As grown-ups, many of us are crippled by uncertainty when faced with tough situations or choices. Some of us tend to make self-destructive decisions, repeatedly demonstrating poor judgment. As much as we want to avoid mistakes, no one is born with perfect judgment and the ability to always make smart choices. It takes a combination of experience and reflection to develop good judgment, and as a parent, it is your responsibility to facilitate this for your children.
5 ways to help children develop good judgment
1. Practice early to develop good judgment
Encourage your child to practice making choices on their own before they even learn how to talk and you can be assured they will never have problems making decisions in future. Who cares if his pair of red shoes doesn’t match his purple outfit? Maybe he just wanted to stand out. People will figure out that he dressed himself up, and that’s okay. But even if they don’t, why should you care? Your child is brilliant.
2. Outline your expectations clearly
While it is best to let them make their own decisions, it is safer to outline what decisions your child has the right to make on their own, and what areas you get to exert control over as a parent.
“Fine, you may wear your Spiderman costume again, although you have worn it almost every day the past week. You’re in charge of your attire, but you’ll need to change into something more formal before we go to the function later because there is a dress code we have to respect. You will also need to get a haircut so you’ll look presentable. Do you want to do it now or just before we head to the function?”
“We won’t allow you to cancel on our family’s usual Friday-night dinner, but you can ask your friends to join us if you like. Perhaps you can go to the movies with them after dinner, or on Saturday?”
3. Reflect with them
Experience alone isn’t enough to develop good judgment. It has to be accompanied by reflection too, and that is where you step in. Help them to make decisions conscientiously and to contemplate the consequences of the various choices they have, before making them.
“Have you decided on what song you’re going to sing at your graduation performance?”
“I’m worried that you might feel too pressured if you choose a song that is too hard to master since you don’t have much time to practice.”
Afterward, give them the opportunity to reflect on decisions they make themselves.
4. Create a path for decision-making
Share with your children why and how you make decisions while they are still young and inquisitive.
“I think I’ll bring an umbrella along. It looks like it’s going to rain very soon.”
“I’m going to grill the meat instead of frying it. It’s a healthier choice.”
“I’d like our family to take part in this kids’ charity event. It’s for a good cause and it benefits those in need.”
This helps you to share your values with them while ultimately helping them develop good judgment.
5. Accept that your child will make bad decisions
Your children will always be learning about themselves as much as they learn about life. There will always be a chance that they make bad decisions, and this is okay. When they are still young, they have the opportunity to make more mistakes and learn from them, developing good judgment in the process. You can help by urging them to consider afterward how things could have been different if they had made different decisions.
Some questions to ask your child:
“Is there a part of you that feels this was a bad idea?”
“What is stopping you from listening to that part of yourself?”
“I wonder what is the best way to fix the problem now. What do you think?
As they grow older, children will have more freedom to make more decisions, and it’s only natural that they make bad ones sometimes. Try resisting the urge to say “I told you so,” and be objective instead. Keep in mind that often, children do feel horrible for making bad decisions, and they need time to sort out these emotions.
In addition to allowing you to raise wonderful people, helping your children develop good judgment can also go a long way to foster a wholesome relationship between you and your child.