As moms, most of us have the ultimate goal of raising kids who are independent and make the right choices, but it’s tough. I know I grapple with how to help my young kids make good decisions, and what the right line is between guiding them and being too controlling.
Our role is defined by helping our children determine right from wrong, and make the right choices when faced with options. Many of the decisions our kids make in their lives will determine the outcome of their life, and the path they take, so arguably decision-making is one of the most crucial skills we can provide our kids with.
I feel like as parents, it’s easy to think that what we do has no effect, but one example of ways it does is the decline in cigarette smoking by teens. While some of this reduction has to do with the introduction of alternatives like vaping, it’s also likely because of the focus we as parents have put on teaching our kids from an early age the importance of not smoking cigarettes. What we say does matter, even when we feel like it doesn’t.
The following are some of the ways I’m personally working on helping my children make the right decisions, now and hopefully over the long-term and later in their lives as well.
Set a Good Example
It sounds cliché, but our kids are watching what we’re doing as their mothers. They build their very first decision-making skills around what they see us doing. Observation is such a pivotal part of our kids’ development, and it’s vital we model the behaviors and values we want them to see. It’s tough to always do the right thing, but I think about the little eyes that are on me even when I don’t realize it.
Let Your Kids Make Choices
It’s tempting to make all of the choices for our kids, particularly when they’re little, but we can better equip them for life by letting them make some choices in my opinion.
For example, with your toddler, you can start very small by letting them choose their clothes once a week. Empower them to do things on their own, and continue that trend as they get older.
Outline the Steps of Decision-Making
Decision-making is about developing the right skills and then using them effectively. Even when your children are toddlers, you can help them develop these skills by highlighting the options available to them, and showing them how to evaluate each option and ultimately choose the right one.
As your child’s reasoning skills develop, as will their ability to more critically think about the decisions they’re faced with.
If you raise your child with no options when they’re younger, it’s going to be much tougher for them when they do have options from what I’ve seen in my personal experience.
Decisions have consequences, and a good way to emphasize this as a mom is to ask your kids about their decisions and how they think they impacted others.
I try to create a dialogue with my kids. It can be as simple as asking them whether they’re happy with the decision they made for their snack. If they make poor decisions, such as hitting a sibling or throwing a tantrum, I might ask a few short questions about how that might have impacted others.
Of course, you don’t want to bog a young child down with too much conversation, but just get them thinking a bit.
It’s always been my experience that the more you’re able to let your kids guide their lives from a young age, within reason of course, the happier you’re going to be with their decisions as they get older.