As parents it is our important responsibility to raise our children to be productive individuals who can function well within their community and within society at large . Usually children from a very young age to young adulthood are often not given the opportunity to voice their opinion about decisions that must be made from time to time within the home. For many adults, presenting the opportunity to their children to be a part of decision-making in certain instances, is something they believe is unnecessary or is taking away the child's freedom to be a child.
From a parental point of view, we want our children to stay children as long as possible, without the need to make decisions or face the responsibilities of the world that we as adults must do. However, there are times when being shown the art of decision-making can benefit our children and prepare them for life as young adults.
When we speak of decision-making it's obvious that there is some common sense necessary if we are the type of parents who choose to share this responsibility with our children. I am not speaking of putting forth decisions such as how much should be spent on groceries or when should a new vehicle be purchased. I'm speaking of those overall family decisions that involve everyone, including the children.
For example, allowing the children to have input when such things as the weekly meal planning takes place. Allowing them to have their say when trips are imminent, snacks are to be chosen, etc. Those small decisions to us can be paramount to our children as far as building blocks to their future and how they address decision-making.
While our children were growing up we use to place before them a number of decision-making opportunities. They were always an integral part of vacation decisions, deciding along with us where we would go, what we would do - and it was very interesting to discover that our children seemed to come up with some of the most wonderful ideas. Sometimes they would come up with something like, "let's travel around the world and then we don't have to go to school!" but for the most part we were quite pleased to see the amount of importance each of them placed on helping us decide a route for our vacations.
Other areas that we allowed our children to help make decisions in was meal planning, what color to paint a certain room in the home, what movie to see at the theatre, where to go out to dinner, and even how much allowance each of them believed they should receive. That one was a lesson in amazement when we first included each of them in the decision. We knowingly realized that we could be opening a floodgate of very high-priced demands but we were not ready for the incredibly humble amounts that each believed they were deserving of. When it came time to decide the "chores" that would warrant their allowances we were again highly impressed by the offerings of "work" they were willing to give. We usually ended up increasing the amount of their allowances and decreasing the amount of "chores" they were willing to endure.
More often than not, children can offer parents an interesting yet quite rational insight into decision-making. Often we have had our children take the time to consider the different aspects that surround a decision they are making and they have focused on things such as finances. How much will it cost to take in a certain event somewhere in comparison to having a family picnic or taking a short drive somewhere to enjoy different scenery, etc. Although they weren't expected or even offered the opportunity to look into the financial aspects to the point where they needed to worry about this, it was an interesting slant that appeared almost naturally as they grew older.
What are the benefits of allowing children to help with certain decisions?
As parents, we know how much responsibility our own children can accept with regards to helping with family decisions and we understand that as parents, we shouldn't hand over decisions to our children that are not of a "light" nature and that involve them more than anyone. Decisions that involve the entire family and don't take a good deal of responsibility to determine, are an ideal way to allow our children to stretch their independence and encourage them to develop a skill that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
Showing our children the appropriate way to handle decision-making is something that as parents, we have a responsibility to pass on to them so that when it comes time for them to begin to make their own decisions in their lives, they will have many of the skills that are necessary to evaluate and decide what is best for their well-being and their future or current position.
While we encouraged our children to be a part of some decisions in our home, we found that they began to apply these skills to other things. They were gradually able to make their own decisions about whether they really needed a certain toy or a certain treat, etc. As they reached teen-hood and adult hood we noticed more and more that they could easily police themselves when it came to decisions that they found necessary to make including peer pressure.
Decision making of course does not make children impervious to poor decisions later in life...this is a part of growing up that all of us must go through and there are decisions that all of us make that later we end up regretting or we wish we had handled differently. That is called gaining experience.
The value of decision-making at a younger age
For children from about the age of 5 through to their teen years, decision-making that involves them can be used to bring about another valuable trait. For example, when our oldest daughter was 16 she wanted to get her eyebrow pierced. We sat down and discussed the situation with her and instead of simply saying no to her request, we listened to her viewpoint to help us understand her reasons and her understanding of the responsibilities that having this done would require of her. When she had some difficulty providing us with cons of this procedure to go with the pros she had provided, we asked her to give us a short essay on the issues that can take place when one has a piercing. We were incredibly proud of the report our daughter brought back to us. She had covered every aspect of the topic and convinced us to allow her to have this piercing done. She was able to clearly and concisely put the decision-making practices to work for her and not only making a clear, concise decision for herself, but also place before us a very convincing argument that allowed her to educate us as well.
She continues to have that piercing today and has not had any infections, issues or problems with that one or with any of the piercings she decided to get once she was on her own. She also continues to make decisions as a young adult that not only place her interests in good perspective but also allow her not to be afraid to research those things she may be interested in doing but wants to be certain she is making the correct decision for herself and for others around her. The fact that each of our children tell us they use to "hate" the essay exercise for those decisions that we believed they would benefit from gathering more knowledge about, today each of them often thanks us for this skill saying that it has been a great tool that encourages them to research their decisions to make sure they are making the best one for them.
Should you as a parent follow this type of teaching?
Only you know your child or children well enough to decide whether they are ready to aid you in making certain family decisions. Some children are simply not interested, while others literally thrive on the added ability to lend their input into the mix and allow everyone to mull it over. Many children consider their parents allowing them to assist in decision-making to be a sign that their parents respect their thoughts and their ideas. It's a wonderful way to introduce children to a skill that will serve them well through out their lives. Parents who show respect for each of their children's ideas tend to encourage them to bring problems and concerns to the table when they arise. The ability to help make decisions opens the lines of communication especially if the parents show their children that they value their contributions even when those contributions may not lead to the decision the child has put forth. By allowing children to know that their thoughts have been recognized and been of importance to the overall decision process allows the child the ability to understand that they can bring just about anything to their parents and their parents will discuss it rationally and without judgment. This in itself is an extremely powerful connection that parents can offer and instill within their children.
As someone who was raised this way myself for the most part, I can honestly say that I didn't fear bringing anything to the table to discuss with the adults in my life and it has allowed me to make decisions in my life that to date I am quite pleased to have had the opportunity to do and with the confidence that I was evaluating the issue in question in a thorough and thoughtful way. Today I have five children who can come to us without fear and discuss practically anything with us because they know that they will have the opportunity to have their say and make the decision that they believe is the best one for them.
This method may not be for everyone but for those who choose to instill it or who are doing this now, it is definitely going to pay off in the long run and allow you to continue to see the positive effects of it as your children become parents themselves. Knowing when to offer our children the opportunity to be involved in decisions and encouraging them to voice their views in this round table type of atmosphere makes for positive family relations all around. There is nothing more amazing than watching your children grow and do so with confidence.