Early Learning and Elementary- Decision Making Skills
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early learning and elementary  October 2021
 Helping Children Develop    Decision Making Skills
From a toddler choosing what toy to play with to a high school student selecting a career path, children of all ages make decisions on a daily basis. That‘s why it‘s important to help them build decision-making skills from an early age. Generally, the most influential figures in this process are family members and teachers. This Snapshot offers parents suggestions on how to support their children to flex their decision-making muscles! 
 types of decisions
Children fall into the no decision trap when they let their peers or someone other than a trusted adult make decisions for them. They let others tell them what to do instead of making their own decisions.

Many times this happens because children doubt themselves and are afraid they will make the wrong decision. They need to be reminded that it’s OK to make mistakes and doing so can provide an opportunity for learning and growth. 
Snap decisions happen when children make decisions without considering the consequences of their actions and they react in the moment.

Making snap decisions that have minimal consequences, such as what movie to watch, can be beneficial. There are only so many hours in a day, and you don't want to spend them going back and forth on small decisions.

However, it’s not a good practice for children to make snap decisions about whether or not to engage in unsafe, risky activities with their peers. 

Children prone to making snap decisions can benefit from learning to stop and think before taking action.
Responsible decision makers think about the consequences of their actions and how it will affect them and the people in their lives.

Young children need guidance from trusted adults to make good choices. However, there will come a time when they need to rely on themselves to make the right choice.

This is when knowing the decision making process steps comes in handy.
The decision making Process
As your children get older teaching them HOW to make decisions is a valuable life skill. It empowers them to make  positive decisions regarding the social, emotional and physical wellbeing of themselves and those around them. 

The decision-making process teaches children how to identify the problem, gather information, come up with possible solutions, try out a solution and reflect on the outcome. When children follow these steps, they are able to make deliberate and thoughtful decisions.
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tips to support decisions making skills
Include children in your own decisions and ask them for advice. You could say:
“I‘m trying to decide whether to take up rowing or do yoga classes. Which one do you think I should do?”  Then go over the pros and cons of each suggestion so that your child can learn how to thoughtfully consider different options, to then make an informed decision.
Give children the chance to practice making choices. Giving your child the opportunity to make their own decisions helps build a sense of independence and confidence. It is important that the decision truly be their own though. Provide them with a few different options that would all be acceptable to you. For example, let them decide if they want to wear their red shirt or the yellow one, or give them two options to choose from a restaurant menu.
Ask questions which promote informed decisions. 
“What do you like about that?”, “What makes this the best option?”, “How would this work?” These are examples of questions that can spark thoughtful conversations. Such questions allow children to be aware of their choices and the possible reactions or consequence to it.
It is important to set boundaries and limits, but options can still be given within those boundaries. For example, they can choose what kind of fruit they‘d like for a snack, but they cannot make the decision to eat candy all day.

Once a child makes a choice don't continue to offer options. That's what a choice is, it's a decision. It's part of choosing to live with the outcome. 
when your child can't decide
Should they sign up for basketball or the school play? What are they going to wear tomorrow? What do they want for breakfast? Which friend do they want to invite over? Which flavor of ice cream do they want to eat?

Life is full of small and big decisions, but for some children, trying to decide feels painfully difficult. “I don’t know! I can’t decide!” they wail. Or, they might make a choice but quickly...

 should i rescue my child?
What if your child doesn't like their choice? That can be hard for a parent, nobody enjoys watching a child be disappointed. But making a choice entails learning to live with the choice that's been made. Rescuing your child from their experiences may make them feel better short term, but ultimately it won't teach them anything. When a decision turns out to be wrong, for whatever reason, we learn something about ourselves and this can help guide future decisions. 
Of course, if a child's safety or mental well-being is at stake due to a choice they made, parent's need to step in and provide guidance and support. 
 activities that promote decision making skills
Outdoor and playground games encourage children to make quick decisions while engaging socially. Decisions are required regarding the game rules and the consequences of breaking the rules.

Organized sports help children make quick decisions and solve complex problems with friends or team mates.
Board games provide a structured way for children to make choices and to experience the consequences of their choices. Games promote critical thinking and negotiating to decide how they will play the game.

Reading books is an excellent way for children to see decision making in action. Point out both the good and the bad decisions characters have made as they both serve as  learning points and can spark deeper thinking. 
Role play is a creative exercise that provides an opportunity for children to put themselves in someone else's shoes. Thinking about why someone may have made a decision encourages them to consider people’s motivations and broadens their perspectives. 
responsible decision making skills
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Short video on teaching kids responsible decision making skills
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