How to Develop Decision Making Skills in Your Child

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‘But what do you think I should do?’

In my experience in working with kids as a counselling psychologist, often asked questions by students have always been related to decision-making. The sheer helplessness of not being able to come to consensus on a particular thought, allows them to approach adults for assistance on the same. This is a good sign. However, adults making decisions for them repeatedly, without assisting them to make the decisions on their own do not enable them, but serves as a crutch, allowing them to depend on the adult at all times

As parents of 13 year olds, we need to prepare our children for an adolescent life. This stage in life for them is overwhelming and decision-making becomes a priority skill to achieve. This phase sets the stage for them to build on identity, and decision-making is an important tool to use for this process.

When Decision making gone wrong

When we approach our children on a decision they’ve made, which according to us wasn’t a very wise one, we’ll often hear a response – ‘I didn’t mean to’, ‘ I didn’t think it would get me into so much trouble’, ‘My friends forced me to’ and so on. Children often make these poor decisions repeatedly because they lack experience in what is done or they don’t foresee the consequences of such decisions.

Role of the parents: When our child has made a poor decision or one which is not safe, we should correct them by pointing out what the other options were or by showing them what the consequences of that particular decision were. This reinforces the thought process of making the right choice.

Decision-making in progress 

It is a long standing learning process. We as parents, can constantly support our children through modelling and correction. A huge part of decision-making is the consequence of it. The repercussion of a decision, allows our children to either run to an adult for help or choose differently the next time. The confusion almost always stems from the fear of consequence which determines a lot of the future for them. 

Role of the parents: With our experience as parents, we could guide them through not only making good decisions, but also showing them how to handle negative outcomes of poor decisions in different situations they are faced with.

Building Decision Making skills

As teenagers, children are bombarded with decisions that they will need to make independently of the parent. Enabling our children to build on these skills prove beneficial to them. 

Parents’ role

  1. Prepare your child on a regular basis. Allowing our children to be involved in the decision making process at home, gives them the opportunity to not only specify a choice appropriate to them, but also be willing to bear the outcome of such a decision.
  2. Don’t bail them out : When a poor decision is made and the child then faces the consequence of that decision, our very instinct as parents, become to bail them out. I suggest not. When we do step in to bear that outcome for them, it teaches them two things – One, that they can make whatever decision they want, parents will always be there and Two, that making a wrong decision, will never hurt them. 
  3. Always follow up : After decisions are made by our children, good or poor, follow it up with a discussion. Especially when the task set for the decision was made by the parent. If the decision was a good one, appreciate your child for it. If it was a poor one, walk through the various options that could’ve otherwise been chosen.
  4. Choose not to impress : Children often tend to be parent pleasers. Sometimes, they tend to make specific decisions so as to please the parent, knowing well that it would make the parent happy. This soon becomes a practice, inculcated in them. This cannot be the basis on a skills in process as we are preparing our children for the outside world, which most often will not need the parent sign of approval. Showing our children that the (good) decision they’ve made results in a better outcome for the self, is important.

Having said this, it is a life-long process. One which will yield both good and bad results. Celebrating the good ones and embracing the poor ones, is the key to continue in ambition, learning to build on skills. Parents could take it upon them to only guide and direct children resulting in an increase in maturity to make decisions, best for themselves.

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