We all understand intuitively that good decision making is at the very core of human maturity. Homer reserves some of his highest praise for ‘a man who can think for himself’.
...a man who can think for himself.Homer 800BC
The art of parenting is to raise young people to think and act freely and responsibly on the basis of sound convictions - once we know what is right we are well on the way to acting rightly. Only if we think clearly can we start to reject negative pressures from media or peers, or redirect internal emotions that are out of control so that we can build up new habitual emotional responses.
Childhood is a time for learning to make wise choices, by developing sound emotional control, by attending to others, and by personal goal setting. When parents of small children ask them to consider specific choices, they are training their children to run their own lives.
- Do I model emotional management, in the face of my fears and anxieties, and my impulsive preferences?
- Do I take conversation seriously with a young child, modelling ways to think things through?
- Do I give choices from a young age?
- Do I encourage my child to set goals from a young age?
- Do I keep a calm and affectionate face without caving in to nagging and tantrums.
- Do I consult my son’s or daughter’s opinion. And then consider it.
- Do I inculcate mantras: 'I think before I act.' 'I do what is right not what I feel like.' 'I don’t make big decisions when I am emotional.'
- Do I help my child recognised that self indulgent emotional responses may be a simple result of tiredness but can also be caused by habits of selfishness? Do I teach my child to put positive emotion, such as a cheerful or sympathetic face, at the service of others.
'But where are the toys?'
During a visit to India, a young boy was taken by his parents to see Mother Teresa’s orphanage. The parents hoped that the visit would help their son appreciate his good fortune. He saw the children laughing and dancing and asked ‘Where are the toys?’ The nun replied ‘We used to give them toys and they would fight about them. Now we just play music and they dance.’
Choice theory is a popular psychological approach originating with William Glasser. At its simplest, it is a practical way of helping young people take responsibility for their actions. Dr Brenna Hicks writes: ‘Children respond well when they are given a choice of appropriate, expected behaviour or a punishment. If children are allowed to continue with a behavior until it is out of control and then are forced to stop by a parent, they will never learn to self-regulate.’
In this way a child learns to make responsible decisions: ‘If you choose to talk back to me, then you choose to go to bed’. Then make sure you follow through on the consequences if that is the child’s choice.
Read more: http://thekidcounselor.com/2006/10/choice-theory/.