Raising Children To Be Smart Decision Makers

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By Tracey Matthews, Supervisor of the Knox County Schools Family and Community Engagement Department and Tamekia Jackson, Director of the Knox County Schools Family Resource Center Contributing Writer: Eliza Norrell, Family and Community Engagement Department Communications Intern         

As children grow into young adults, they can face potential roadblocks to success through negative peer pressure. To resist the pressure to engage in risky activities, children need years of practice with decision making, so when it really counts, they will have the confidence and discipline to say, “No, I don’t need to do that.” Remember, even though adolescents are easily influenced by their friends, most young people still place a high value on the input their parents and caregivers communicate.

The tips below can help you practice decision making with your children:

Give young children a small set of healthy options.

Whenever possible, give toddlers and early elementary school children choices regarding how they spend their time, what they eat and what they wear. In doing so, you will make them feel empowered and adult-like. It is essential, however, that you give them a limited, healthy pool of options from which to pick. For example, letting a first-grader have complete freedom to choose a snack in a mega-market can be overwhelming. Instead, give your son or daughter the option to select from four snack choices of which you approve and explain why you chose the options over others. By allowing your child to make even these little choices, you demonstrate your respect for their opinions without surrendering your authority as the parent.

Allow your child to make bad decisions.

As long as your son or daughter is not making a choice that is dangerous or unhealthy, let him or her learn a few lessons the hard way. By allowing your child to make some minor mistakes, you will teach him or her about consequences.

Debate popular issues.

In order to know how to make good decisions, children must possess the following: critical-thinking skills, the ability to see sides of an issue and the confidence to articulate their opinions and stand by them. One way to help your children develop these assets might include reading an article together and then discussing how you agree and disagree with it. For example, read an article about social media and then talk about advantages and disadvantages of using Facebook and Twitter.

Praise their good decisions.

Point out when your child makes good decisions. For example, if your daughter stands up to a friend who is being unfair or chooses to hang out with a less popular classmate or befriends someone because he or she is a positive influence, praise her and explain the value of her decision. If your son starts playing a new sport and excels at it, applaud him for making an independent decision to choose a hobby that matches his natural abilities. When you acknowledge your children’s good decisions, they will be more likely to be smart decision makers in the future.

Respectfully disagree with your child.

If your child wants to make a decision that is different from yours, respect that choice, as long as the way is not harmful. If your child can stand up to you, he or she is more likely to be able to stand up to a friend who tries to pressure him or her into doing something dangerous.

Practice! Practice! Practice!

Rehearse decision making with your child so he or she will be fully prepared to make smart decisions. As your children reach their teenage years, regularly talk about the pressures to engage in dangerous activities like drinking and doing drugs. By not treating these discussion topics as taboo, your son or daughter will feel more comfortable talking to you if faced with compromising situations. As long as your child maintains an open conversation with you, you as the parent will have more leeway to steer him or her toward good decisions.

On behalf of the Knox County Schools Family and Community Engagement Department, thank you for reading our monthly articles. Happy Holidays and a very Happy New Year! For more information on the resources available to Knox County Schools’ students and families, visit us online at knoxschools.org/fce.

Family Resource Of The Month: Knox Area Rescue Ministries (KARM)

KARM provides the basic needs of food, safety and shelter for those in emergency need. Meals are served three times a day, every day of the year. These meals are not only for the homeless but also for those individuals and families faced with the choice of having food or meeting other needs. Meal Hours: Breakfast:  6:30 a.m. until 8 a.m. Lunch: 11:15 a.m. until 1 p.m. Dinner:  4:45 p.m. until 6 p.m. For shelter hours and information on other opportunities such as job training and recovery programs, contact KARM at 673-6540 or email info@karm.org.

Tracey Matthews currently serves as Knox County Schools’ District-wide Family and Community Engagement Supervisor. In this position, Tracey has been entrusted with the responsibility to facilitate the district’s course toward building stronger and lasting partnerships between families, schools, and the community. For more information, please visit the Family and Community Engagement at knoxschools.org.

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