Making wise choices comes about from experiences and practice as well as maturation. In any situation, children see what they are focusing on. It is only with growth and lessons learned that they begin to realize that there are consequences to every action. They are usually as surprised as anyone else when things don’t go the way they pictured them in their head. Being allowed to make their own decisions in a risk free situations encourages them to expand on the possibilities. My granddaughter has said more than once, “I didn’t see that one coming.” In reality, adults don’t either sometimes. Not doing it again in that exact way is a learned lesson.
Actions, whether judged to be good or bad are best handled with a true, calm, question about the process of their thinking. What were the steps? Did you think that it might not go as planned? Was there a risk and was the outcome worth it? Discussion with children builds their self esteem and courage, reducing stress with decision making.
Teach Kids How, a website for parents, lists activities for teaching children early about making choices. It must be a continuous process for them to become confident.
But too often, a child’s mistakes have an impact on the parent. Their behavior or choice may be an embarrassment. It may cause more effort or work when their plate was already full. They look at the child incredulously and ask in a questioning voice, “What were you THINKING!?!” Although it may sound like a question it really isn’t. The parent probably is not in the mood to hear the answer. The question is really a statement that says to the child, “You were not thinking at all.” It is not a question but a condemnation of self. Many parents heard something similar when they were growing up. “Are you crazy??” or “What are you? Stupid?” come to mind. Past generations were not immune to this kind of questioning. Many were raised this way as well and only through self reflection as parents will they realize it did not have a positive impact on them, either. Children develop a fear of making decisions when their choices are wrong. It becomes easier to say, “I don’t know.”
Karen Stephens contributing writer to childhoodexchange.com in her article, ‘Parents Are Powerful role Models for Children“, says “Being a positive role model requires fore-thought and self control. Today we talk a lot about disciplining our children. We parents need to put an equal emphasis on disciplining ourselves.”
Parenting must come from the heart to raise children who are confident, caring and loving. Teach them to love themselves by loving, respecting and caring for yourself. “Do as I say, not as I do.” was resented by every child who ever heard it. It won’t work on your child either. Don’t raise your children as you were raised without forethought as to how it affected you. Keep the best learning experiences and discover new ways to interact with your child where you were not positively affected by the lesson. Structure and discipline can always come from love.