Helping children make decisions- Part 1

This series of articles is going to explore how, as adults, we best support and acknowledge children as they make decisions. Part 1 in the series explores the definition of decision making and much more.

Decisions are made every day! Some are easy and some are hard, some take a lot of thought and some are made by instinct, some can be classified as good and others bad. According to Michigan State University Extension, no matter how someone derives at a decision, it is a skill. Like many skills, decision making takes practice and fine tuning. This series of articles is going to explore how, as adults, we best support and acknowledge children as they make decisions.

In order to support and acknowledge children as they make decisions, we must first understand what is decision making. The definition of decision making according to is, “the thought process of selecting a logical choice from the available options.” It is further suggested:

  • When trying to make a good decision, a person must weigh the positives and negative of each option, and consider all alternatives
  • For effective decision making, a person must be able to forecast the outcome of each option
  • Based on all items, determine which option is best for that particular situation

Given the definition of decision making, how do we as adults, help today’s youth to be successful as they make decisions?  Start young and keep the decisions simple. For ideas on how to engage children in simple decision making skills, see an article by Nina Makofsk titled Fun Activities to Teach Children About Decision-Making Skills. Ms. Makofsk states that when children are young, their choices are more about personal preferences, as they get older their decision can affect their safety and lifestyle. When parents and educators give young children the tools for making decision, they are better prepared for making major life choices as they mature.

The Ohio State University Extension Family and Consumer Sciences has a fact sheet, Decision Making/Problem Solving With Teens, that adults can reference. This is a simple guide that provides six steps to decision making/problem solving. They include:

  1. Identify the problem. Consider what an optimal outcome or goal might be.
  2. List possible options/alternatives
  3. Evaluate the options
  4. Choose one option
  5. Make a plan and do it
  6. Evaluate the problem and solution

According to the MSU Extension article, Effective and ethical decision making- Part 1, decision making is an important life skill for youth to gain. Michigan 4-H Youth Development Programs help youth develop this life skill through their 4-H projects and experiences. 4-H provides opportunities for youth to strengthen their decision making skills through, exhibiting projects, leading groups, participating in events and so much more. Be sure to also view Effective and ethical decision making- Part 2.

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