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Teach Your Child How to Make Good Choices

As children grow so do the number of choices they have to make. The choices will begin just as soon as they start school and will continue to grow in complexity as your child matures. What does it take to make a choice? Making a choice takes a balance of self-confidence and the mental ability to think through the consequences of your decision. Therefore, teaching a child to make good choices will benefit them for years to come and will definitely set your child in the right direction.

Children should be eased into decision-making at an early age. Below is a breakdown of each age group and the suggested amount of choices that should or will be presented in their lives.

Preschool
When children are in this age group it is a great time to introduce decision-making to your child, by offering simple daily choices to your child. Start in the morning by picking out two shirts for your child and ask them which one they would like to wear for the day. Throughout the day you can continue with small choices, “Would you like an apple or banana for a snack today? EIf they are unsure of which to pick, let them know it’s okay to take their time and just pick one, when you are giving your child a decision to make be sure to allow them to make the choice, otherwise they may depend on you to make all their choices.

Once your children get the hang of making decisions for themselves, offer them choices that affect the entire family as well. Do you think we should have rice or potatoes for supper? Or which flowers should we plant in the front lawn, the white ones or the red ones? This gives your child the sense of family contribution and self-worth, their opinion is important to the family unit.

Main points to address:

  • Encourage them to learn decision-making skills early, would you like an apple or cheese for a snack today?
  • Allow them to choose between only two different objects at a time (which of these shirts would you like to wear today?)
  • Once they can make decisions for themselves, allow them to make decisions that affect the entire family.

Grades K-3rd
As most parents know, teaching through example is a very good starting point to teaching our children the values we want to instill in them. Talking about good choices is your next best tool, explain to your child what a good decision is. A good decision is one that results in more good then harm, considers the feelings of other, is selfless, follows the rules, and is positive and beneficial.

At this stage of childhood children will make a number of choices that we aren’t happy with or make us turn the other cheek and wonder if that was actually our child. Allow children to make these choices, good or bad, and when the choice comes up that is not so good this is the perfect opportunity to talk about choices with your child. “The choice you made to spit in the house was not an appropriate decision, let’s talk about choices and how they affect you and the people around you.”

Main points to address:

  • Teach internal control  EAsk questions instead of giving directions.
  • Be a good example.
  • Allow children to make mistakes  Ethis teaches them how to handle their errors in the future.
  • Be compassionate to your child.

Grades 4th-6th
It’s an essential feeling to know that you are needed or of importance. Normally we gain this understanding by the jobs we do and the positions we hold in society or our home life. It is also a very important feeling for children. This not only helps children to make the right decision when they have choices presented to them, but this ensures they will make the right choice. Think of how important we felt once we became parents, all our choices changed in the blink of an eye, because someone else needed us. This rings true for this age group as well. Give your child a responsibility that makes them feel they are making a difference, not simply taking out the trash, but something that makes them feel they are contributing something important. For example, taking care of the family pet, making sure the wild birds have food, etc.

Tell your children the truth about a variety of important issues, especially when they ask. Children that feel as though they are being mislead or lied to from their parents, they don’t feel as though they are important enough or not smart enough to handle the truth. Tell the truth about the effects of drugs and alcohol, one hit from certain drugs can kill you or make you addicted, which leads to worse things in your life, etc.

Encourage your child to form positive friendships, see How to Form Positive Relationships on this site, children are more than 50% likely to make the same choices their closest friends make, therefore the friends they have and the choices their friends make will make a huge difference in your child’s decision making.

One other very important step is to talk to your children about the affects of negative choices and the affects of positive choices, “If Oprah Winfrey never made the choice to go to college she may not be the highest paid woman in television history. EThe more open you are now with your children, the better and stronger the lines of communication when they get to an age where peer pressure, bad choices and the negativity of the teenanage years will be in abundance.

Main points to address:

  • Give them a responsibility  Ehelps to show that they can do something of importance and helps promote self-discipline.
  • Establish boundaries.
  • Tell them the truth about drugs and other harmful substances that might be a part of their choice making sometime in the future.
  • Help them choose positive friendships.

Resources
Resources that can help you in your venture include:

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