7 Parenting Tips for Kids & Teens-How to Become Successful Adult Critical Thinkers!!
Updated: 6 days ago
As adults, we are faced with a multitude of decisions every day. How did we learn how to make choices for ourselves? Many of these patterns and thought processes were developed when we were growing up. As a parent of 2 teens and having been in the Helping Profession and Educational Field for over 20 years, I know that at times we really wish to protect our kids and sometimes decide things for them. Perhaps, you feel that you are an effective Decision Maker and are able to teach those skills to your child/children. Or perhaps, you can be indecisive, always changing your mind when presented with choices and end up feeling uncertain, creating unclear expectations for your family members & kids. We all have different Decision-Making styles. We all have a process in deciding things in our life. Whether we need to choose what to make for supper tonight or what pair of pants we should buy, there’s usually a list of steps that we follow to help us reach our decision. There are simple decisions and then there are very “Big” decisions. Making bigger decisions, such as buying a new house or car is always harder to make. “Bigger” decisions have a “Bigger” impact on our life. As parents, you need to decide things for your child/children and your family. Your kids pay witness to all your Decision-Making as they grow up. They inadvertently watch and learn many things in their formative and teen years. How do we make all these decisions and teach our children along the way to become confident and successful adult critical thinkers? We need to look at our Decision-Making Styles, Evaluate and Review them to ensure that we’re on the right track!
Follow the Steps Below and use the 7 Tips to help your kids become fantastic Critical Thinkers!
DECISOIN MAKING STEPS:
* Gathering Information & Facts- When making any decisions, we must gather information and facts. Researching for information online , reading relevant factual articles, listening to You Tube Videos, listening to Podcasts on the topic, calling whomever may be helpful to answer your questions and asking for pertinent information, scheduling information meetings with the people involved or with whom you may need the service from, ask friends/family members for their opinions or their experiences, read book(s) on this topic, consult with a professional about this topic and more. Doing these things will help you make a more informed decision.
* Brainstorm-Make a List all the different Solutions to the Problem. Generate as many realistic possibilities for your family & your child. Brainstorm with the people directly involved to elicit reasonable answers to the conflict. Just write them down. Don’t judge the ideas yet.
*Values- When making decisions, it’s always important to reflect on your Values and factor that into the Decision-Making process. You can look at your values in relation to family, time, parenting, finances, religious, ethics, education and whatever else is relevant to that decision.
*Evaluate the numerous Solutions-Evaluate each Solution and choose the Best Solution for your family. How do you do that? Make a Pros and Cons List to help you choose the best Solution for you. For each Solution, make a list of All the positive things in the Pros Section and all the negative things in the Cons Section.
*Decide- Make your decision.
Now, How do we teach our child/children how to be Great Decision Makers so they can develop excellent Critical Thinking Skills????
Tip #1- Introduce Choices when they are young. Present your child with choices when they are as young as 3-4 years old. For Example: Do you want a red apple or a yellow apple? Your child then gets to decide. They'll end up feeling more confident and empowered this way. As they grow up, the range of decisions that they make will expand. You can ask a Preschooler to choose their outfit for the next day, giving them 2-4 options, respecting the weather constraints and all. Always give your child some space for decision making but remember that you are the parent in the end.
Tip #2-Teach your child the value of Prioritizing- As parents, you must show and Role Model the importance of Prioritization and how to do it. Children start to communicate their wants and needs very early. They can point to objects and use words communicating their thoughts and feelings. As they get older, their communication skills and explanations get more detailed. Teach your child to ask themselves why they want the object, what choices he/she may have to make and the consequences of each choice. Example: Your child wants to eat a snack. "Why do you want to eat a snack? Are you hungry?" You can explain to them that if they eat a healthy snack,, they will feel better and will be full. It will help them grow and be strong. It will help them concentrate more efficiently too. Teach them to always ask themselves questions- Who? What? Where? When? Why? And How? We all know that young children ask you and everyone around them a lot of questions and that can sometimes be frustrating but….answering these questions in an age appropriate way helps them develop critical thinking skills too!! If you’re busy doing something important, then let them know that you’ll answer them a little later when you have time. Don’t forget to go back and see them later and try to answer them. They’ll learn to trust their instincts. Those exchanges will build a wonderful connection between you and your child too!
Tip #3- Consequences-Expectations should be clearly outlined. For your child to make responsible decisions, you must teach them clear expectations, along with demonstrating your family values.
Try to always explain to your children your expectations in various scenarios. Then, they’ll be able to reflect and realize whether they’re making a good choice or a bad decision and weigh it against your expectations.
Pre-established boundaries and consequences enables a parent to stop constantly worrying about establishing their parental authority. Keep it consistent.
*Make a Chart with 2 Columns- House Rules on one side and the Consequences for each rule on the other. Parents and children can all sit together to create the Rules and Consequences. Pictures or Pictograms can be used with younger children when listing the House Rules. You can change the rules as they get older.
Example: Let your child know your expectations when it comes to School. You want them to perform to their best abilities. They will then understand that if they choose not to study and instead play Video games there will be a clear Consequence. Perhaps, the House Rule is that they may be grounded or their Video games may be taken away for a short period of time. Clear expectations and consistency on your implementation of the rules will help your child develop foresight and they’ll be able to evaluate their own behavior. They will also probably show some restraint in breaking the House Rules as they realize that they can continue to excel with them! Consequences are a natural result of their choices.
