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 A Note from the Principal’s Desk    

Raising Good Decision Makers

Written by Dr. Jim Taylor


     One of the most powerful ways you can encourage your children to become successful, happy and contributing people is to teach them good decision-making, and then to allow them to make their own decisions. The decisions that your children make as they approach adulthood dictate the people they become and the life paths they choose.

Making Bad Decisions 
Whenever I speak to a group of young people, I ask how many of them have ever done anything wrong. With complete unanimity and considerable enthusiasm, they all raise their hands. When I then ask whether they will ever do anything wrong in the future, the response is equally fervent. I also ask children why they do these things. Their responses include: “I didn't stop to think, it seemed like fun at the time, I was bored, peer pressure, I didn't consider the consequences, or to get back at my parents.” Yet when I ask them if it was usually worth doing, most say, "Not really." Because children lack experience and perspective, they tend to make decisions that are rash, egocentric and short-sighted. This absence of forethought can cause children to overlook the consequences of their decisions and to ignore their long-term ramifications. 

Raising Good Decision Makers 
Giving decision-making to your children is a building process based on their age, maturity and decision-making history. You can begin to teach decision-making with very young children, but want to make sure to reduce the number of choices they are given. As children get older, expand the number of choices you give them and eventually increase the importance of the decisions they can make. With each decision, they should recognize and take responsibility for the consequences of those decisions. Also, retain veto power when needed, but use it judiciously. 

Learning to Make Good Decisions 
Good decision-making is a complex process that takes years to master. This process begins with educating children about decision-making and the first step is to teach them to stop before they leap. With a few seconds of hesitation, your children can prevent a lot of bad decisions from being made. Help your children by "catching them in the act," meaning that when you see them about to jump without thinking, stop them and guide them through the decision-making process. Also, because you can't always be looking over their shoulder, use times when they do leap without thinking (and things don't turn out that well) to ask them how they could have made a different choice in hindsight. You can help your children learn good decision-making by coaching them through decisions as well.