Does your child have trouble making decisions? Some kids can’t decide what to wear to school, chose a book at the library or even figure out what they want for lunch. So how can we help our kids learn to be good decision makers? Linda Morgan, editor of ParentMap and author of the book Beyond Smart gives some ideas.
Is it important that young kids learn how to make decisions?
We are presented with choices every part of every day. Am I going to get up now or in five minutes? Should I have breakfast or work out? This is a life skill. And it can’t really begin too early. When they get older, it’s not the vanilla or strawberry ice cream they’re considering, friends to select, which college to go to and whether they should drink that shot of tequila. They need to hone their decision-making skills when the stakes are low.
Why do very young kids seem to get so frustrated trying to make choices?
We often give them too many options. That’s like flooding them. “What do you want for lunch” can turn into an hour-long conversation. We should give them lots of opportunities to make choices – but we need to limit the selection. When they are very young, giving them a choice between two things is enough.
And we need to think about the surroundings, and our expectations. Let’s say you’re taking your 4-year-old into Target. He gets overwhelmed and distracted. You ask him to make a decision about a toy, he has a meltdown.
What if they make the wrong decision and regret it later?
Nothing is perfect - and that’s what we should teach our kids. We should also transmit the message that ‘good enough’ is almost always good enough. Teach your child to be happy with the choices he makes. And regretting a choice is also OK- everyone does that once in awhile.
How can we teach our kids to make good choices?
Talk the Talk: Sit down and work through a decision with your child. Let’s say she’s having a party. How does she decide who to invite? Where to have it? Go through situations and teach your children what to consider, what’s important and what kinds of factors come into play.
Walk the Walk: Modeling is everything. When you are making a choice, think out loud. Let your kids hear how you process and what goes into making a decision.
Let them Learn: They’ll make mistakes – and experience the consequences. But we all learn from the decisions we make. Keep in mind that we are parenting these kids for the future people they are going to become.
“No” is also OK: You can’t always give them a choice. Sometimes, you have to leave the park, or the party, or you can’t have the vanilla or the chocolate ice cream. They still have a decision to make: They can be happy or sad.
For more information about other parenting topics, go to the ParentMap website.