Teaching Your Children To Make Good Decisions

…And Why It’s Important (Decision Making Skills of Children)

Decision making skills of childrenDoes your child save or spend their allowance money? If given the opportunity would he or she cheat on a test? Would your teenager give in to peer pressure and choose to stay late at a friend’s party? Your children make decisions every day. Some of the personal choices of children are harmless and require little thought. For example, selecting what shoes to wear or what to eat for breakfast. But as their world and social life expand, they grapple with more complicated decisions about personal and moral issues. Children who lack strong decision making skills aren’t as resilient as kids who do. Also, those who make poor choices have difficulty bouncing back from bad outcomes, coping with anxiety and managing everyday stress.

personal choices of childrenThe Decision Making Skills of Children

You’ve won the first place prize in a contest you entered!  You and a guest will be whisked away to a five-star resort hotel, all expense paid …congratulations!  However, in all your excitement you forgot to ask, “Where am I going”? The outcome is you have no clue if  you’ll be swooping down mountain slopes, being pampered at a spa or exploring the countryside of Tuscany. How will you decide what to pack? Making decisions in your life is similar to choosing the clothes to pack for a vacation;  The choice depends on the situation. Your dilemmas can be  personal and practical, such as deciding what to wear, while others are more complex and need you to make a moral or an interpersonal choice. 

Practical Personal Situations

More about the personal choices of children

When children choose between options that affect them personally, they’re setting the foundation for healthy decision making skills. Personal decisions need that kids take the time to stop, think, consider and pick between two or more option. The option they select can have short or long-term rewards. For example, spending or saving their birthday money, going out to play or completing their homework, or staying out an hour later than their curfew.

Below is the framework of the steps involved in practical personal choices of children:

  1. Identify the problem:  Your son Bob isn’t completing all of his homework assignments.
  2. Determining the reason for the problem:  He doesn’t begin working on his homework until after 9:00 in the evening because he participates in sports, karate and swimming and studies the guitar. In addition, Bob has a part-time job waiting tables three days a week. 
  3. Listing the options: Stop karate. Stop swimming. Quit restaurant job. Drop guitar lessons.
  4. Examining the choices and alternatives: Karate and swimming ease Bob’s stress and help him stay physically fit. He’s excelling at playing the guitar, and his skill is boosting his self-esteem. Although his lessons are once a week, he practices up to two hours every day. He waits tables three days a week and is saving his paychecks for a new guitar.
  5. Making a choice: Bob decides to limit his guitar practice to forty-five minutes. He agrees to work only on the weekends. Making these adjustments, he now has three extra hours a day to complete his homework assignments.
  6. Applying the decisions made: Bob sets a timer while practicing his guitar and finds a replacement to cover his job at the restaurant.
  7. Evaluating the outcome: One month later Bob sees he made a good decision. He completes his homework assignments on time, feels in control of his schedule and is sleeping eight hours a night.

personal choices of children

Moral And Social Situations

As well as practical choices, your child decisions about moral and social issues. For example, respecting and following rules, telling the truth, keeping promises, respecting authority and managing conflicts with friends. Bear in mind that the skills your child needs to handle moral and interpersonal problems evolve and develop over a lifetime. A pre-school child’s ethics and values are different from a teenager’s. One of the differences between the morals of younger and older kids during adolescence is intent. If your teenager’s dealing with an ethical crisis because of his or her actions, the problem might be the outcome of  your teenager’s intention to create chaos or cause harm.

More about the personal choices of children

 As your children’s world expands, they grapple with more complicated decisions about personal and moral issues. Weak decision making skills of children may result to anxiety and stress.

 Moral And Social Situations-Method

teaching children to make good decisions

  1. Problem view:  How you approach a problem affects whether you’ll make a wise decision. Your objective during the first step to solving ethical and social dilemmas is explaining to your child how to think about the problem, teaching children to make good decisions. Teach your son or daughter to have a positive outlook about the situation by believing the problem is solvable. Assure them the problem will be cleared up either by them taking specific actions or by them modifying their reaction.
  2. Defining the problem: Your child must learn the difference between problems that are fixed directly, “problem-focused method” and problems that call for an emotional shift to the event,”emotional-focused method”. The “problem focused” process is the method used when the problem or situation is resolvable. Bob used the problem-focused method when he adjusted his schedule allowing more time to complete his homework. If the difficulty’s not changeable such as a death in the family, then the method used is, “emotional focused” or learning how to cope with the situation. More about the personal choices of children
  3. Brainstorming:  Once you and your child have defined the problem the next step is brainstorming. During the brainstorming session, you both present a number of solutions. Don’t get caught up in thinking whether each answer is practical,  generate as many options as you can.
  4. Evaluating options:  After the two of you  have created  lists, you’ll evaluate each response. Instruct your son or daughter to think of the advantages of each option, the actions needed to carry out the plan, the possible obstacles and how well it fixes the problem.

Personal Choices of Children

I realize the time and effort it takes to teach your child how to make decisions is consuming. But the commitment on your part will be an investment in your child’s resiliency as an adult. Teaching children to make good decisions is really not easy, and the poor choices kids make are made in haste and are nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to an event. The children who don’t learn to, stop, think and consider the consequences of their actions, have trouble planning, mapping out  and reaching their goals. We all face problems during our lifetime.The problem is as we age the situations that develop are more complicated than in our youth. The choices made in adulthood call for scrutiny and deliberation. In order to prepare your child to cope efficiently and manage life’s predicaments, they must know, “how” to, and, “what” to consider when making decisions.


Have a banner day!


