There are parents all across the U.S. struggling with the foolish decisions of their children. I myself have often wondered about my own son, “why did you do that?” I really wish that children came out of the womb with all the tools they needed to make wise decisions. Unfortunately children are born ill equipped for the thousands of decisions they will make in there life time. How then do we as parents train our children to make wise decisions?
I believe that we train children to make wise decisions by asking the question, what do you think about that? When children become teenagers they are suddenly required to make many decisions. If when they get to this stage they have never thought through the consequences of a decision or solved a problem on their own, they are in for a lesson.
I like to start out small and young. Asking children at a young age what their favorite color is, food, movie, game, friend etc… All of these questions require a child to think about their wants, desires, and at some level what is valuable to them. These are not the ultimate values of life but they are the beginnings of determining the ultimate values. One of the most important things to focus on as a parent during these conversations is truly seeking to understand your child’s inner life. The more you are engaged with understanding your child’s thoughts, opinions, and values, the stronger they will hear the message, “what you think is important to me.” If you value their opinion then they will see value in it as well.
As a child increases in age and practice it is wise for parents to begin asking their opinion in more significant ways. What sport would you like to play? What assignment would you like to do first? What do you think about this bible verse? What is important to you in this? The more opportunity they have to express their opinions about a wide variety of topics the more confident they will be in their opinions. The more confidence they have in their own opinions the more likely they are to make decisions based on their values rather than those of their peers.
It is not possible to guarantee that our children will always make the right decision. It is possible however to provide tons of practice and rehearsal for the moments when their values are really tested. When the pressure is on they will rely on what is most comfortable and familiar to them. Parents can influence what is most comfortable and familiar by engaging in thoughtful and challenging conversations.
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