Life Skills for Children A-Z – D is for Decision Making Skills

Do you know someone that dithers? They can’t make up they mind on what they want for breakfast let alone decide on the biggies in life.

That predictable shrug of the shoulders and “Oh, I don’t  mind, whatever” – it’s so ANNOYING! You just want to grab them and scream “Get with it and decide”.

Everyday of our lives we must all make decisions but being decisive is a skill we need to learn. It’s not built in. It’s an extension that’s added as we grow – to a greater or lesser degree!

To a young child, the array choices available to them can make things daunting. A question such as “What do you want to eat? or “What do you want to wear?” may trigger overload and a complete inability to answer or, conversely, give them such a misleading sense of power they make impossible demands such as “My pink bikini” (when it’s snowing outside). At this point you can’t blame them, they are simply asking for what they want. When you then wade in with “no” after “no” after “no”, they’ll just go into melt-down and throw a understandably frustrated hissy-fit.

With teaching decisiveness, we’ve found we need to narrow things down.

Start with limited choices: Do you want to wear the red or green t-shirt? Do you want to eat cereals or toast for breakfast? Do you want to walk to the school or ride your bike? These small decisions, give them the chance to weigh up acceptable choices and develop a sense of independence by making a real choice (within the limited, list of those that are acceptable provided for them).

Once they get older and become more confident in choosing between limited things, you can set wider boundaries. With this however, comes the need for consequences. Whatever they do needs to have a consequence in order that they learn themselves the effects of the decisions they make, i.e., if you remind them to put on a coat and they refuse, you’ve got to let them go out with a coat and suffer the consequence for them to fully appreciate the folly of their decision. Don’t get into an argument and force them. A good approach is to, CALMLY PLEASE, point out the facts at the time they are making their decision, i.e., the weather’s not good, you may be cold without a coat. If you don’t eat your breakfast, you may be hungry at school. That way you can be sure they are making an “informed” decision.

You then need to step back and avoid “rescuing” them from their decision. Don’t be tempted to take their coat with you or stuff an apple in their school bag, just in case. Let them experience for themselves the results of being cold or going hungry for a few hours – it’s the only way to learn!

Decision making is hard. By starting with the little stuff and teaching them how to make non-life-threatening, small decisions in the home, you’ll be helping to equip your child with the confidence to make bigger decisions in more important areas of their life later on.

Anything to add? How are you teaching your children decision-making skills? We’d love to hear how it’s being done. Drop us a mail catATcandolifeskillsDOTcom. We read everything we get.

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