As a parent, you want to teach your children to make good decisions. But you may at times worry, when you look at the some of the choices they’re already making or when you contemplate situations they’ll face later.
However, there are several practical things you can do to help them along the way.
Here are 11 ways to teach kids to make good decisions.
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Kids take note of what those around them do, especially their parents. As parents, it’s important for us to realize that our children are affected by our decisions.
Even though they may not choose to do something or not do something based on choices we’ve made, at the very least, our decisions affect how they think.
Of course, there are going to be matters we make decisions on that are above the maturity level of our children or that really aren’t any of their business.
But chances are there are decisions you’ve made that’d be acceptable to discuss with them, at least to some degree.
For example, perhaps you’ve decided to move your family closer to an aging parent or in-law.
You don’t need to go into full-length detail with your child of all the mental or physical health issues that your parent or in-law has been dealing with to explain why you’re moving, especially if your child is still quite young.
Instead, you could simply say, “We decided to move because we wanted to live closer to Grandpa to help him out.”
This is something even a young child can understand. And it’d teach them that sometimes there’s a good reason to make a change, and also that it’s good to consider other people when making a decision.
Discussing decisions with your kids that you’re in the process of making gives them insight as to what goes into making a decision, helps them to feel included, and teaches them to think before doing something.
For example, you may have a vehicle that would require a costly repair to pass inspection. Because it already has a lot of mileage and may end up needing other work done in the near future, you might consider trading it in for a newer vehicle instead of keeping and fixing it.
On the other hand, you’re thinking that if this is the only big repair your car needs for a couple of years, you may be better off financially waiting to get a new vehicle, as this one is otherwise in good condition.
Explaining a situation such as this and your decision-making process to an older child, teaches them to weigh different options, pros, and cons in cases where there’s not a ‘right or wrong way’ to do something.
It’s also likely that at some point in adulthood they’ll need to make a similar decision. So this is something that can add to their life experience.
Your child will benefit from you taking an interest in the things happening in school and in their life.
As they get older, they’ll need to make decisions on both small and big matters. They’ll benefit from your guidance and from having someone to bounce ideas off of, besides just their peers.
If children feel constantly forced to do things a certain way when there are other methods that aren’t wrong, they may end up making rash, bad decisions later as an adult.
And not necessarily because they have a rebellious attitude. If children are never allowed to make their own choices, they’ll have had no ‘practice’ or life experience with decisions. And they need this experience to draw on later as an adult.
As long as your child isn’t deciding to do things illegal, unethical, or morally wrong, letting them make smaller decisions when possible can actually help them- even if you don’t agree with all of their decisions- which you likely won’t.
Of course, we still need to make sure children have reasonable boundaries and limits. But even so, we want to give them the ability to exercise their free will and develop their own decision-making skills.
You can talk to your children before, during, and after a decision about things that may happen as a result of their choices.
If your kids disobey you, you can calmly explain to them why they should have made a different choice. Let them know how what they did affected both themselves and others around them.
Sometimes this also involves letting them experience the full consequences of a decision or mistake. You don’t always want to shield them from the effects of something they did.
Because the reality is, as they get older, there are going to be many decisions they can’t undo or avoid the consequences of.
You also want your child to be aware that some decisions are very serious and will affect them long-term. For instance, if your child chooses to get married, this decision will affect them for the rest of their life.
Of course, certain choices that affect us for such a long time can be good things. Regardless, though, they’re still serious decisions, and we want to teach our children not to take big decisions lightly.
As your child gets older, it’s appropriate to explain to them how to pay bills, which expenses are necessary and which are luxuries, how to budget, how to save money, how to use credit wisely, and what they should consider before spending money.
Show them how smaller amounts of money spent frequently can add up to be quite a bit. And you’ll want to let them practice spending and saving their own money as appropriate.
Teaching kids to make good financial decisions doesn’t guarantee they’ll make wise decisions in other aspects of life. But it will definitely affect a lot of other choices they make.
Managing money is a life skill that will affect options your kids have when making decisions, as well as their relationships with others around them.
Just as our children’s ability to manage money can strongly impact decisions they make, the way they spend their time is also an important factor.
Many choices a person makes will affect how they’re able to use their time. Some decisions may take away time from other important parts of their life.
For example, one of our kids didn’t give their best effort in school this year. They didn’t turn in homework on time even when it was completed. This was despite lots of talks with them and communication with teachers who tried help them.
As a result, they now need to take extra classes, which is going to take time away from ‘fun things’ they could otherwise be doing, had they made more of an effort.
So it’s good to teach kids that what we do with our time now may affect how we can use our time in the future.
It’s also good to show your kids how to make a schedule and to incorporate routines in their life.
Even really young kids can understand the concept of doing certain things at a certain time or how some things get done before other things.
For instance, my toddler knows we brush our teeth before we go to bed and that we bring our dirty dishes to the sink after we eat.
Adding structured routines to the day, even with little things, can teach kids to do things that need to be done at a certain time. And it helps them to be aware of how much time has passed at different stages of the day.
As parents, our kids will definitely notice how we use our time. The best thing we can teach them is to be balanced.
I personally used to struggle with sticking to a good schedule, especially with 4 kids!
