Helping children learn to make decisions is challenging for parents and teachers . Children do not always make the wisest choices. Occasionally, however, experiencing the consequences of a poor decision is the best learning experience. It is through making small decisions that children develop the judgment and self-confidence to make larger and larger decisions as they grow older. ( Believe me, as your children become young adults you’ll be thankful that you’ve taught them this lesson .)
Clearly, children need experience in making decisions, including those that are really important to them. At the same time, we should not allow young children to make decisions that might harm them or others.
And example of this in our home would be having the choice to jump down the stairs instead of walk down the stairs. Jumping might cause serious harm to a child- so the only choice they have is to walk down the stairs. ￼
Choices must be between acceptable alternatives. For example, we can invite a child to choose between wearing a green shirt or a blue shirt, having vegetable soup or a cheese sandwich for lunch, or picking up blocks or puzzles first. In these cases, either decision the children makes is an acceptable one.
Experiencing confidence for making such simple decisions gives the toddler or preschooler the basis for making bigger decisions as an older child. As we adults continue to expand the decision-making opportunities we offer a child, the better decision maker he or she will become.
What does that look like in our home? As we end family time each day I ask the children where they plan to play. Not only is it helping them set their choices in motion but it gives them a choice to determine what is important for them. Many classrooms run on 100% structure where they tell the children where to go and how long to stay there.
Other choices we make are wearing jackets outside. On cold days I usually have everyone start with a jacket so I am modeling that in cold weather it’s best we wear a jacket. But if we get outside and they are running and hot they are allowed to remove their jacket. The consequence of that choice might be that they would get cold . Good thing is their jacket is hanging on the fence for them to grab later.
Another choice we make it during meal time. We do not force feed children. But they do realize that when they make the choice not to eat their lunch their tummy may feel hungry later. When they complain later that they are hungry we don’t go to the kitchen and grab a quick snack 🤷🏻♀️
Our kids have choices almost from the minute they arrive every day until the minute they walk out the door. My goal is to grow leaders.