I’ve been absent from the blog for a little as life gets busy! My baby has completely turned into a toddler and worldwide there has been a lot going on, which has been leading me to really think about my mindset around choices. Making them, teaching them, responding to them rather than REACTING to them. My toddler is not “terrible”, but she is yearning for independence. She is yearning to exercise what small amounts of FREEDOMS of choice she may have. It is my job to provide them. It is my job to allow her to exercise independence safely. It is my job to be accepting, flexible, patient, and observant. It is my job to practice stopping, thinking, regulating, and then deciding in my daily life. My path is largely laid board by board with my own choices. Learning to make decisions begins with learning to recognize and respond to provided choices. As parents and mentors, we can cultivate decision making skills, as well as leadership mentalities from a young age.
We can teach the next generation that gathering information, thinking about outcomes, and thoughtfully responding to what the outcome is enables us to not only make decisions, but prepares us to then accept or remain flexible in situations with others and their decisions. Differences will always exist.
We all have different thoughts about different things at different times. These thoughts drive our actions and decisions. You only have control over your own actions, thoughts, and decisions.
Practice confidence in your choices. Trust in your decisions. Furthermore, where can you model decision making for your children? Where can you provide them with the FREEDOM of choice?
Learning that you are capable of making competent and successful choices results in FREEDOMS. Freedom to explore new interests, freedom to solve new problems, freedom to grow through the uncomfortable and into successes.
For young children, even toddlers, we can provide them with opportunities to make choices, while still providing parental or adult guidance. This may require us to step out of our own comfort zones (relinquishing control so that our children can exert some in a productive way). We can lay out different clothing in the morning, and allow them to choose what they want to wear. When we pack lunch we can lay different snacks out, and ask them which they would like to have. If it’s family movie night allowing our children to select the movie, and explain WHY they think it’s the best choice for the FAMILY, not just for them. With my older clients, we work on decision making in accordance with time management. We make a list of what needs to be done, but they can choose the order we complete the tasks. We trial doing what is harder for us first, or starting with what is easy for us first. We have a motto in our sessions that “the choice is yours…and the consequence is yours.” We also discuss that decisions that became “mistakes” are not the end…they are a growth opportunity; a new mistake can lead us to new thought processes that help us make better decisions.
As an adult, and with my older students I am a big fan of the 3 Cs.
CHOICE. CONSEQUENCE. CONTROL.
Reflecting on our actions and decisions. What was your Choice? What was the Consequence? How could and couldn’t you have Controlled it? Journaling using these can be helpful for children or adults. Would you make the same decision again for a similar problem OR are you thinking of another decision that you will use for a similar problem next time? With children, you can talk about the 3 Cs right after they make a choice, whether that choice was expected (had a pretty good outcome) or unexpected (didn’t really work out as planned).
This kind of mapping or connection helps teach that making decisions is an important skill, but understanding their outcome, and taking ownership of our actions is also important.
As adults we model decision making skills for our children. We also model our reactions to our decisions. Do we make excuses OR do we make connections and corrections? Are we accepting of ourselves…our strengths and weaknesses? Do we stress over every little choice OR do we model positive dialogue and self-trust?
The importance lies in teaching that before making a decision we have the POWER to STOP and THINK. We can use our imaginations to picture what consequences or results a choice will have. What are the positives? Where are the things that we may need to be flexible on? What are the possible outcomes? We may not be able to control the choices of others, but we have the POWER of choice within ourselves, which when exercised can make all the difference.