children can see the decision-making process in action. They can learn to deal with the positive peer pressure of others with similar values and interests.
Children’s daily decision-making is demonstrated through the way in which they behave and interact with others. This skill is truly a significant part of everyone’s life and requires practice and reinforcement. Parents must work collaboratively with teachers to provide the best modeling of this skill. There must be ample opportunities for children to practice using the tools for astute decision-making.
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