Building decision-making skills in youth this holiday season

Consider these ideas for increasing youth voice within your family this holiday season.

Michigan 4-H Youth Development places a high value on programmatic decisions being driven by youth. One of the Michigan 4-H Guiding Principles reads, “Youth are actively engaged in their own development.” Another reads, “Youth are considered participants rather than recipients in the learning process.” While 4-H clubs and committees provide a critical opportunity for practicing decision-making skills, parents can help their children build these skills at home as well. Consider these tips this holiday season to engage your children in family decision-making and build their skills for the future.

  • Menu planning. The holidays often bring festive celebrations focused on coming together around a meal. Ask youth for their input on the things they would like to see on the menu. Younger youth can select between two appropriate choices. Other youth can be given more freedom to make more open-ended decisions, such as what type of vegetable to make.
  • Participate in gift buying. Work together with youth to set a budget and then allow youth to make decisions to purchase or make gifts within that budget.
  • Decorating the house. Whether it’s picking out the family tree or choosing the perfect place for a treasured family keepsake, including youth in the process can build their investment in important family traditions.
  • Choosing family outings and holiday plans. Resist the temptation to plan every minute of your holiday season without input from the youth in your family. If you’re considering taking the family on a holiday-themed excursion, provide a choice between a few options.

While including youth in the decision-making process often takes longer than making and implementing decisions for yourself, it can result in youth being more invested in holiday activities. With time, it can reduce the load parents carry during this busy holiday season. Beyond the immediate family, youth that are able to make decisions for themselves are better prepared to participate in group decision-making outside of the family in their future.

Michigan State University Extension teaches adults to include youth in decision-making through youth-adult partnerships through 4-H clubs and committees. Contact us at for more ideas to increase youth voice within and outside of 4-H.

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