Helping children make decisions - Part 2

Decisions are made every day! 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.

A child's decision-making skills take time to develop. Photo credit: Pixabay.

A child's decision-making skills take time to develop. Photo credit: Pixabay.

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. 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 we as adults best support and acknowledge children as they make decisions.

In an earlier article, Helping children make decisions - Part 1, we explored the definition of decision-making. This article provides some resources for getting started with simple decision-making and gives a six-step guide to breaking down how to make a decision.

According to the Institute for Child Development, children go through distinctive periods or stages of development as they move from infants to young adults. They explain that during each stage, growth and development occur in the primary developmental domains including physical, intellectual, language and social-emotional. 

How does this apply to children and decision-making?  It is important for adults to understand that decision making is a skill that develops slowly over time with practice. To effectively help youth as they develop the skill of decision-making, it is important to consider the period or stage of development that child is experiencing and match our expectations accordingly.

For example, Kids Matter created a resource, About Good Decision-Making, that matches the period or stage of growth with the skill of decision-making:

 

Younger children are more likely to…

As they develop, children are more able to…

-Focus on one aspect of a situation

-See things from different angles

-Focus on their own position

-See other people’s points of view

-Look for immediate benefits

-Think ahead and plan

-Want things now

-Focus on longer range goals

-Act without thinking first

-Consider consequences

-Make simple distinctions between good/bad, right/wrong

-Apply more complex values to their own thinking

-Make decisions based on a whim

-Use reasoned strategies for making decisions

 

As Michelle Neff states in an article, Effective and ethical decision-making - Part 1, decision-making is an important life skill for youth to gain. Michigan State University Extension 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 view Effective and ethical decision-making- Part 2 by Michelle Neff for more information on the development of decision-making in youth.