Helping children make decisions - Part 4

Decisions - they are made every day! Part 4 in this series explores a variety of decision-making styles.

Decisions - they 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. No matter how someone arrives at a decision, it’s 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.

Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 in this series by Michigan State University Extension explored the definition of decision-making and steps to decision-making, developmental stages and appropriate adult expectations for youth involved in the decision-making process, and adult/youth relationships and how adults can best support youth through decision-making. In the fourth and final article in this series, we will explore a variety of decision-making styles.

No two people are built the same, share the same mind, believe in the same set of values or make decisions the same. It’s what makes each person unique! Often times personalities, past experiences and future goals are considerations when it’s time to make a decision. Keep in mind those factors are the same for adults and youth alike. 

Rutgers University Career Services captures several types of decision-making styles:

  • Impulsive decider: One who takes the first alternative that is presented: "Decide now; think later. Don't look before you leap."
  • Fatalistic decider: One who leaves the resolution of the decision up to the environment or fate: "Whatever will be will be."
  • Compliant decider: One who goes along with someone else's plan rather than making an independent decision. "If it's OK with you, it's OK with me." "Anything you say."
  • Delaying decider: One who delays thought and action on a problem: "I'll think about it later."
  • Agonizing decider: One who spends much time and thought in gathering data and analyzing alternatives only to get lost amidst the data gathered: "I can't make up my mind. I don't know what to do."
  • Intuitive decider: One who decides based on what is felt, but cannot be verbalized: "It feels right."
  • Paralytic decider: One who accepts the responsibility for decisions, but is unable to do much toward approaching it: "I know I should, but I just can't get with it. I can't face up to it."
  • Escapist decider: One who avoids a decision or makes up an answer to end the discussion. For example, if asked by a relative about a college major, this type (although still undecided, but considering teaching), would respond, "I'm thinking about pre-med." This allows the escapist to give a socially acceptable answer without taking responsibility.
  • Play-it-safe decider: One who almost always picks the alternative with the perceived lowest level of risk: "I like anthropology, but I can get a job in accounting."
  • Planner: One whose strategy is based on a rational approach with some balance between the cognitive and emotional: "I am the captain of my fate; I am the master of my soul."

As you help youth to make decisions, keep in mind their cognitive, social, and emotional state. Youth are learners, skill builders, opportunity takers, and mentees. As an adult, you may believe that you already “know” the answer to the decision at hand, however, it’s likely that you are in their lives to help, teach, guild and mentor them as they become successful young adults. Allow youth the opportunity to arrive at their own conclusion and support them in their decision-making process.

As stated in the article, Effective and ethical decision making - Part 1, decision-making is an important life skill for youth to gain. Michigan4-H Youth and  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 view Effective and ethical decision making- Part 2 for more information on how children develop decision-making skills.

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