From choosing what you want for lunch to deciding which career path to follow, your life is shaped by a series of decisions. Even small decisions can have a lasting impact. That’s why teaching kids the decision-making process is essential.
In our coding classes, kids make a number of decisions that will impact the look and functionality of their programs. They practice making difficult decisions in a risk-free way. The ability to make a choice gives them confidence and fosters creative problem-solving.
In this article, we’ll discuss the principles of decision-making, why it matters for kids, and how to teach kids to make good decisions.
What Is Decision-Making?
Decision-making is the act of making a choice when there are multiple choices or courses of action available.
This can encompass small choices, like what to wear to school and what flavor of soda to drink to larger choices, such as deciding what college to go to.
Both types of choices involve choosing from a large variety of options (all the clothes they own and all of the colleges they could attend) and considering many complex factors before reaching a final decision.
Making a decision is a process that can look dramatically different from child to child. Generally speaking, there are two main types of decision-making.
Two Types of Decision Making
1. Emotional Decision Making
In other words, “following your gut”. Emotional decision-making can be impulsive and spur-of-the-moment but also allow for creative flexibility and passion. These are often decisions made with little deliberation when you’re feeling happy, sad, or mad.
- Positive examples: Deciding to write a thank you letter when you are feeling gratitude. Making a big purchase simply because it makes you happy.
2. Logical Decision Making
When your choices are rooted in logical reasoning. Logical decision-making usually takes longer to deliberate and involves considering all of the available information thoroughly before making a final choice.
- Positive examples: Making a good investment thanks to solid research, choosing a good class to satisfy course requirements, deciding which extracurricular to pursue
These two types of decision-making are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the best decisions stem from a combination of both.
Being able to make a choice that’s both emotionally satisfying and logically sound will naturally produce the best outcome and less regret.
Younger children may need more practice with logical decision-making since they are more impulsive and less thoughtful. Older children and teens will be making more difficult decisions that require time and consideration.
At all stages, it’s important for kids to practice and feel comfortable with the decision-making process.
Importance Of Decision-Making For Kids
Why is decision-making for kids such an important life skill?
Understanding the consequences of their choices empowers kids to be responsible on a day-to-day basis. Rather than follow their impulses, they become more proactive in working toward their goals. Plus, knowing how to weigh the pros and cons is key to strengthening long-term planning ability.
The capacity to make healthy decisions is a cornerstone for living a well-rounded life. Just as good decisions can have a positive impact, bad decisions can produce negative or even devastating outcomes.
Without practice, kids can suffer from decision paralysis or the lack of ability to decide out of fear of making the wrong choice. They can also develop anxiety and be overwhelmed by difficult decisions.
So, it’s important to practice decision-making skills early, starting in a safe environment.
Good decision-making skills can help your child:
- Achieve their goals. Accomplishing goals is never a one-time effort. Choosing the right options in life consistently is what will serve as stepping stones toward success.
- Strengthen relationships. Relationships need to be cultivated. Solid decision-making skills can help with choosing the right relationships to proactively nurture.
- Improve physical and emotional health. Prioritizing physical and emotional health is an indicator of strong decision-making skills. You’ll need to choose long-term growth over instant gratification in order to drive a healthier life.
On the other hand, bad decision-making skills can result in:
- Poor health. Choosing junk food over nutritious sustenance is a recipe for long-term health issues. Similarly, neglecting emotional health leads to poor mental health in the long run.
- Poor finances. Pick the wrong things to spend money on and you’ll find that you’re running low on resources.
- Worse relationships. Whether friends or partners, you need to choose the people in your life wisely. Being a bad judge of character can sap your energy and worsen your mental health.
What Are The Steps of Decision-Making?
The next time your child has a decision to make, don’t let them rush into it. Teaching decision-making skills for kids can help them slow down, process their thoughts, and understand how to make smart decisions.
You can start with these 5 basic steps of decision-making.
- Set a goal. Knowing where you want to end up can guide your choices along the way. When possible, encourage your kids to think of long-term solutions over short-term fixes.
- Gather pertinent information. Context is necessary for better decision-making. Your kids should understand how to collect relevant knowledge to the problem at hand, whether it’s through asking questions, doing research online or at the library, or even asking for help to broaden your options.
- Consider the consequences. Without understanding the possible impact of each decision, you can’t truly weigh the pros and cons of your options. What’s the best-case scenario for each choice? The worst-case scenario? How will you feel after you’ve made this decision? What are the consequences or benefits in each scenario? How might this affect other people around you?
