Helping children learn to think and make good decisions are some of the most critical gifts parents can give to their children. Those teachable moments can also present some of the toughest battles for parents when guiding a child to good decision making. Here are some steps you can incorporate into your approach that can help:
Teach by example. Model your own best decision making skills where your children can watch and learn. For example, if you are in the mall and want something but don’t buy it, visit with them about your decision and why you chose not to buy it. “I would love this new television set, but I know we need to purchase new tires for the car. Maybe I can think about getting a T. V. after we get the tires.”
“Thinking through the consequences of each choice will help children learn to narrow the range of acceptable choices.”
Start them off with a few options. When you are giving your children a choice, only give them a couple of options. “For dinner tomorrow night, would you rather have hamburgers or pasta?” Having some successful decisions where the choices are limited will help children develop confidence in their decision making skills.
Teach children a decision-making formula. Most successful decisions come after following a basic formula. There are many, but most follow a pattern like this:
- Define the problem. What is the decision you need to make? What is the problem it solves?
- Explore the choices. To solve the problem, what options do I have? Are all the choices possible? Are they safe or risky? Ask lots of “what if” questions like, “What if I fail at this choice?”
- Understand the consequences. Each choice has pluses and minuses. Some choices cost more than others or take more resources. Some choices have immediate benefits; for others, the benefits are delayed. Some choices made will preclude others. Thinking through the consequences of each choice will help children learn to narrow the range of acceptable choices.
- Make a decision. When there are different choices, your child must pick one and implement it. Stalling out before a decision without a good reason is just being indecisive.
- Evaluate and learn from the decision. Once a decision is made, find out what you can learn. If the decision was the best one, look at how the decision was made and help that become a pattern. If it was the wrong decision, look at the process and see what the children missed.
Don’t solve their problems. Too often, fathers want to be in the “fix it” mode and try to solve problems for their children. Rather than making a decision for your children, help them make it themselves. And then don’t bail them out when things go wrong if they do.
Be there before they decide. When the children are younger, be around them enough that you can help them think things through before they make a decision. Talking your children through the process before is a lot easier than helping them repair a mistake later.
Taking the time to walk your children through the process of making a decision will help them learn the best way to decide. Remember, they will learn more from a little trial and error under your guidance than they will if you simply make every decision for them. Learning strong problem solving and decision making skills when your children are young will help them learn the tools to be strong decision makers in their adult life.
At Premier Martial Arts our staff is trained to help children make healthy decisions. By backing up the things the parents are teaching at home and the lessons the teachers are teaching in school a martial arts instructor who is well trained in developing character development in children can be a great asset to a parent. For more information on Premier Martial Arts in Knoxville see the back page ad.
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