How to teach your child to make decisions

Decision making is a normal part of daily living. We make decisions every day from mundane things like “what to eat”, “what to wear”, “to go out or not to go out”, to more life changing things like “to marry or to remain single”, “to have kids or not to have kids.” Although we make decisions daily, making responsible decisions is a learned process.

Irresponsible decisions can lead to all sorts of trouble. Debts, bad marriages, unwanted pregnancy are just a few problems that bad decisions can land us. And there’s nothing scarier for parents than the thought that their children are in trouble, even if their children are already adults. And children who are not allowed to make decisions at home grow up making poor choices or allow others to do it for them. Many of them end up bowing to peer-pressures. So if you want your children to make responsible decisions in life when they are older, you need to start teaching them how to do it while they’re young.

But how and when is the right time to teach children to make decisions? When children start to assert themselves is the right time to slowly allow them to make choices. Of course, you can’t let them make all the decisions; after all they don’t have the experience and wisdom to know what’s right and what’s wrong.

So, here are some dos and don’ts when giving your very young child some choices:

Don’t offer choices if there isn’t one. For example, don’t ask your children what to eat when you know you’re only going to offer them one thing.

Don’t offer choices that will put them at risk. For example, don’t give them a choice to wear or not to wear a coat at below freezing temperature, or to hold or not to hold your hand while crossing the road.

Don’t burden your child with a decision that has a great consequence. Don’t ask which schools they want to go to. You may ask what they want and you’ll consider them but never ask them to make a final decision. It is not fair on the children.

Do offer fewer choices. More choices will confuse the children.

Do talk about the choices, especially why they’re bad or good choices.  For example, if your child wants to go to the playground but it looks like it’s going to rain, don’t refuse. Instead explain that he has a choice. He can go to the playground but it may rain and he will get wet and cold and you have to go home. Alternatively, he can go to the library where he can play for longer.

Finally, let your child know that you sometimes make mistakes even if we try hard to make the right decision. That way, your child will feel freer to risk making decisions.

(Photo: Serhiy Kobyakov/


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