*Important Note: Don’t use a large Consequence for a simple thing. “The Punishment should fit the crime”, as they say. Example: If they leave their pants on the floor, then perhaps grounding them may be too severe. Here, parents must use their judgement. Whatever consequences were given to your child should be followed through in order to provide Consistency and Clear Expectations. If a parent changes their mind all the time and only sometimes implements the House Rules, the child will learn that they often “get away with stuff”.
Tip # 4- Difficult Decisions- Some decisions are very difficult to make. Choosing a University, Curfew Deadlines, Screen Time limits, Sleepovers-yes/no, etc. At times, these decisions can end up in a battle between the child and the parents. Always try to understand why they are making a certain decision. Take turns hearing each other’s point of view with an open dialogue. Compromise can be made on both sides- the child’s and the parent’s side. Encourage your child to identify their priority and weigh it against the consequences before making a decision. Remind them of the House Rules that you all came up with together. As they get older, they will begin thinking more critically for themselves and the parents should step out of the way and allow them to learn and to grow. Your child may fall flat on their face. Failure allows us all to grow and learn. When faced with a similar situation the next time, they may do it differently. They must learn to start making bigger choices for themselves. Empower them. At times, when your children are younger, you may have to decide important things regarding their health, education, activities/sports and more. You can use the Decision-Making Steps provided at the beginning of the Blog and then refer back to the Tips to help you along.
Tip #5- Practice- Children and Teens can practice making decisions. Let them make mistakes. Teens should have boundaries and be guided by their parents. Praise your Child & Teen if they've made a great choice! That’s awesome! You still need to parent them and help them with choices when necessary.
When they’re really little, you can give them 2 choices between things that you don’t care too much what they outcome will be. That was a Rule of Thumb for me! I was also mindful of how much time I had. For Example: If I was in a rush or I was in a line at a grocery store, I would try to avoid giving them complicated choices. That intervention reduced the number of tantrums my kids had when they were younger. If that didn’t work, then I had them choose between 2 choices- For example: They could decide in the car or at home, so they felt they were making a decision. That usually worked out well for me. As your kids get older, your child will develop more language skills, critical thinking skills, etc. and an open dialogue is key. Pick and choose your battles, as they say. Practicing the steps to Decision Making will enable them to acquire the skills to eventually decide things on their own with a positive and responsible outcome.
· Provide Safe Zones- Safe Areas are places for your children to make decisions and experience consequences and potential failure. Safe Zones can be at home, at a relative’s house, a friend’s house, etc.
· What if’s??? Great practice tool!
This tool is for all Age Groups-Simply adapt the Questions for them. Practice Decision Making skills when they’re not under pressure.
Preschool/Elementary-Ask your child-
*What if…. another child takes your toy, what can you do?
*what if another child hits you? What can you do?
*If you see another child stealing, what can you do?
*What if…A friend offers you drugs/sex/alcohol what can you do?
*What if… your boy/girlfriend cheats on you? What can you do?
The idea is to practice Decision Making so that if that or similar things happen, they will have practiced and played it out.
· Role Plays- Toddlers/ Elementary School- Role Play scenarios that they may experience in their life. Include multiple alternatives/consequences for those choices and review the decision after the Role Play. Example: Pretend two 5 year olds are building a block castle and one child constantly knocks them down. Role play this and talk about the decision, the other child’s feelings and the consequences and outcome of that scenario.
· Homework- Elementary School-Allow them to do their homework on their own as much as they can. If they make a mistake, they can correct it at school. If your child has a Learning Disability, they can still do as much homework as they can on their own. This promotes independence and show them that you trust that they can do it!
Tip #6-Decision Making and Empathy-Teach your child to listen to themselves and trust their feelings. This will empower them and build up their self-esteem and confidence and they’ll learn to rely on themselves and their capabilities. Validating their positive choices is important. When your child is expressing their understanding of a situation and their reasoning, try to listen to them and be non-judgmental. Validate their thoughts and feelings and help them “play it out” helping them figure out the steps listed above so they can make a good solid, positive decision. Children and Teens can sometimes be impulsive in their decision making. Teaching them to PAUSE and recognize that a decision needs to be made, reflecting and honoring the process to getting to a positive decision is important.
Tip #7-Evaluating the Decision- Teach your children, as they get older, that they can review the decision. You can discuss the problem, the choice they made and how it worked out. For Example:
7-year-old wants a bicycle. They went to the store with their parents, tried out the bicycle, expressed their preferences in color, looked at various bicycles at difference prices, looked at the pros/cons of each bike choice, etc.…Then you bought the blue dirt bike. How is it? Review it. Was it a good choice? This is super helpful because if it worked out great then they can reflect on the great choices that were made. If the outcomes was poor, then it opens up the conversation to figuring out how they could do it differently next time.
Decision Making is not easy for adults and it sure isn’t easy for kids either. The key is to teach our Kids and Teens that if they practice the steps to Decision Making it will become less challenging as they get older. They’ll learn to trust themselves and naturally begin to think critically. This will consequently lead to your child having higher Self-Esteem and becoming more confident adults. Parenting is a progression. For our kids to live healthy adult lives, we need to back out of our children’s Decision-Making Process as they get older, while continuing to be around to offer guidance and support as they need or ask for it. We just need to find a balance between Parenting and giving them enough space to eventually individuate and become the person they were meant to be! Heh, everyone, I never said that Parenting was easy. There's no right way to parent. Trust yourselves as parents and just do the best that you can. Everything else will fall into place.
*Caroline Bougie is a Early Childhood Educator currently working in a Kindergarten for 4 Year old class in a local school board
-Former Owner/Director and Head Educator at a local French Immersion Educational Preschool
-Background in Special Care Counselling.
-Empowerment Coach and Blogger at Inspiration 2 Intention Life Coaching
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