By Gary Thomas
Weighing up the potential impact of your decisions and making the correct determinations are crucial life skills, and as your child gets older her decisions will become more and more important. On a daily basis we make many decisions, both simple and complicated, and both unessential and vital. The clothes we wear, the places we go, what to purchase, when to cross the street, what time to eat dinner, whether to cancel an appointment, or what to do in an emergency situation. Clear and concise thinking is needed for every decision we make. If a child is raised with minimal experience of making her own decisions then how can we expect her to function properly as a decision making adult?
Learning to make good decisions as a child leads to a better forward thinking ability.
Taking extra time to ensure your child is making decisions is crucial to her development. Not letting your child make her own decisions and learn from the consequences might save you time, effort, and make your everyday life a bit easier, but these are tiny benefits for you, not her, and when compared to the positive results that allowing her to make her own decisions brings. Children need to understand that their decisions carry consequences – sometimes good, sometimes bad, and there are endless situations where decision making can be taught and guided.
For example, if your daughter wishes to cut her old doll’s hair, you will be able to confidently point out that doing this will spoil the way her doll looks, and reduce her future playing pleasure with that doll. You should carefully explain to her that this action is irreversible, and you will not replace the doll if the results are undesirable. Your child should be allowed to make her own decision based on the information you have provided. Stopping her without offering her the chance to decide for herself takes away a perfect opportunity for her to understand the consequences of decisions she makes. If your child decides not to cut the hair then she should be praised for her sensible decision. If she decides to cut then she has to accept the result, because if you buy her a new doll you are rewarding her for a bad decision.
It is important to remember that the nature of the decisions being made is not the priority here. The priority is to encourage your child to consider the consequences and make her own smart decisions.
Obviously, if your child is about to make a decision that is dangerous, or completely undesirable in any way, it would be foolish to let her go ahead and decide. Allowing your child to make decisions is not about allowing your child to put herself, or others in danger.
Scolding a child for bad decision making could reduce her willingness to decide for herself.
Be careful with your teaching, because too much emphasis on the importance of making the right decisions could lead to your child being reluctant to make any decisions at all, for fear of failure. Similarly, criticizing her for simple decisions that are wrong will have a negative impact, which could deter her from thinking for herself in the future. Gentle guidance is needed, encouraging her to predict the potential consequences of any decisions she has to make.
Be subtle, be positive, be sensible, and be reasonable, and your precious little one will soon be making decisions that will help her to progress through life with a skill that many of us were never given the chance to develop.