- Decide. No matter how long you deliberate, you’ll eventually have to reach a decision. Committing to a choice can be stressful for some kids (and adults), but it’s important that your kid is decisive once they have sufficient information on hand so they don’t miss out on opportunities in the future.
- Reflect on your decision. Hindsight is 20/20, and decisions are no different. The outcome of a situation will shed light on your choices and you’ll get a chance not only to assess what you could’ve done better but actively try to adjust your situation based on the outcome. Staying proactive in the face of decisions is crucial since that’s how a bad scenario can turn good, and a good situation becomes even better.
Teaching decision-making skills to kids will equip your children with the tools they need to grapple with tough scenarios.
Tips to Teach Responsible Decision-Making
Learning responsible decision-making is easier said than done.
After all, kids tend to be naturally impulsive when it comes to picking between options. How can you steer them in the right direction of making good decisions?
While you can demonstrate the decision-making process to kids, they will eventually have to do it on their own.
Practice, practice, practice!
Practice makes perfect and good decision-making doesn’t happen overnight. Allow your child the freedom to practice making choices in low-stakes scenarios, such as:
- How to solve a petty argument between friends
- Planning their own parties
- Choose-your-own adventure books
- Picking what to wear to school
Enabling your kids to choose what they want and take responsibility for the outcome is a great way to empower them in making choices, whether good or bad. The more they practice, the more they’ll be able to hone their critical thinking skills along every step of the decision-making process.
Encourage listening and learning
You can’t make good decisions without context. Opening your child’s mind to the outside world and other people’s perspectives grants them a holistic view of life that will enable them to make better decisions.
Active listening will help them understand other people’s motivations, expand their empathy, and understand the impact of their actions on others.
Proactive learning provides kids with insight into the world at large, gives them context to real-world problems, and keeps them up-to-date on new information that could change their thinking on various issues.
Modeling listening and learning in your own life can help your kids pick up on positive lifelong habits. That will enable them to make better decisions in the long run.
When confronted with a choice, kids rarely have the insight to stay patient. However, impulse control is a crucial element of the decision-making process for kids. Encourage them to
- Slow down
- Think about the consequences
- Be mindful
Cultivating patience and mindfulness when faced with a decision will help your kids choose long-term satisfaction over short-term gratification in the future.
Reflect on mistakes
Failures are an opportunity to learn. Let your kids grieve their mistakes, but also encourage them to reflect on what they could’ve done better. Ask them:
- What went wrong?
- Could this have been prevented? How?
- What would you do differently next time?
Always remind your kids that it’s okay to mess up, as long as you learn from your mistakes and try to do better next time. Making decisions isn’t just about getting it right one time, it’s about making sure your kids make more good decisions than bad ones in the long run.
Activities That Teach Good Decision-Making
The best way to learn any skill is through hands-on practice. There are plenty of fun activities out there that can strengthen decision-making skills for kids. Here are a few to try:
Tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons and other collaborative storytelling games can be a great setting to practice decision-making. At any given point in the narrative kids will get the opportunity to make choices: which way should you go? Should you fight or negotiate? How do you help these NPCs (non-player characters)?
Being able to see the choices they make play out in a fictional setting is a great way to gain wisdom from hindsight without suffering through real-life consequences. Plus, it gives kids the chance to practice making decisions in a group, which is an important skill in its own right.
Strategic Board Games
From Settlers of Catan to Risk, strategic board games encourage clever, in-the-moment tactical thinking to achieve victory.
Each decision to make a move can be strategic, so kids are trained to consider their approach carefully both on the level of individual moves and on the level of overarching strategy. Honing their skills in strategic decision-making helps kids think about larger-scale problems with the future in mind. For example, if you sacrifice a piece now but are able to take ten pieces from your opponent down the road, you are far more likely to win the game.
Programming puts the decision-making process for kids into practice. Kids have to make practical decisions each step of the way during a coding project in order to build a website or any user interface.
At CodeWizardsHQ, coding classes for kids deliver a structured curriculum designed for iterative success. Kids learn the knowledge they need in interactive live classes, before putting it to the test in project-based learning supported by highly qualified teachers. Having the ability to make their own decisions, receive feedback on their work, and improve upon it with better choices is key to how kids make good decisions down the road.