Like adults, kids have to make decisions everyday. However, peer pressure, impulsiveness and naivete can make it harder for children to make good ones. While we can’t always be there to help our children navigate through the choppy waters of life, we can help kids make good decisions, or, at the very least, better ones.
Take Advantage of Teachable Moments
The other day my daughter’s ball went under my car in the driveway. Without hesitation she went to reach under my SVU to retrieve it. Although the car hadn’t been driven and there wasn’t any danger, I thought this was a teachable moment. I told my daughter to never reach under a car. After all, you never know if the car is hot or has dripping oil. In addition, if you are laying under a car, another car pulling into the driveway might not see you. I told her to ask me or her dad (or other caregiver) to get the ball for her. As parents, we need to take advantage of teachable moments, no matter how small.
Sometimes, I think kids make one bad decision after another because they are trying to cover up their first bad decision. When parents say things like “I would kick you out of the house for doing A, B and C,” it’s likely the child is not going to want to come clean. Kids are bound to make bad decisions. However, by lying or keeping their problems to themselves, they will probably continue down the same destructive path. Being approachable is not the same as being permissive. You still hand out consequences but always in the context of love. I tell my kids I will always love you even if I don’t love what you do.
Be a Good Example
I think there is some truth in the saying “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” While some kids will shy away from their parents’ bad decisions, others will follow in their footsteps because “that’s what mom and dad did.” Making careful, rational decisions provides your children with a good example for the future.
Give them Choices
When kids are young, you can give them opportunities to make decisions. For instance, at dinnertime, you can give them a variety of healthy food choices and let them choose what to eat. These little choices help young children experience autonomy in a safe environment. Teens may be given the chance to choose a major or what classes to take in high school or college. As the parent, you can always give advice. Of course, there are times when you may have say no to a decision they make. For instance, a teen may choose an inapproriate outfit for school or he or she may want to go to a party with alcohol.
Kids are bound to make a bad decision here or there. It’s important to be there for them and help them learn from their mistakes. Hopefully, they won’t make the same one twice.
More from Melissa:
Let Your Kids Be Bored (Sometimes)….It’s Good for Them
How to Stop Being a Whiny Parent
4 Reasons to Stop Nagging Your Kids