The ability to justly, swiftly, and confidently make your own decisions is a skill that serves you for life. Like any important ability, it needs to be practiced and is best developed when young. So how do we help encourage our kids to decide? Keep scrolling to find out!
First things first, Mama–you have to be comfortable in letting your children follow through with their own decision, even if you don’t agree with it. They need to understand that their choices lead to consequences, which is why they need to think and feel their way through the process.
Neuroscience says we decide emotionally and justify logically, which means at the heart of our decisions is our hearts. As parents, our role is to allow our kids to discover and more importantly, trust this emotional guidance system that is in them. It is not something external. This is where our values come in. Our experiences may be different growing up, because it seems like all our lives we’ve been told to “follow the rules, obey, we’re too young to know what we want, somebody always knows better, etc.” But nothing builds a decision maker’s confidence than knowing you can’t go wrong when you follow your heart. Wrong is subjective anyway, so it’s worth the risk.
For instance, my daughter is only two years old and I tell her we need to wear pants going to the playground. Pants protect her knees from a booboo. Which pair of pants does she like? I lay out a couple of options. She chooses. I don’t let her rummage through the closet for whatever she likes to wear because this could mean her duck costume or a swimsuit. While I understand not all decisions are this simple, letting them know what is needed for the decision allows them to see your line of reasoning for the options you’ve given. If you automatically just limit their choices without an explanation, it might prove more counterproductive in the long run.
When your child is older and is faced with a tricky situation, instead of swooping in to the rescue, have her get a pen and a piece of paper, and then pause. This is a teaching moment. Ask her to write down the situation, describe it well, then let her come up with options. Weigh out the disadvantages and the advantages of every option, pitch in when you have to, and having all of that laid out, ask her what she feels is the right solution. It could be one of the options or something else entirely. Practice what she decides. Let her connect her solution to the consequences. Experience after all, is the best teacher.
This can be done during meal times. It doesn’t have to be formal. One thing I’m grateful for is a very chatty household. My family and I eat together every day and talk about everything–what happened at school or work, what’s on our minds, plans, issues, etc. It’s quality time at its best.
Sometimes, even if we have already decided on something, getting another person’s perspective helps us see a different angle. Deliberating your choices with the people who love you the most is an enriching habit your kids can learn from. This can also foster your bond as a family, and let your child know that when it gets tough, she has you to turn to.
We’ve already stated that kids learn through example. When it comes to your everyday decisions, talk about them to your children. They’re already watching you anyway, believe it or not, even when they don’t say anything. More than just asking for ideas, listen to their views seriously, turn their suggestions to reality when possible, and you can evaluate together what came about as a result. This positively reinforces the message that what they think and how they feel matters, so they can decide for themselves when the time comes because you believe in them, too.