Children Can Make Informed Decisions; Letting Them Do So Eases Your Parenting!

We all know our brains develop according to how it’s used, so the more experience our kids have sitting in the driver’s seat of their lives, the more they will be able to think calmly and clearly.

Smita Singh
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Gifts Parents Can Give To Kids, parenting
Parenting my daughter, a 10-year-old is a new learning experience. She thinks she’s grown up enough to make decisions for herself and thus begins our tussle as she wants her way most of the time. However, I now have devised a way which makes her feel like she's making decisions and I get my way in the bargain.

How? I let her make some decisions which put an end to her tantrums. But it left me surprised to learn that children who are of age to study at an elementary school and above can make informed decisions as we'd make for them. And the more we give them the ability to make their own decisions, the better they’ll be at it as they grow.

What stops us from letting go?

Like all parents I want my child to succeed and to do and be the best they can. The pressure to get into a good school or have a great career can sometimes lead parents like me to feel that they can’t afford to let their kids make meaningful choices or manage stressful situations on their own. But I have realised despite all good intentions, parents are robbing their children of a sense of control, which can have devastating consequences.

As a result, kids are left to grapple with an epidemic of anxiety. They feel a sense that they don’t control their own destinies. According to science, not feeling a sense of control over one’s life or decisions is one of the most stressful experiences for the human brain. And when we feel excessive stress, or when we live in a constant state of anxiety, our ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ instinct never turns off. That leads to trouble, the body turns its full attention to survival, instead of growing or learning. And we want our children to grow and learn right?

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Empower them!

When kids are given the freedom to make their own decisions, their brains learn how to make hard choices. More importantly, it helps them not to feel helpless or controlled by someone else. Let’s take an example from school, teachers help their students to develop self-reliance and independence when they allow students to make choices, explain the purpose of an assignment (now with all the summer assignments and all you know that), and seek feedback about the helpfulness of their homework.

This helps develop a mentor relationship and demonstrates mutual respect as well while growing their students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills. We all know our brains develop according to how it’s used, so the more experience our kids have sitting in the driver’s seat of their lives, the more they will be able to think calmly and clearly. And it will not let their anxiety call the shots. Here are some steps parents can take:

Remember to ask lots of questions

Sit your child down and ask them to make a list of what they’d like to be in charge of and then plan to shift responsibility to them. Or ask your child’s opinion about something, by saying, “Do you think we should do it this way or that way?” Like when we are dressing to go out, I tell my daughter, “I think this outfit is perfect for the occasion and if she thought it too”, or “Wear this dress and then you can decide which footwear and accessory to wear along with it”.


Ask your child to make informed decisions

When you decide to let your child take decisions please remember to make thoughtful and informed decisions a prerequisite. Talk about the issue at hand with your child, and then assure them that you have faith in their ability to make informed decisions about their own lives and to learn from their mistakes. Just knowing that you believe in your child will definitely boost their confidence.

Let them make mistakes

Of course, that doesn’t mean your child can do everything they want, you still need to guide them against what’s right and wrong. For, example, if your 10-year-old wants to take German instead of French, even though you know French is much more practical, it’s not a crazy decision. The confidence and autonomy your child will experience, and the health of your relationship will outweigh any benefits of one language over another. Remember as parents we want our child to own the decision and not you.

Ask before advising kids

For example, if your child has to decide between going to a birthday party they’re already committed to and accepting a more recent invitation from a friend to go to a movie. Before jumping in with your decision, try saying, “Would you like to hear my suggestion?” or “Can I tell you how I see it?” And in case your kid child does not want you involved then you need to back off. Be a trusted consultant rather than an authoritarian boss.


Don’t force help or advice

We all know the adage, ‘Wisdom comes from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.’ If we parents don’t let our kids make decisions how will they fail or be unsuccessful or hurt by something and learn and grow from it? When we don't force our decisions on them, we are in a better position to help them introspect and learn.

When you feel your kid is dejected over something, you can ask questions like: “How do you think that went?”, “Is there something different you’d do next time?” “What went well?” “Is there any way I can help?”

These are but a few steps to be taken, give your children space to get to know themselves, exercise their judgment and build healthy brains in the process. It will have lifelong benefits.

Views expressed are the author's own