One of our most important jobs as parents is to make ourselves unnecessary, so it is critical that we teach our children how to make good decisions on their own. This begins when our children are toddlers and continues even with our adult kids.
Here are seven guidelines to consider:
1. Focus on process, not just product. Teach children how to think through the advantages and disadvantages of any significant decision. Help kids consider not only the immediate consequences but also the potential long-term effects.
2. Clarify your role. Make certain it's clear to both you and your child who makes the final decision. This is particularly important for adolescents. If a decision is truly your child's, make certain you clarify any restrictions on what they can do. Can your teen really use their allowance to buy anything they want?
3. Let your children experience the consequences of their decisions. This is difficult for parents, as we naturally want to protect our kids from harm and disappointment. Please avoid the temptation to tell your kids, "I told you so.''
4. Avoid impulsive decisions. Try not to make any important decision when stressed, tired or under social pressure.
Be sure to advise your kids to get a good night's sleep before making any big decisions. One parent gave me some great advice on managing impulsivity at amusement parks.
She told each of her two children that they could pick out one special gift for under $20. It was entirely their decision. However, they could not purchase the item until they were about to leave, so that the kids would not impulsively buy the first thing they wanted.
5. Get different perspectives. Helping your children gather facts before coming to a conclusion is an important step in making good decisions. Is your child uncertain about whether to play football? Speak with some current players, as well as students who are no longer on the team.
Kids are used to technology so direct them to Internet sources of information, including blogs, YouTube and various social networks.
6. Know when to be quiet. Sometimes when our kids come to us with a problem they want the comfort of an understanding listener, not a controlling parent. This is the time to ask lots of questions, helping your children clarify their own thoughts and feelings.
Sometimes the best advice you can give is simply to listen and not advise. Our kids make numerous decisions every day without our guidance and support. Over-controlling parents handicap their children by making them too dependent and thus incapable of functioning in the real world.
7. Accept your child's individuality. Our children will come to conclusions that differ from what we would have done. This means you are doing your job, raising independent children who make decisions that reflect their own individuality.
Gregory Ramey is a child psychologist.
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