Overcast   58.0F  |  Forecast »

Raising a Confident Decision Maker

Help your kid make decisions on their own without added anxiety with these six tips

To help kids feel a sense of control and manage meltdowns, the parenting mantra goes, offer two choices you can both live with. But what if, even then, your child agonizes over it?

Dr. Jane Sosland, a pediatric behavioral psychologist at The University of Kansas Hospital, says decision-making occurs in the area of the brain that handles problem-solving. We're born with this ability, but our environment and personality can affect our confidence when weighing options.

"A child who is particularly anxious or worried or cares a lot about what other people think may be one who is much more careful about making decisions," Sosland says.

1. Weigh importance.

Help your child differentiate between minor and more-important decisions – in which the pros and cons should be considered. Be mindful of modeling, too, talking through your own decisions and explaining options.

2. Target praise.

When your child makes a selection, reaffirm her choice to reinforce desired behavior. For example, "I like that red shirt you chose to wear," or "Good call on the restaurant you picked. It'll be fun to try something new!"

3. Practice builds confidence.

Making decisions is essentially taking risks, especially if you're unsure about the choices. A child who harbors strong self-doubt may begin to avoid making any significant decisions for fear of being "wrong."

But the last thing you want is for your child to start giving away his decision-making power to others. Begin with small, easier decisions to help him feel successful going out of his comfort zone.

4. Avoid criticism.

Decisions don't always pan out in our favor. Empathize but don't criticize, Sosland says: "The key is to keep encouraging them to learn new skills and try new things." If your child decides to play a sport but then says he doesn't like it, explain he has to finish the season since he made the commitment – but that you're proud of him for taking the risk.

5. Set limits.

Too many options can fuel anxiety and indecision. Give guidelines to help your child simplify. For example, before taking her to the store to spend birthday money, discuss what type of toy she'd like to buy. Tell her she'll have 15 minutes to decide, and then you'll be moving on to finish your other shopping. Point out items she can afford to narrow it down. Still can't decide? Tell her you'll have to come back later.

6. External motivation.

Offer simple incentives – such as privileges your child already gets for "free," Sosland says. If he sticks to his initial decision about what to eat for breakfast without argument, he can listen to the music of his choice or play Nintendo DS on the way to school.

If indecision causes severe distress, meltdowns and disruption, consult with your pediatrician or mental health provider.

Add your comment:
Advertisement

More »Latest Articles & Blog Posts

Meet Asher, Metro Parent October 2014 CoverKid – VIDEO

Meet Asher, Metro Parent October 2014 CoverKid – VIDEO

He's a prankster who loves archery and looks pretty at home on the farm. Meet this Ann Arbor 10-year-old.

Repairing Cleft Palates in Kids

Repairing Cleft Palates in Kids

Since John Paul Orlosky was diagnosed with cleft palate, he's had surgeries and setbacks but now can speak clearly – an outcome that's more common in the many kids who have this condition.

Halloween Picture Frame for Parties: Craft Idea

Halloween Picture Frame for Parties: Craft Idea

It's time for costumes and creepy decorations – Halloween is right around the corner! Capture some spooky moments at your party with this photo booth-ready frame

Local Puzzle Company Plymouth Puzzles

Local Puzzle Company Plymouth Puzzles

Parents Jeff and Karen Sisolaks founded the company Plymouth Puzzles, which makes wooden puzzles in unique shapes. They pose a fun challenge for families.

Animals and Family Farm Fun in Fall in Southeast Michigan

Animals and Family Farm Fun in Fall in Southeast Michigan

October brings a harvest of corn mazes and hayrides, autumn colors and barnyard critters. Sample the simple life with your kids at these agricultural havens.

Bloomfield Hills-Based Nonprofit Wish Upon a Teen

Bloomfield Hills-Based Nonprofit Wish Upon a Teen

The organization helps local teens with cancer, chronic illness and autism spectrum disorder to have teenage experiences, like making friends and going to events.

Teens Take Charge on Teen Council at MOCAD

Teens Take Charge on Teen Council at MOCAD

The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit is giving artistic high school kids a safe place to network with peers, come up with programs, attend workshops, and make money, too.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement