Teaching Kids to Make Smart Decisions

Teaching Kids to Make Smart Decisions - Parenting Like Hannah
Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath

Ever take a small child with his birthday cash to a dollar store? Either the child goes crazy and piles more in the basket than he can afford or he takes an agonizingly long time to pick out the one perfect item. Silently, you are wondering how this child will ever pick the right college or spouse with his current decision making skills.

As our children mature, we tend to forget our concerns. Most of the time our children make pretty good decisions and once in a while they will make a really poor one. Either way, we let them work through it with little formal instruction on the steps for making a good decision.

Maybe you struggle with decision making yourself. If you are like me, the popular pro/con list rarely works. Either we are so swayed, we can only see one side or we are so analytical, both sides come out evenly. Praying helps, but God rarely places a billboard on our street with specific point by point plans for us.

So how do we teach our children to take the information they have and make a solid decision? Enter Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. The authors give lots of concrete examples of typical business and life decisions and where people generally go wrong.

This is an extremely practical book with principles that can easily be taught to even the youngest of children. They call their basic decision making guidelines WRAP for: widen your options, reality test your assumptions, attain distance before deciding and prepare to be wrong. They break each area down into two or three practical skills to add to your decision making process.

Although the book is appropriate and relatable for teens, you will have to extract the principles for younger children. Try to teach them one new idea at a time and give them practical examples from their own lives. It may even help to teach them a new step as they encounter a decision.

For example, the first principle within widening your options is to avoid a narrow frame. This is the tendency for people to reduce decisions to “either/or” choices. A young child given a five dollar bill may think, “Either I spend this all on candy or I save it for the toy I want.” As a parent, you can teach them to look for more options before making a choice. What are some other options this child has? What about spending some of the money on candy and saving some towards the toy? (Mind you, I am not making value judgments on candy and toys at the moment!)

Although the book is not a religious book, I did not find any of the principles to be ungodly. I would add however, we need to make sure when our children do consider options, they filter them through the “God lens”. “What Would Jesus Do” may be considered trite by some, but it does have value because it reminds us to consider our decision based on what godly principles might apply.

Once you read the book, comment below if you are having a tough time teaching a specific principle to your child. I would love to help you with some creative ideas. In the meantime, enjoy this book for yourself, too. I consider myself a pretty good decision maker and I picked up some great, new tips. At the moment though, I need to pass my copy on to my teen daughter who has been dying to get her hands on it!

The link in this post is an affiliate link. Clicking on it doesn’t cost you anything and purchasing while there does not add to your cost. it does however provide a small compensation to help support this blog. Thank you for helping Parenting Like Hannah! This book was given to me by the publisher with no strings attached. I loved the book though and it will go in my library if I can get it back from my daughter!

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Thereasa Winnett

Thereasa Winnett is the founder of Teach One Reach One and blogger at Parenting Like Hannah. She holds a BA in education from the College of William and Mary. She has served in all areas of ministry to children and teens for more than thirty years and regularly leads workshops for ministries and churches. She has conducted numerous workshops, including sessions at Points of Light’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the National Urban Ministry Conference, Pepperdine Bible Lectures, and Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration. Thereasa lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Greg, where she enjoys reading, knitting, traveling and cooking.

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