The decision-making dilemma, and what would you do?
The main ingredient of the art of accompanying children in the process of becoming healthy and emotionally strong, able to risk choosing and taking responsibility for their decisions is the affective growth of parents. For taking decisions Children need to rely on useful knowledge. And to know not only information is needed, but also to risk and experiment.
Have you ever said? As long as you live here, you will do what I tell you! or, on the contrary, do what you want, now that you can !? We must distinguish between authority and authoritarian, between freedom and license. So dangerous is not to set limits as to forget the space for negotiation and agreement of agreements.
Only those who have first learned to do what is necessary, even when they have not wanted or been comfortable, are able to fight for their dreams with freedom. The success in the decision-making dilemma It is a matter of balance. This balance is fundamentally based on a liberating paternal love, which allows children to develop as coherent, autonomous and independent.
As parents we can provide opportunities to collect experiences that add to your learning album, the main seed of knowledge. This will allow them to better deal with the crossroads that they find along the way and be able to face them with courage and integrity.
Equal opportunities are exploration as well as infringement (jumping limits are also learned!). Let's not forget that one of the most potent sources of personal maturation and growth is the learning of mistakes, especially when they derive as consequences of our actions.
The decision-making dilemma
Some of the crossroads that children face when making decisions can be the following:
Do I continue or drop out of school and start working?
What career do I choose?
Which group of friends suits me best?
Will it be the right partner?
How can I invest my pay?
What happens if I try tobacco, alcohol, other drugs or addictions?
Educate children and it will not be necessary to punish men, said Pythagoras. The education of children benefits more from influence than from obedience. They learn more of what we do and what we are, than of what we say. Train their critical sense, accompany them to take the controls of their existence and encourage them to direct them with meaning, without a doubt it is one of the best legacies we can leave them.
By encouraging your critical thinking we also take a risk. What if they develop thoughts, values or interests different from ours? What if the decisions we make do not like us? It is worth taking those risks. On the contrary, if we choose to think, act or decide instead we will allow them to follow the "flock" of society, exposing them to a greater vulnerability of manipulation of the world and the others instead of enhancing their self-dependence and leadership.
What should children know about decision making?
Key points to learn to make decisions in life:
- It is an act of freedom.
- The fear of change is normal and healthy but must be lost when deciding, especially in the face of possible rejection or anger from others.
- He who doubts nothing, knows nothing.
- The decisions are personal and, therefore, different.
- Deciding is not easy and sometimes it is easier for others to decide for me.
- However, the absence of decisions tends to the accumulation of internal worries, anxieties and conflicts that impede mature personal development.
- The essential ingredients to decide are knowledge and value.
- Nobody is going to decide for you.
Living involves risks, which increase with age. And in reaction to the chaos that surrounds us, our sense of confusion is born. This leads us to wish to invest in security, endeavoring to find non-existent guarantees of it. If we allow ourselves to be guided by fear, we can fall into the trap of fleeing from reality, of seeking leaders who direct us, give answers and guarantee false happiness, instead of assuming control and forging us as architects of our existence.
The attitude of the parents before the decisions of the children
- Accompany but not replace.
- Show availability to listen and encourage listening to oneself.
- Offer support and suggestions, answer questions, share knowledge and experience.
- Transmit confidence and courage to decide for themselves, assuming the risk.
- Ask them to define the reasons that lead them to take them.
- Question about the objectives who pursue with them.
- Participate in your decisional balance, analyzing pros and cons, offering alternatives.
- Know how they will carry it out, encourage to develop a plan.
- Respect the decision made.
- Allow them to make mistakes and experience its consequences.
- Reinforce successes and, in the face of failures, make constructive criticisms and encourage them to try again.
- Educate in making decisions according to the framework of a social norm established and agreed upon by the family.
- Value and reflect on the consequences.
Making children become protagonists of their lives, capable of forging their own path, is fundamentally part of an education in freedom on the part of parents. Do we educate or domesticate? The main difference between both actions lies in human freedom. It is about explaining that in life, most of the times there are alternatives to choose from. Freedom implies responsibility, assuming the possible gains and losses of choosing one path and leaving another.
However, if this freedom is detached from the learning of responsibility, decision-making will be jeopardized. An adequate attitude towards the decisions of the children is based on accompanying them in their thinking, feeling and acting but letting them ultimately take control of their lives. Our best role is to provide them with resources that enable a meaningful decision making, based on solid personal values. Teach them that they should choose guided by the values that we have transmitted to them. However, the transfer of control must be progressive.
When the children are small, it is the parents who make the decisions for them, who obey or negotiate them. It is convenient that parents encourage their children, from an early age and under their supervision, to make their own decisions, starting with the simplest ones. As they grow, the intervention of parents should be limited, avoiding giving advice to replace the control and freedom that the children have to assume.
If the children try to give their parents the resolution of their dilemma, we can say:
- "It's not about what I would do, but about what you think you should do"
- "Rate the pros and cons of the situation and then decide yourself"
- "This is your choice and your responsibility"
- "I can not decide for you because I'm not you, in any case I can tell you about my experience if it's useful for you."
If children are able to make good use of their free will in making important decisions, the harvest of fruits during the rest of the trip will be more satisfying.
Irene Alustiza. Diagnostic and Family Therapy Unit. University of Navarra Clinic
More information in the book The six most important decisions of your life, by Sean Covey.