Northern Beaches Mums Group
Northern Beaches Mums Group

Developing Independent Decision Making in Children

Making decisions can be hard. How often have you reflected on a decision and thought “I could have thought that through a little better”? 

Wise decision making is a skill and we can develop this in our children.

A good decision increases the likelihood of success Becoming a good decision maker involves realising that your first idea is not always your best idea and that you should systematically weigh up alternate ways of doing things (Fuller, 2015).

When children make decisions, they often only focus on their immediate wants and do not consider long term consequences. This can be frustrating for parents and carers who can be left to sort out problems at the last minute (www.kidsmatter.edu.au). Has your child ever chosen to participate in an activity only to suddenly choose not to? Or, perhaps, homework has not been completed because they chose to watch TV or play on the iPad? How many times do you have to ask your son or daughter to do something and then have to threaten with consequences if it is not done?

We must remember that considered decision making takes time to learn and should improve with age and experience. Children need adult guidance to develop their decision-making skills and understand the consequences of their actions (www.kidsmatter.edu.au). Decisions are like crossroads in your life (Fuller, 2015) and with the right prompting and asking questions to help them think through steps, children can identify appropriate choices to make.

Decision Making Steps

  1. Issue – What do you have to decide about?
  2. Outcome – What do you want to achieve eg. choosing to do which after school activity? Am I doing this to get fit, make friends, have fun, learn a new skill?
  3. Choices – What are my choices?
  4. Compare – Weigh up the pros and cons of each option and choose the best one.
  5. Act – Put your choices into action and then check how it works.

To learn to use decision making skills, children need to be shown how to use the steps and given opportunities to use them. Children’s thinking skills develop gradually and so does their capacity for planning ahead and weighing up options. Children do not learn to make decisions overnight; they need to start with the simple things. Practise and experience are necessary for building these skills (www.kidsmatter.edu.au).

 Tips for parents and carers:

  1. Modelling is everything. When you are making a decision, think out loud. Let your child hear how you process and what goes into making a decision.
  2. Sit down and go through the decision making steps. For example: choosing an after school activity or organising a birthday party.
  3. Go through situations and teach children what to consider.
  4. Sometimes, you can’t give them choices. For example, you’re at the park and it’s time to go home. However, they still ultimately have a decision to make: They can decide to be happy or sad (Morgan, 2011).
  5. The heat of an emotionally charged moment (maybe a decision went wrong) is not a good time to analyse why. Wait until your child has cooled down and reflect with them about how a scenario could have played out different had another decision been made.

Written by: Mrs Mel Bryden (Assistant Head of Junior School, St Luke’s Grammar School, Dee Why Campus)

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