Leadership in Parenting: Decision-Making
This series is about viewing parenting from the perspective of leadership and developing future leaders. Being a parent is the most basic—and vital—of all leadership roles, though it’s rarely thought of that way. Parenting is the single most challenging thing I’ve ever done. I wish someone would have oriented me to this perspective before I became a father. It would have helped me avoid being in reaction (or sometimes survival) mode and given me more vision on what I was doing and how I was doing it. I hope parents find it helpful.
One of the harder parts of parenting is watching our kids make “wrong” decisions—especially when we’ve already told them not to make them. Often, our response is to reinforce their bad decision by highlighting just how bad it was—usually with liberal doses of “Why did you…?” and “Didn’t I tell you…?”
Often, our response is to reinforce their bad decision by highlighting just how bad it was.
“And Your Point Is…?”
There’s a more effective way to train your kids how to make decisions that telling them “I told you so” when they make poor ones.
Good decision making involves several important keys:
- Using wisdom
- Making timely decisions—not too early, not too late
- Dealing with unknowns
- Getting all the information possible
- Involving others when necessary or beneficial
- Having the confidence to be decisive
- Having the courage to make an unpopular decision
One of the best ways to teach your kids how to make good decisions is to take a coaching approach. Put them in situations, as early as possible, where they have the freedom and responsibility to decide (e.g what to eat, what toys they want to play with, etc.) on age-appropriate topics. Give them a couple of choices that will create clear cause-and-effect results.
Put them in situations, as early as possible, where they have the freedom and responsibility to decide.
As they make decisions, coach them so they can connect their decision with the outcomes they experience. Instead of telling them your opinion (which to them may sound like “I told you so” or “That’s not what I would have done”), ask them questions so they can learn to evaluate and think critically about their decisions.
- “Did that come out like you wanted?”
- “How did that surprise to you?”
- “What did you want to happen?”
- “What else could you have done?”
- “What will you do next time?”
This not only gets them thinking for themselves, it cements the learning in ways that no “I told you so” ever can. And coaching forces them to take ownership of the process. They’ll figure out on their own how not to make the same mistakes again, and they’ll reinforce the decision-making steps that led to good outcomes. And as life’s choices get more complex, their skill will develop further.
It cements the learning in ways that no “I told you so” ever can.
The Big Picture
The Goal is to prepare them to be self-directed. Good decision making is a lifelong, practical skill that will serve them well and position them ahead of the curve in whatever they choose to do in life.
Your Next Step
How can you begin the coaching approach to training your kids to decide well?
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