At the end of every night, we have our kids clean up the messes they have made. Most of those messes are in their rooms where all of the toys they have played with are sprawled out on the floor. If there was a competition for the slowest toy picker upper, my daughter would be champion of the world. That coupled with her ability to play with all of her toys and leave them out in a single day was a recipe for disaster. There were nights she didn’t get her room clean. I told her the wise decision would be for her to put her toys away when she’s done playing with them so she isn’t left with an overwhelming mess. She didn’t do it, and we continued having the same problem. Finally, I started putting a timer in her room and told her that whatever was not put away when the timer went off she would lose for a day.
For several days nothing changed. Then one night she went upstairs to clean and came down two minutes later. I was surprised to see her so quickly and then she explained that during the day she put her toys away when she was done playing with them rather than waiting. I told her it was a wise decision. Teaching kids to make wise decisions can be difficult, but it can be done with the right techniques. Here are 10 ways to teach your kids to make the right decisions.
1. Let them make mistakes
As parents, our natural instinct is to shield our kids from all potential pitfalls. But carefully letting your kids learn a hard lesson from their own mistakes and then talking to them about it after the fact will give them great insight.
2. Expose them to the ‘real world’
Our shielding instinct is to hide the cold, ugly world from the eyes of our children. Yet, there is no better teacher than a helpful dose of reality. For instance, maybe you caught your child smoking. Instead of grounding him for two weeks and giving him a verbal lashing, download pictures from the Internet of the lungs of those who smoke. This is far more powerful in their mind than sitting in their room mad at you because they can’t go out on Friday night. You still might ground them, of course, but WITH the real-life example of why you must do so.
3. Teach your child to know herself
One of the greatest keys to wisdom is honestly being able to look at yourself in the mirror and know who is looking back. Children who can distinguish their own strengths and weaknesses are apt to make better decisions based on their abilities. American Idol was a good example of this. Constantly we saw young people on this show who truly believed they were great singers when the reality was so clear. Children should be encouraged to try many wonderful things, but be able to realize they will not excel in them all.
4. Learn your child’s interests
Maybe they are into football. Maybe music, art, cooking, etc. Whatever it may be, find out or HELP your child find out his interests. Then provide real-life examples of others that share their same likes and who are successful. This teaches that hard work and dedication are the keys to success and those traits lend very well to decision making.
5. Talk to your child
Open communication is vital to parenting but is quite often hard to achieve. The second a child senses a lecture, you’ve lost his ear. If you can find common areas where you bond and illicit real discussion from your child, you will gain invaluable insight into how he thinks. This, in turn, gives you the ability to know what decision he is going to make before he even makes it. If it’s not going to be the correct one, then you can intervene and guide in the proper direction.
6. Get involved
Whether it is church youth groups, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, or any variety of social organizations, having your child get involved will teach her life skills that will grow her wisdom. It also exposes her to positive peer pressure and increases the likelihood that the decisions she makes will be the correct ones. If a child has a lot to lose by acting foolish, she is much less likely to do so. One of the best ways for you to get involved in your child’s life is to be a presence at his or her school. Look into joining or starting an All Pro Dad’s Day.
7. Money, money, money
One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is to teach them how to handle money properly. If you can teach your child to handle money in a responsible manner, most likely that will follow through into the other parts of his life. An ancient proverb says, “Of what use is money in the hand of a fool, since he has no desire to get wisdom?”
8. Pile on the PRAISE
Too often, parents tend to focus on the things our children might need work on. We want to fix their struggles. Yet, we might forget to praise when they get it right, as they so often do. Example: “Dad, did you see me hit that 20 footer from the corner?” “Yes, good job, but you had a couple of turnovers. You need to be more careful with the ball.” Sound familiar? By praising our children when they do great things, it helps reinforce the desire to make decisions to have similar outcomes.
9. The friends we keep
If we are only as strong as our weakest link, then teaching your children how to choose friendships is a vitally important task. As important as we like to think we are to our kids, their world revolves around their own social interactions and circles of friends. It is THEM they are listening to, and not us in many circumstances. One sure-fire way to know what direction your child is headed in is to get to know his friends. “Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.”
10. Lead by exampleThe best lessons in life are caught, not taught, by a child’s parents.
If you yourself do not follow these principles, then how do you expect your child to want to? “Do as I say, not as I do” is NOT a good conversation starter with a child. If need be, use your own faults as an example of how not to be and promise to do better. Humbling yourself in front of your child and admitting your weakness will actually make him feel closer to you. Where you do have strengths in decision-making skills, teach those to him. The best lessons in life are caught, not taught, by a child’s parents.
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think it takes to make wise decisions?”