Empowering Kids to Make Decisions

Empowering Kids to Make Decisions

Empowering Kids to Make Decisions

Here’s information about decision-making, followed by ten suggestions that can lead to positive outcomes—including enhanced creativity.

About Decisions

We make a great many decisions over the course of our lives. The sum total of these decisions helps to define what we do, and who we are. Sometimes, we decide things quite quickly, whereas other times it takes longer. Decisions may be difficult or easy. They can be made independently or with other people. Decisions can have serious, long-term consequences, or little or no impact. Sometimes, we know exactly what we’re doing when we make a decision, but sometimes we’re unsure and so we just guess or pretend to know, and hope that we’re doing the right thing.

 A decision can take people out of their ordinary comfort zones, and into unfamiliar areas. Children and adults have the capacity to decide whether to be risk-aversive, or whether to be adventurous, innovative or creative—and also how to use that creativity. Anyone can take a chance and try an unconventional approach, or not. Decisions can be hesitant, right, wrong, silly, unyielding, life-or-death, flexible, precise, thoughtful, joyful, regretful, big, small, and so on… However, no-one can escape decision-making because life is full of choices.

Making Good Decisions

The best decision is an informed one. Facts and knowledge steer people in the right directions, helping individuals know what to pay attention to first—that is, how to prioritize. Once they have solid foundational information, they’re better prepared to move forward. 

Where do people acquire the kinds of information that will be useful to them for decision-making purposes? How can we help children learn to make good decisions? How do decision-makers prioritize things? Here are some answers to these questions, along with suggestions to share with kids.

1. Information is everywhere.  Before making a decision, think about what knowledge is required in order to arrive at a wise choice. People, places, and things are all potential sources of valuable information. Listen. Talk. Observe. Read. Time spent acquiring current and dependable information is time well spent. Think of it as directing energy productively. 
2. Reflect.  It’s good to be thoughtful when making decisions. As in the example above, time spent on careful, deliberate strategizing is also time well spent. Reflection is worthwhile, enabling the clarification and consolidation of ideas, and the exploration of options, attitudes, and assumptions. 
3. Decisions can also be changed.  Sometimes people make decisions, and then afterward they want to alter them. This happens all the time. We decide to change clothes, schools, music, and other aspects of our lives. And, why not? Decisions don't necessarily have to be final, debilitating, or paralyzing. Give alternatives a shot. People can fix errors and learn from mistakes. Ancient Greek poet Sophocles wrote these wise words, “Fortune cannot aid those who do nothing.
4. On the other hand…  Another ancient Greek, the physician Hippocrates, said, “To do nothing is also a good remedy.” Hmmm. This also bears thinking about; after all, Hippocrates (who is often referred to as the father of medicine) was no slouch! Deciding to do nothing may be okay in some situations—like making a decision not to respond to an insult, or not to disturb a nest even though birds are chirping loudly at the crack of dawn. Remember, however, that Hippocrates’ advice does not apply to everything people have to deal with or decide, or else how would anything ever get done?
5. Juggling priorities can be tricky.  Adults and kids have schedules that are increasingly jam-packed, filled with commitments, activities, and challenges. It’s not easy to balance all, or even some of this. Sometimes it’s hard to get to everything. There may be delays, forward bursts, backward slides, and difficulty knowing what to address first, then next, and next… A course of action might involve deciding to tackle matters on the basis of what seems most urgent (that is, needs immediate attention), or possibly considering what might have the most serious consequences if not addressed. Think things through, and plan accordingly. Try to anticipate what will lie ahead as a result of making a decision; in that way, you can chart a sensible course of action.
6. Share the burden.  It can be beneficial to share experiences, feelings, ideas, and opinions with others, so it’s not unreasonable to share decision-making as well. It’s best to do this with people who care, and whose input can be trusted. Communication is the key. Technology makes collaborative effort easier than ever. Sharing a load can help forge relationships, broaden viewpoints, lessen risks, strengthen decisions, and fuel creative ideas and resolutions. 
7. Decisions can take time.  Sometimes people take a loooong while to decide how to prioritize things, and how, or even if, they should do something. They may be weighing options. Or they may be afraid that if the outcome of their choice is bad, they’ll lose control, or get into trouble, or others will think less of them. All of that is understandable. In such circumstances (when feeling hesitant and unsure), try asking, “What’s the absolute worst that could happen?” and then figure out a couple of ways to deal with that scenario. Realistically, chances are that “the absolute worst” won’t happen, and managing anything less is doable. 
8. Decisions have a direct bearing on creativity.  People are at their most creative when doing what they deeply enjoy. Parents can support their children’s creativity by helping them explore opportunities. Perhaps this involves a decision to learn to play the violin; or to take sculpting, acting or painting lessons; or to join a science club. Then again, it might be each of these over a period of time, as a child experiments and chooses what to pursue further. Ultimately, it’s the love of what one is doing that enables the sustained effort, discipline, and perseverance required for creative achievement. Parents can help their children develop creative habits of mind—and build their intelligence and decision-making skills—by encouraging them to stay open to what they confront, and to redefine problems. 
9. Be analytical.  Learning to critique one’s own ideas can strengthen the ability to make decisions. This includes deciding which ideas are worth pursuing, and which should be abandoned or saved for later. Parents can support their children in becoming good decision-makers by showing them how to look at pros and cons, and respond productively to opposition—such as making use of problems as opportunities to fortify, fine-tune, and express their ideas. 
10. Adults can show the way.  Bravo for parents and teachers who continue to meet challenges head-on in their own lives, stretching their creative tendencies in new directions, and deciding to celebrate the creative possibilities in everyday life!

Reading and Resources 

Material in this article has been adapted from content extracted from pp. 70-73 of the author’s most recent book, Bust Your BUTS (recipient of the Independent Book Publishers’ Association’s 2018 Silver Benjamin Franklin Award), and also from within Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster. Readers can find additional information by checking out the award-winning book Being Smart about Gifted Education, written by both authors. To learn more about these books, and to acquire accessibility to a wide range of articles and links, go to www.joannefoster.ca Information about professional development workshops and speaker sessions with Dr. Foster can also be found at this website.

For excellent resources on supporting and encouraging gifted/high-level development, check out the wide assortment of material published by Great Potential Press at www.greatpotentialpress.com. 

In Teen Success! Ideas to Move Your Mind, Beatrice J. Elyé provides step-by-step suggestions for making wise decisions, including the best way to approach seemingly massive tasks or problems. For example, on pages 51 through 56 of that book, she describes five steps: how to define the problem, set a goal, hypothesize solutions, rank judgment (determine which possible solutions make the most sense), and make the decision. All helpful guidelines! www.greatpotentialpress.com/teen-success-2nd-edition

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