Related Links:

National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why (National Geographic Little Kids First Big Books)

The Children’s Place Big Girls’ Front Tie Tee, White, Medium/7/8

Kids books: I Love to Eat Fruits and Vegetables (kids books, children’s books ages 4-8, Bedtime stories): (Bedtime stories children’s books collection) … stories children’s books collection Book 3)

  • Hello Pamela,

    This is a very important topic you have shared here.

    Children should be taught decision making skills from a tender age. It helps in the long run. Posts like this should be read by parents in order to understand the importance of the issue..
    Take care and keep writing.

  • Wise decision making skills help children (& adults) with taking personal responsibility for their lives. Decision-making, responsibility and moral maturity all go together. All so important.

  • Susan P. Cooper

    Hi Pamela, great points. I think a lot of parents just make all the decisions for the kids because it’s easier, they don’t want them to make the wrong choice. But then how long will it be before the kids start rebelling? Nobody likes being told what to do all the time or the “because I said so speech.” Learning how to make good decisions is a skill that should be taught to children, like balancing a checkbook. 🙂

  • Hi Pamela,

    I’m a first time visitor. I find your bio so interesting. Creating character voices for animation sounds like an exciting career. Living in LA sounds really good to me too right now too. We live South of Boston and we’ve already broken records for snow this winter.

    My children are grown now but we have a 2 1/2 year old granddaughter. I agree with you wholeheartedly that teaching decision making skills to children is crucial to their well-being. My daughter and I still chuckle over some of the outfits that I let her go to school in. (As long as the clothes she chose were clean and appropriate, it was her choice.)

    There is one memorable school book picture that reminds us of her choices. My husband was the stay-at-home parent at the time and neither of us knew that it was school picture day. It’s one of those pics that deserve being on the Ellen Degeneres show. LOL

  • My girls are 17 and 20 now and I can see the fruits of my labor coming true with the 20 year old who is in college and just had to deal with a major situation regarding roommates. She asked for my help. I talked out the problem with her, but in the end, left it to her to resolve. She stepped up to the plate and did so. I was beaming – I could see her thought process mirrored mine and was happy I taught her from a young age to be independent. Proud mama moment!

  • Good points. Helping your children learn how to make good decisions is tough but important. I think it has to start an early age by offering opportunities for making (age-appropriate – parents do have to keep their children safe) decisions. Along with the decision comes the responsibility for their choices and actions – dealing with the consequences. This is all much harder to implement than it sounds.

  • Thank- you, Mina. I’d love a guest post highlighting the cultural diversity of teaching children decision-making skills.

  • MinaJoshi5409

    Very interesting Post. Most of your suggestions are excellent and work well with children in the Western World.

  • Erica

    This is such a great article. I never thought about teaching kids to make decisions. We expect children to make the right choices as teenagers, but it makes sense that we need to train them how to make good decisions starting from when they are younger. This really should be required reading for parents.

    • Thank -you, Erica. It’s important for kids to learn a cognitive approach to decision-making. Making a decision on what, “feels good” isn’t productive.

  • Catarina Alexon

    Agree with you, Pamela. Would also add that it’s important to teach children not to blame everything that goes wrong on others. In today’s world we see an abundance of young people, even Christian Westerners, feeling they have been let down by society and joining ISIS or other such organisations to find a meaning with life.

    • Very good point, Catarina. It’s easy to fall into the “they made me do it” trap.

  • Andy

    Good article, but let me get on my soapbox about a couple of things:

    (1) I would argue that the “save money vs. spend money” decision is more complicated than it seems. The U.S. Government itself lives beyond its means and pursues a fiscal policy that effectively penalizes savers and rewards speculators. (Do you get any interest on your checking account? I don’t.) Just out of curiosity, what would your answer be if your teenage child asked you, “Should I put money in a CD or in a mutual fund?”

    (2) The “what to eat for breakfast” sentence also leaped out at me. There are an awful lot of cereals on the supermarket shelf that are crammed to the gills with sugar – eating these cereals isn’t “harmless” at all.

    A final point: It is crucially important that parents themselves act as role models and set an example with respect to the decision-making process. “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t cut it under any circumstances.

    • OK, Andy let me address each of your points.
      1. I wasn’t making a reference to, “how to invest” that is way beyond the scope of the post. I was presenting a hypothetical situation in order to demonstrate the steps of teaching children about decision-making. If my child asked me about a CD or mutual fund I would set up an appointment with a financial advisor and we’d examine the pros and cons of his or her advice.
      2. Really? You’re questioning, ” what to eat for breakfast” Andy, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Again I was giving an example of a type of choice.
      Final point: Yes that’s the whole point oof the blog post- Andy, setting an example for your children.

  • Tim

    Yes Pamela, that should be part of a standard early education curriculum. Bad decisions made are too frequent and sometimes lead to disastrous results.

  • Hi Pamela, this is such great information but as parents we often fail to carry through. It is so much easier to make the decisions for your children and expect them to abide by them. Of course, the older they get,the less that works. Hope many parents will read this, it could save a lot of heartache.

  • In addition to teaching your child how to make decisions you have to let them make decisions, even sometimes the wrong. I know adults who struggle with making decisions who grew up in a household where every decision they made was second-guessed. So they learned to try to avoid accountability.

    • I agree Ken I neglected to point the idea is to get your children to the point where they are making their own decisions.

  • Jacqueline Gum

    Wow was this a good read! I wonder how many parents rally put this much effort into helping their children learn the decision making process? It’s probably the most important process and connected to everything, yet I see lots of parents slough this off.

    • That’s true. I think a part of it is, especially with younger children, parents feel issues will pass without a decision.


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