How To Teach Your Child To Make Decisions
Decisions are the basis of all our lives. How to teach your child to make their own decisions, so they can practise a skill they will need their entire life.
One of the things that drive us, mothers, crazy is having to repeat ourselves. It is almost as if our children put in earplugs when we speak to them and drown us out.
Well, a few years ago I stumbled on a solution. And that is what I want to share with you in this post.
How to teach kids to make decisions
So a few years ago, when my son was 7 years old, every other day I was telling him the same thing over and over and over.
I began to feel like a nag! And I could see the light drain from his eyes every time I spoke about things he needs to get done or what he forgot to do.
This way of doing it was not working for me and him. I realised we needed a change.
Get clear about what you want
First, get clear about what you want. What kind of children do you want to raise?
I had to get clear and I realised I want children who can think for themselves, who can express their needs, who can navigate life and demonstrate kindness. This realisation gave way to the practise method.
If I want children who can think for themselves, I need to give them room to practise thinking for themselves and making their own decisions.
If he can talk, he can surely think and make decisions
Children use their brains long before they use their speech. So if your child can talk they can also practise decision-making.
The key is to get curious. Ask questions instead of giving out commands. No one wants to feel like they are not in control of their own life, kids included. When we ask questions with genuine interest it opens up dialogue.
Honest dialogue void of judgement creates connection. Ultimately, that is what we want, a real connection with our children.
A recent example, in our house, is of my eldest (10 going on 11) blurting out that he believes he is ready to date!
My first internal reaction was: Oh boy, here we go!
After I collected my thoughts, I asked questions. Questions like, “What makes you believe you are ready to date?”
He didn’t have an answer for this so my follow-up question was, ” Do you have friends who date at school?”
He said yes. I then asked, ” What does dating look like for them?”
He explained what it looks like. And then I asked, ” How would dating this girl change the relationship you currently have with her?”
He replied, ” I guess it wouldn’t.”
And if you have to break up, do you think it would ruin your friendship?
” I am not sure, maybe I should ask her?”
To wrap up this story, the final outcome was that he would wait. He arrived at this decision by thinking about it and gathering more information.
On the other hand, I could have simply ended all dating conversations by saying, ” You’re too young to date!” Which is what a lot of us do. And I get why; we know this movie and how it ends. But when we shut down communication, we miss out on connection in favour of being right.
Understand your child's priorities for better decisions
Another quick story to demonstrate how you help your child make their own decisions.
A couple of months ago, we received an email from our son’s English teacher saying our son needs to read more.
Here’s the thing, this boy has been reading since he was four and has loved it, so much that a budget for books was a real thing.
What has changed? His priorities.
He is obsessed with basketball in this phase of his life. He reads all the players’ stats and watches games back to back! This leaves little to no room for reading library books. Fair enough.
So, first, understand your child’s priorities and then communicate that you understand what is currently going on in their world.
Paint the big picture to help with making decisions
And then paint the big picture. The picture here is that school has an end date if you put in the work.
And then ask questions, again.
” Do you love playing basketball?” Answer: Yes.
” Do you want more time to play basketball?” Answer: Yes.
” How long are you asked to read per day?”
Answer: 20-30 minutes.
” How much time do you have when school ends and before basketball starts?”
Answer: About 2 hours.
” You are in school to learn and playing basketball is an offering at the school. So which comes first in this situation?”
“If you were in the NBA which would come first?”
” With 2 hours before basketball, is it possible to take 20 minutes to read?”
Answer: Can I just read 30 minutes before bed?
” Can you do two books a week?”
Answer: No. I will read one book a week, 30 minutes before bed.
Choose connection over being right
What happened? We went from reading happening by chance or not at all to a committed time and a goal (one book a week).
I could argue with him over this and demand he reads before basketball and read two books a week. Again, this would be pushing my expectations and dismissing the opportunity to connect and teach him how to make his own decisions.
Instead, he is now accountable for the decision he made because he made it after thinking about what he has the capacity to do.
Why should children make their own decisions?
Let us talk about why children should make their own decisions? Teaching children to make their own decisions helps them learn self-reliance and how to make the hard choices.
This is not a skill one suddenly develops in adulthood, it is practised over the course of one’s life. Now, imagine how much easier your child’s life would be around making decisions if they have been honing this skill from a young age?
Decisions also help with self-expression and discovery. Isn’t the point of parenting to raise self-sufficient adults who can navigate life in a way that best serves them?
Psychology Today states that “Teaching your children to make their own decisions has several benefits. When they make a good decision, they can gain the greatest amount of satisfaction and fulfilment because they chose it.”
It is one of the best ways to instill healthy self-esteem in your child. And isn’t that what we all want?
To Sum It All Up!
Our job as parents is to raise future adults who can navigate life. And with anything in life, to get better, we need practise.
The sooner we start our kids on this journey, the more practise they get and the better they become at making sound decisions, or decisions that best serve them.
We can be the moms who take the sting out of adulthood by helping our kids work on a skill they need for the rest of their lives.
Send this to a mama who may find it helpful.
Also, share your process when it comes to helping your little one make decisions.
Until next time, I send you love, joy and peace of mind. xx