Whether we realize it or not, we are making decisions every day. Some are not so important, like what to wear or what time to meet friends. Others are very important, and the choices we make have far-reaching effects. Some of our decisions will change the rest of our lives. Awareness of our decisions and their consequences and taking responsibility for our choices can make a difference in the quality of our lives.
Give Children Choices
In their books on “Parenting with Love and Logic,” Foster Cline and Jim Fay recommend that parents start early allowing their children to have choices. Choices should be those that parents like and that allow consequences. Choices should never be given when the child might be in danger, and parents need to be willing to make the decision in the event that the child does not choose. Cline and Fay emphasize that “delivery” is important and suggest parents use phrases like “Feel free to… or…” and “Would you rather… or…”
Present Opportunities to Teens
The adolescent years are especially challenging as teens are forced to make more and more important decisions. They face difficult issues including alcohol and drug abuse and sexual activity. The fact that teens don’t think about consequences puts them at risk, and getting them to make good decisions is critical. Recent studies at Columbia University indicate that “reasoning and problem-solving skills are among the last abilities to mature in the brain,” supporting what parents have suspected for years—teenagers’ brains aren’t like those of adults. Parents can help teens by offering choices and sharing control in the process of important decisions. They need to plant this idea: the quality of my life depends on the decisions I make.
Have a Decision-Making Guide
We make decisions in many ways—by impulse, by procrastination, by not deciding, by letting others make decisions for us. These methods may work for some things, but a more effective approach is to evaluate the different aspects of the situation and make a decision based on information and personal values. Important steps include:
- Identifying the choices involved in the situation.
- Gathering information about each choice, considering facts, personal values, and goals.
- Considering advantages and disadvantages of each choice.
Summer—A Great Time to Practice Decision-MakingTaking responsibility for decisions and consequences and learning to make good decisions are important skills that parents need to practice and teach their children. Summer, with its many planning opportunities like vacations, summer jobs, camps, and other activities, is a great time for families to focus on decision-making.
Gracie Moyers, M.Ed, is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. She provides counseling to individuals, couples, and families and is in private practice with the Offices of Paul Tobin & Ann Benjamin in Edmond. Contact her at 340-4321.