Training your kids to make good choices

Making decisions is part of life, and as parents, we want our kids to grow up making the right choices. But how can we teach them to choose wisely? Here are some ways to train up your child and flex those decision-making muscles while they’re young.

1. Start small and start early. We may not realize it, but toddlers are already capable of making choices. You can start with easy, equally agreeable options – like whether they would like mangoes or apples as a snack. Allowing your child to choose while they’re young helps them practice simple decision-making. As they grow older, the choices you give can become a little more complex – but remember to keep solid boundaries. For example, they can choose their snack but they’re not allowed to have sweets more than one sweet a day.

2. Talk them through the thought process. When you ask your child to make a decision, help them weigh the pros and cons of each. Ask questions like “why would it be better to play now?” or “what will your sister feel if you decide to do that?” For older kids, ask them to lay out the options they see, and provide alternatives as necessary. Modelling is also a great way to reinforce this – talk through your own decision-making, and have them contribute to the discussion. Ask, “Should I make Sinigang (Filipino Soup) or Fried chicken tonight?” and let them give their opinion on why.

3. Break down the choices for them. When your child seems stuck on a decision, help them by naming the choices and limiting their options so they don’t feel overwhelmed. For instance, instead of asking them to pick something to wear from their closet, ask “Do you want to wear something yellow or something blue?” Be patient and let them make the choice, even if it seems like it’s taking too long. The more you make decisions for them now, the less they’ll be able to make them for themselves later.

4. Slowly step back and give them greater autonomy. Some decisions, like who to invite to a play date, can help you see what your child values. Allow them to make bigger decisions that express their personality, and build from there. Some things you can leave open for them to decide could be the books they’d like to read or how they would like to celebrate their birthday.

5. Allow them to make (small) mistakes. As much as we don’t like our children getting hurt or making bad decisions, we sometimes need to let them experience the consequences. Pain is a great teacher of what not to do next time. As long as your children are kept safe from harm or injury, you can let them make bad decisions (like choosing to put off doing their homework and watching TV instead). The important thing is to help them acknowledge the mistake, own it, and learn from it. Have them say why it was a bad decision, and what they think they should do in the future. Continue building that decision-making muscle with them.

Giving children options and letting them choose helps build independence and critical thinking. It also helps them feel like they have control over their circumstances, which boosts confidence. Giving children a choice is an important part of helping them grow up.

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FUN FACT!

World Vision gives vulnerable children the power to choose through Chosen – a sponsor-matching program that lets children beneficiaries to decide who they want to choose as their sponsor.

Not all children grow up in environments that give them choices.

But Chosen empowers children to make a life-changing decision.