Helping Children Develop Decision Making Skills
Making decisions can take many forms, from what to eat to how to spend free-time. As adults, living with the knowledge that the decisions we make can affect our lives can be daunting, but it is a necessary part of life. Children naturally observe and learn from the decision-making of their trusted adults, eventually gaining the necessary skills to make their own decisions.
Three Essential Aspects of Decision-Making
In general, to gain the self-efficacy to make pro-social decisions, children must understand three elements:
- Forecasting Impacts – Being able to imagine how the decision will affect both themselves and others for the better or worse.
- Evaluating Alternatives – Making sure to examine different potential decisions.
- Making Choices – Collecting the right information and making their best judgement.
Practice on Small Decisions
When helping children build their decision-making capacity, adults should provide them with smaller decisions to practice on such as what type of activity they’d like to do or what they would like to eat. As they become more adept at making decisions, they can practice further with more sizeable issues such as choosing between multiple options of activities that require more in-depth analysis.
Open and Respectful Dialogue
Adults must respect children’s decisions, whether or not they agree with the choice. Once a decision has been made, adults should discuss the effects of their decisions. This helps children understand their consequences and how the same decision could have a different impact in different scenarios.
Fostering Autonomous Decisions
As children grow, it is important to let them make their own decisions with minimal assistance from adults. This helps children learn autonomy, ownership, and self-trust in their own decision-making abilities.
Providing an environment in which children have the opportunity to make choices and decisions thoughtfully and systematically is an important aspect of healthy development. With proper guidance, children can develop the necessary decision-making skills that will continue to serve them well into adulthood.