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Life Skills: 5 Ways to Get Your Child to Make Choices

Life Skills: 5 Ways to Get Your Child to Make Choices

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Updated on Aug 5, 2009

Does your daughter change best friends more frequently than you change your oil? Does your son switch his shirt ten times before heading out to the school bus?

Decision making can be hard for kids. Madison Avenue wizards bombard them with advertising 24/7 – what to wear, what to eat and drink, what music to listen to. Throw in peer pressure and you’ve got a formidable foe. It's no wonder your child can't make up his mind.

Don’t throw in the towel yet. According to Dr. Jim Taylor, a psychologist specializing in childhood issues, good decision making is a learned skill. And as a parent, it's your job to teach it. You can help your child avoid the long-term personal, social, and professional implications of irresponsible decision making. Begin by incorporating choices into everyday activities. It’s never too early to start. You’ll find five age-appropriate ideas below.

  • Food choices. (ages 3-up). Would you like a cup of apple juice or grape juice? Toast or a banana muffin? Allow your little one a choice. While deliberating, she’ll get in touch with feelings and then learn to express them. It's always a good idea to take gut-feelings into account when making a decision.
  • Vacation Planning. (ages 8-up). Let all family members take part; highest vote wins. Ask your son where he wants to go and why. Have him defend his position and validate his choice. Even if he doesn’t win, he’ll understand the value of his input in the group decision-making process.
  • Clothing choices. (ages 12-up). Shopping for clothes with your daughter probably feels like tiptoeing through a minefield. Fortunately, many schools now have strict guidelines for what’s hot and what’s not. By adhering to the guidelines and steering her toward appropriate choices, you're teaching her the effect her choices could have on others.
  • Popular Culture. (ages 12-up). Call your child's attention to current events – such as national or local politics, sporting events, or feature stories. Share your opinion and then solicit his. By validating his opinion (even though it may differ from yours), you'll help him begin to establish his own voice and form thoughtful opinions and strong personal convictions.
  • Extracurricular activities. (ages 13–up). By the time your child hits the teenage years, his or her interests abound. Tennis, football, baseball, cheerleading, dance, drama – the list is endless. By coaching your child in selecting one or two activities, you are teaching how to prioritize - an essential component in analytical decision making.
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