But I’ve made a lot of progress in this area, partially thanks to changes I’ve made.
1. I use a sample schedule and a physical planner to make a rough draft of my day.
A while ago, I wrote out a sample schedule of how I could schedule a typical week. There’s time blocked out for different things I normally do or need to do in a week.
As circumstances in our life change, I will update my sample schedule as needed. (A typical summer week is a lot different than a school week, so I made a new sample schedule for the summer.)
Then I base my current daily and weekly schedule off of my sample schedule.
If there’s anything out of the ordinary for the day or week, then I use my sample schedule as a reference to remind me of what I wanted to accomplish that day. Then I’ll add the most important tasks into the current day’s schedule around whatever else is going on.
If you want to make your own sample schedule: I have sample schedule worksheets available (in PDF format) to download in my free resource library here.
If you struggle with motivation to stick to a schedule or routine: There’s also a motivational slide-based video I made in my free resource library. I based it on my experience of struggling with a lack of motivation for years. It is possible to motivate yourself though, and the video shares several practical ways you can do this.
Even though I still have that natural tendency to put things off and not get going, I now successfully push past it and get things done most of the time.
If you find you plan better on paper and by the hour: I love using this Living Well Planner. I try to use it every day to stay on task with my daily goals and routine.
My favorite thing about this planner is that it lets you schedule your day by the hour. For myself it has been well-worth the price. (I’ve tried a lot of different paper planners before this one.) You can get it for $5 less than I did through my referral link here.
This probably isn’t for you if you prefer to use an electronic schedule over a paper one or if you don’t want to plan your day out by the hour.
Also, if you prefer a pocket-sized planner, you may want to go a different route because this planner is full size. (But at least it’s harder to lose that way and there’s more room to write.)
2. I’ve been doing a lot better with keeping my house under control. I am not naturally awesome at keeping my home clean and presentable. Honestly, I struggled with this for years to an embarrassing degree.
But this crazy thing happened after I got into a good routine with my home: I actually had more time to devote to other things, including spending time with my family and kids, and even having (a little more) time for myself.
Adding a cleaning routine to my day has helped to structure my day much more.
I feel that I now set a lot better example for my kids with how to use time wisely.
And I’ve started to include my kids in the routine, with helping with certain parts of the house. So they are learning the necessary skills to take care of their own home someday.
Before implementing my cleaning strategy and current routine, I used to clean for the same amount of time, (sometimes even more,) in a day, but the house looked way more messy.
So I’ve learned to make my time count a lot more.
If you struggle with keeping up with your home and want to know the exact strategy I use: I talk about this in episode 1 of my brand-new podcast.
Managing my home better has definitely helped me to manage my time better. And in turn, it has benefited me in every decision I’ve made since I’ve changed how I do things.
“If 50 million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.“~Anatole France
I have always loved the above quote. Because while there are times when most people will point you in the right direction, this isn’t always the case.
There are a lot of times when the majority of people will say to do things a certain way. But your child needs to learn to weigh this against their personal circumstances.
And in some cases what most people say may not be wrong in general, (although sometimes it is,) but it may be the wrong decision for me, or for you, or for your child.
Granted, we do want to teach our children to be open-minded in hearing what others think and have to say. But we don’t want them to rely solely on what others around them are saying.
Because other people won’t have to live with your child’s decision- your child will.
So it’s good to teach your child to use discernment, to consider other factors, and to do their own research from reliable sources.
You want your child to have a good foundation of values. This benefits them both as a person, and serves as guidelines for the decisions they make.
For example, teaching your child to be patient will not only help them with life in general, but will also benefit them with decisions. Sometimes we need to wait for the right time to make a decision, instead of jumping on the first opportunity that comes along.
Patience will help them to wait for things that’ll benefit them in the long run, not just right now.
Sometimes a decision can very much benefit the person making it, but it may have a detrimental effect on those around them.
So we want to teach our child to unselfishly consider how their choices will also affect other people. And they should then weigh this against the potential benefits of the decision.
Of course, decisions we personally make shouldn’t solely be made based on how they affect other people. We don’t want to teach them to let others take advantage of them. And there are times a decision is necessary to make even if it may affect certain people negatively.
For example, as an adult, your child may decide to fire someone. But it may be in the best interests of your child, their customers, and the other workers.
So we want to teach our children to have a balanced view of how a decision affects everyone overall. And this includes both your child and those around them.
There are many times in life where we have more than one option when making decisions. Being creative and having an imagination, along with problem-solving skills, can help your child to be able to think of different options they have- on their own.
We want to assist and guide our children. However, we don’t want to give them the answer to every problem they face. We want them to solve problems when they are capable of coming up with their own solutions.
Ask your child questions about the situations they are struggling with and simply talk to them about it. This may help them to develop their own problem-solving skills.
That’s not to say we should completely stop providing answers for them or never help them. But when children are able to help themselves, we want to encourage them to do that.
There are going to be many instances in life where they will need to rely partly on their experiences and ability to problem-solve to reach a solution.
So those are 11 ways to help your children make good decisions. By setting the example, teaching our kids, and letting them practice making choices, we can at least set them up for success. (The rest is up to them!)
No parent is perfect and no child will face exactly the same choices as another. But we can at least give them a good foundation for the situations they face.
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