How do you teach your kids to think for themselves? Last week I had a great visit with a group of parents and grandparents about how to teach children to think for themselves. We all want that for our kids, don’t we. Let’s talk about 5 strategies for helping kids make wise decisions.
1. The first step is to let your children see how you make good decisions and then stand behind the choices you make. Take the time to explain your reasons for making your choices. This will help your children understand why you chose the way you did.
2. Allow them to have plenty of free time. Unstructured playtime is pivotal in raising children to think for themselves because it strengthens their ability to decide what to play and how to do it. Making these basic decisions provide building blocks for more independent thinking.
3. Allow them to make small decisions. Give your children the freedom to make small choices. For young ones, before you go on a family outing, let your kiddos pick out their own clothes to wear by letting them choose between two or three outfits that you have laid out for them.
While your hanging out at home, it’s a great time to let them choose their clothes on their own and see what they come up with…it’s okay if they choose to wear striped pants and a flowered shirt while they’re playing at home. Let them wear it no matter what they choose.
If you give them the freedom to make their own decision, don’t criticize the choice they make. Criticism could make them second guess themselves and may cause insecurity about the next decision they need to make.
4. Ask them to think about a situation and what they think their choices are. Resist making judgments or offering your own opinions before they answer you. If they hear your advice or opinions first, they may get the idea that they need someone to tell them what to think and how to feel. Encourage them to talk about what decision they want to make and let them explain why they want to make a particular choice.
5. Discuss the rules. Talk over any ground rules that your family has and why the rules are important. This will encourage your children to decide to follow them and help your kids to understand the consequences of not following the family rules. A child’s reasoning ability doesn’t really come of age until 12 or 13 years old so remember to keep that in mind when training younger children. Little ones may not be able to completely understand the reason for some of the rules, but they can be taught to obey by trusting you and your decisions.
What To Do When Your Children Make a Wrong Decision
Correct them when they make a poor choice by using short and simple sentences to explain which actions you are disappointed with and why.
Focus on their poor decision, behavior, or attitude, but don’t personally attack them by telling them they are bad. Help them to understand that it’s their actions and/or attitude with which you are unhappy. Children need to learn there are consequences for their actions. Follow through with discipline when needed.
Don’t threaten or bribe your children to influence their decision. They will get the message that they aren’t capable of making good choices without getting external incentives.
With Freedom Comes Responsibility
Once you’ve laid the groundwork, give them the space to actually make some choices. They will make good and bad decisions along the way. To get better at the decision making process, they need to have the freedom to do so.
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