Will children always make the choice we want them to make? No; and that’s okay! At times, we may be upset with decisions children make. As children grow older and become more independent, they will make more decisions on their own. It is natural to want to help children make good decisions. It can be hard to let them face a bad outcome and learn how their choices impact themselves and other people. Parents and caregivers help children to think through and make responsible choices.
What we know:
Each child is learning about life. They are learning about how they fit in. They are learning how what they do impacts the people and things around them. When children are told they made a bad choice, they tend to give up without fixing the problem. When this happens they also don’t learn how to do something differently the next time.
According to Myrna Shure’s book Raising a Thinking Child, teaching children to pause and think about what might happen before acting can help them to see different options. Asking “what could you do different next time?” or saying, “let’s think of another option” can help a child think about other ways to problem solve. Follow these steps (outlined in our video “Perspective“) to help kids practice problem solving and make good choices:
- First, find out what the problem is by asking your child what happened or what is the matter. Then ask how your child feels.
- Next, ask your child what he or she did and ask how that made them feel.
- Once you understand what happened, ask if they can think of other ways to solve the problem. Help your child to think of a several ideas and talk about which ones are best.
When we help children think about and talk about their problems, we can help them learn to make good choices. You can read more at Aha!Parenting.com about how helping your child develop good judgement builds responsibility and helps them make decisions that are right for their age. If you want to learn more you may want to sign up for a University of Wisconsin – Extension Raising a Thinking Child class. Contact your local UW-Extension office for more information.
Print this as a 1-page handout (Is That a Good Choice?, PDF).