Give Your Children the Space to Make Decisions

“Give your children the space to make decisions. Let them make mistakes. Learn together from those mistakes.”

This sounds weird, doesn’t it? Give your children the space to make decisions and let them make mistakes??? Wow. We don’t’ want our kids to make mistakes, do we? We don’t want them to be hurt—either physically or emotionally,

I know that this is true, and, of course, have felt—and feel—the same way. But, decision making is one of the most important skills that a person can ever learn. The sooner we begin developing the skill and become confident in our own decision making, the more capable we become at everything we do.

In reality, we do not do our children a favor by making every decision for them—by telling them what to do, what to think, what to eat, what to wear, and etc. Certainly, there are parameters within which decisions are made. In addition, a child will become more capable of decision making as he/she grows, ages, and matures. But, as soon as a child is capable, begin—softly and slowly—letting his/her make decisions. “Do you want to wear the brown shirt today or the blue one?” And, when he chooses the blue one, don’t jump in and say, “Oh, I think the brown one would be better.”

Or, “do you want oatmeal today or Cheerios?”

Or, “You may have one toy today while we are shopping. Do you want a car or a train toy?”

“I want both, Mommy!!!”

“I know you do, but today, you will have to make a decision for one or the other. Or, you can choose not to have either.”

In this latter discussion, there was a consequence related to not making a decision. Which is a life lesson. There will most always—throughout life, be a consequence when one is unable or unwilling to make a decision.

An interesting note on decision making in the business world. Ram Charan and Larry Bossidy wrote of the characteristics of CEO’s who success and of those who fail in their book, Execution. The second major reason that CEO’s fail is the inability to make decisions. Who knows how much better they may have been at this vital skill is they had been encouraged—and allowed—to make decisions as children.

Please know that there is guidance, direction and support as you let your child make decisions. And, as your child grows older, those decisions will become larger and more emphatic. But, as you work on this together—(the operative word here is “together”) they will be less likely to shut you out during those difficult teenage years and early adult years. You want them to be able to turn to you forever and to be open and honest with you. If you are dictatorial to your child and never give them the guidance and trust to make their own decisions, you are doing them a disservice—and you risk having them shut you out as they mature.

Keep the lines of communication open. Be there for your children. While they are not small adults—they are, truly, children, there are ways to begin learning how to make good decisions early in their little lives. Remember to set the parameters. Give the guidelines within which a decision can be made. Set up “the rules of the game”. Then, begin giving your child an “alternative of choice”: two options—either answer with which you will be able to agree.