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5 Ways To Raise Good Decision Makers, So They Become Happy Adults
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  • Is it the toy truck or Lego today? Will it be short pants or a skirt? Will it be vanilla-flavored ice cream or chocolate?

    Waiting for a toddler to decide requires patience, and when parents are running short in that area, they sometimes make it for the child or influence the child’s decision. Whether we like it or not, children will have to make many decisions in their lives–from the easy to the complex, and it’s best to start them young.

    According to an article titled “Helping Kids Make Decision” published on the Child Mind Institute website, it is essential to provide support to let children “flex their decision-making muscles on their own.”

    How you can help your toddler make decisions

    Here, writer Gia Miller expounds on six ways to help kids make decisions based on advice from Child Mind Institute experts.

    Start them early

    Ask your child to make decisions by giving them two options, such as selecting the color of a shoe or showing them items in a restaurant menu to choose from. The assumption here is the decision they need to make is age-appropriate and okay for you as a parent.

    As they get older, make a list of the everyday things you would like them to make decisions on, advises Grace Berman, LCSW, a clinical social worker at the Child Mind Institute. She adds parents need to shift the responsibility from them to the child gradually.

    “The more decisions they can make, the more practice they will have.”


    Think out loud when you make choices

    When they hear and see you make decisions, you become their model of how the decision-making process works. For your next family vacation, show them how you make a choice, look for alternatives, and weigh the pros and cons of those alternatives. Involve them in the dialogue for decisions that affect them.

    According to Rachel Busman, PsyD, a clinical psychologist, you are not only modeling a lot of excellent skills, but you are “conveying that your child’s thoughts and opinions are important” when you include him in the conversation.

    Provide support but do not rescue

    Children will need your support when it comes to the nuances of decision-making. Some decisions are easy, some are not. Some decisions need fast thinking, some don’t. When a child is fretting and anxious over what to wear every morning, it will be more helpful not to decide for them, says Berman.

    “They need to practice building that skill. Give them two options and be patient so they have time to actually decide. Then praise them when they make the decision, especially if they do it quickly, so it reinforces that behavior,” she says.

    Know when to step back

    “Once you feel confident that you can trust your child with a decision, you can step away,” writes Miller, adding that choosing what ice cream flavor to get or who to invite during a playdate is a good start.

    She elaborates that stepping away conveys your confidence in their growing abilities. “When you do this, not only are you helping your child practice making decisions, but you’re also helping them shape their character.”

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    Miller cites the following qualities of good-decision makers:

    • Trust in themselves and their opinions
    • Self-confidence
    • Decisiveness
    • Thoughtfulness
    • Analytical thinking
    • Empathy

    Let your kids learn by allowing them to make bad decisions

    As long as it is a safe situation, let your child make bad decisions to learn from their mistakes. “It’s a fine balance,” writes Miller, because parents need to know when they should weigh in and when they should come to their child’s rescue.

    So, when should you be hands-off? Miller gives these examples:

    • When a child would like to wear a silly outfit to school. “If they get teased, they may choose not to do it again.”
    • When they choose to play a video game before soccer practice and don’t have enough time to get ready (if they arrive at the field without their jersey, don’t bring it to them.)
    • When they want to spend their allowance money on a toy that breaks easily or quickly becomes boring.
    • When they prefer to spend their time talking to friends instead of studying for a test.

    Let them experience the consequence, writes Miller. Help them learn from it but avoid placing blame.

    When parents are tempted to shield their children from painful emotions because of a child’s wrong decision, don’t. Painful feelings are not dangerous, Dr. Busman assures. In fact, they help the child make the right decisions — and “that’s how we’re going to help our kids become adults in the world,” she says.

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