Teaching Decision-Making

July 15th, 2010 @   -  No Comments

Each individual can choose what kind of person they want to become through the choices they make in life. Learning to make the right decisions must start early in life. Sometimes parents and other adults make all the decisions for children; as a result children find difficulty making decisions when they grow older and have less control and success over their life. Decision making is a very important skill that must be taught.

Opportunities to make decisions

Children should be given as many opportunities to make decisions. They cannot learn to make the right choices only in theory, they must be able to practice it in real situations. For example, a child can start by choosing an outfit or a snack. As children grow older they can be given more opportunities to make decisions. The parent can suggest options but should allow the child to make the decision.

Confidence

One of the most important factors that help children make the right choices is confidence. This must be stressed because without confidence a child will not do what he thinks is right but will do what other people want him to do regardless of whether it is right or wrong. Confidence starts in the family where it can be cultivated with love, encouragement and proper guidance or it can be destroyed with harshness and discouragement.

Thinking before acting

In most of the Quranic texts where God presents us with options He asks us to contemplate before acting. Most children respond to reason as soon as they can communicate. Taking the time to sit with a child and explain why one option is better than another will teach them the process of thinking through what they do. They have to learn to foresee any possible consequences before they occur.

Empathy

An important part of decision-making is taking other people into consideration and not impeding on other peoples rights. As the Prophet (SAW) said: “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself” (Bukhari and Muslim). Children can be given opportunities to make decisions that impact the entire family, for example what can the family have for dinner.

Correcting mistakes and responsibility

All children will make some bad choices in their life, some more than others. When this happens parents must view these as opportunities for their children to learn about making the right decisions and about responsibility and not as a mere opportunity for punishment.

Responsibility is cultivated when children learn to take ownership of the consequences of their decisions; when the parent deals with the child’s consequences and fixes their mistakes the child will keep on making the mistake because they will take comfort in the fact that their parent will fix the problem. Instead, the parent should analyze the situation with the child and think through what they did and the consequences of those actions and what they could have done and other consequences and allow the child to correct their own mistake whenever possible. They must understand and develop a process of thinking that allows them to weigh the good and the bad.

Making Friends

Making friends may be one of the biggest choices children make. Friends have a very big impact on how one acts. Children are likely to follow their friends’ example and make similar decisions as their friends. Many teenagers state that they started smoking because of their friends. Parents must help their children pick friends who will have a good influence on them.

Creativity

It takes creativity to come up with alternatives when it may seem that there are not many options. Brainstorming and other problem solving skills can help develop alternatives. There should be a balance between setting firm rules and giving children the space to learn and make mistakes in order for their creativity to flourish.

Practical advice to teach children to make the right choices:

  • Teach children to pray istikhara (prayer for guidance) when making decisions
  • Make friends who will encourage them to make the right choices
  • Give children opportunities to make choices from an early age
  • Allow children to make decisions that not only affect them but the entire family as well
  • Talk through certain situations with the child so that they can think about the consequences of their actions

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