Making Decisions with your Kids

Some parents believe they have to be the chief decision maker in the family. The parents are the boss and have the final say. While this is true for some things such as safety or health issues, it isn’t true for everything. If I always make the decisions, then I deprive my children of the skill of decision making. They will need that skill as adults. Therefore, if I involve them in the decision making process, they will learn these skills and be more prepared for adulthood.

Church: A Family Decision

For example, I recently decided that the church I was going to was not going to work for our family. My oldest son was expressing concerns, and I didn’t want a church to diminish his faith. So, we went out for dinner and decided we would try other churches. We discussed some of the churches we would try and why. We predicted what we might find at these churches. We discussed some of the pros and cons. And then we tried the churches. Always, always, always, after we visited, I’d ask the kids what they thought. What did they like and what didn’t they like? In the end, I wanted to go to one church and they wanted to go to the other. We talked about this. I pleaded my case, but to no avail. In the end, I decided to attend the church they wanted to go to. They felt good about the decision as they felt they had a part in making it and I had listened to their choices. Now when we go to church, I hear less complaining and I get more cooperation. I also gained my children’s respect and trust through this process. 

Where to Eat: Another Family Choice

Every time I have my kids on a Friday night, we have to decide where we will go eat our dinner. Most of the time, my kids want to go to different places. If they both agree, we’ll go to that place. Sometimes they ask me what I’d like and I tell them. Sometimes when I tell them, they agree to do what I’d like. Sometimes the boys disagree and we have to talk about what we’ll do. Should we go to my youngest’s choice tonight and my oldest’s next? Should we get something to go from one of the boys’ choice and eat at the other’s? Sometimes there’s argument, but we always make the decision together, and I make sure we’ve discussed everyone’s perspective and all the options. This may be a small decision in the scheme of things, but it still helps my kids learn how to negotiate with someone else who may not agree with you. 

Other Decisions My Kids Make

I involve my kids in other decisions too. What should we do for fun today? Do you think you need to stay home from school today with a cold or can you make it to school even though it might be tough? Are you ready to stop your therapy sessions and if you are, how will we know if you need them again? What should we do when we both want to watch something different on TV? What is a reasonable amount of time to use a screen? 

Some Decisions Parents Have to Make

There are some decisions, though, that I don’t let my kids chime in on. Recently, I had to tell my oldest that he’s at the age now when his internet choices may be questionable, so there are no screens behind closed doors anymore. He argued, fought, yelled, and slammed doors, but I just kept calmly saying, I’m sorry but this is my decision. Eventually he accepted it. I also don’t let my kids decide to be impolite. There are non-negotiables and one is how we treat other people. We hold doors open, help load the groceries in the house, and help Mom shovel the driveway. Because being a decent person is non negotiable. Kids do need to learn that they sometimes have to do things they don’t want to do. It’s part of being a human.

Lessons Learned

But when I can, I involve the kids in the process and take their thoughts into account. We have great discussions about the pros and cons, empathizing with other people’s feelings, and how to be a good loser. We also learn how to speak calmly even if someone doesn’t agree with you. These are all important skills that I would not teach my children if I were a drill sergeant parent. I am not being a pushover. I am instilling skills in my children that will make them beautiful, human adults. And they are making great progress.

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