Making Decisions is a Skill to be Taught

I have always believed in the words of Margret Mead, who said “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”  Yet I have never been witness to a generation that have such a difficult time making decisions.

Things as simple as “do you want to try one more time?” or “what are you going to do next?” are answered with, “what do you think I should do?” Granted sometimes these can be ominous questions if heard from a different angle, but I believe that we have done such an over-reach on parenting this generation that we have left them incompetent in the skills of decision making.

We, as coaches, or even as parents have a responsibility to guide and teach. Many young parents opt for the efficiency of pushing their kids in the right direction to avoid  delay, or save a child from mistakes. Kids without skinned knees have such anxiety when they have to face the real world, because they haven’t learned how to get up after falling. Parenting is slow, takes a long time, and is inevitably messy. I remember my mother teaching me a lesson when I was about 9, maybe a little younger. I was in charge of vacuuming the living room on that particular day, and I was purposely doing a horrible job. I intended my mom to call me out and take over. She would finish then and I could go play. But she waited until I was all done and put the vacuum away. They she took me on a tour of every little bit I missed. She had me get the vacuum and do it all again. Yet despite my ingenious plan, the outcome was the same. She let me know that I was being given the opportunity to improve my skills in floor maintenance, and that if I didn’t show aptitude, I could be given another opportunity. From behind tears (because I didn’t like this lesson) I learned to be pretty good with a vacuum. She did not enjoy correcting/teaching me a lesson, but parenting isn’t for the parent, it’s for the kid.

Would it have been easier to take the Hoover from me and just get it done? Of course, but then I would have never had the chance to appreciate a clean floor, never felt enabled to decide when my own house, as an adult, needed cleaning,  never learned that I was capable of helping around the house and still having time to play. All lessons that helped me grow up. If given the opportunity again, I think I would have made a different decision than trying to outsmart Mom. The real lesson I learned was that I could do things right, or do things wrong and both had repercussions.

Children need to be taught the skills of decision making. I believe that there are 4 considerations that a person must apply when deciding on a course of action.

  • Is my decision my own, or am I trying to decide what someone else would like me to do?
  • Is my decision based on my values? Do I think this is the best thing for me, or for the situation, in the long term?
  • If all things were equal, what would I want to do?
  • Consider the result of either side of a decision.

Do you want another piece of cake?

Am I going to eat this just because I want Grandma to be happy that I like her cake? I am trying to stay healthy, does eating more cake align with that value? If it didn’t matter, would more cake provide me happiness?  If I eat more cake, I don’t think I will feel well. No, thank you Grandma.

Are you going to take one more Vault before the end of practice?

Does the coach want me to do one more, or do I want to? Would one more vault help me attain the skill I am training and get me closer to achieving my goal, or is doing one more when I am tired, worth the risk? If it didn’t matter, is doing one more going to help or hurt me?   I think I will end practice on a good note tonight. Yes, coach, I would like to try one more.

Did you decide on which college you will apply to?

Am I applying there because my uncle went there and it would make him proud, or do I want to actually go there? Does that school have my field of study, can I develop skills for my life there better than another school? If all things were equal, would I like to be a graduate of that school?  All of my top 3 schools will provide a good start to life as a professional.  Yes I have applied to 3 schools and am awaiting my acceptance letter(s) before I commit.

Making decisions isn’t always easy, sometimes the considerations mentioned above can cloud up the process and make it more difficult, but your kid didn’t learn a cartwheel on the first try either. Allow them to practice making decisions, right or wrong, so when the complicated ones come, they will have the skills.  

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