Making decisions

Teens should be taught to bear the responsibility for their decisions.

WHILE two-year-olds need parental guidance on how to go about doing things, 13-year-olds should start managing their own behaviour.

Of late, my children, both in their early teens, have dutifully been asking for permission to do certain things.

These days, we go by this rule: They make the decision and bear the consequences. Instead of saying to their friends: “My mum refused to let me go for the movie.” they take ownership by saying: “I have decided not to join you for this movie.”

My younger daughter argued that it is still my decision when they do not get to go. I told her that I do not agree with certain themes and inappropriate messages in the movies. They have to weigh the pros and cons themselves. I will respect their decisions.

My children understand that their decisions govern their behaviours. They have to be accountable for these decisions just as they expect the same from their parents.

As they grow older, children know that they have to take responsibility for their actions. Many will try to have their parents decide for them and then blame them for the decision.

For example, 10-year-old Jack clearly understands that he can watch television only after completing his homework. One day, he did not feel like doing his homework before watching television.

He asked his mother: “Can I watch television now?” His mother responded: “You know the rule. Television after homework is done.”

Jack asked her again: “Can I just watch one show before I start my homework?” His mother, irritated by his whining, grudgingly consented: “OK! OK! Just this one time.” Jack managed to whine his way to making his mother change the rule.

Like many children his age, he knows there are many ways he can make his parent change her mind to suit him. Some children would deliberately hand their homework to parents to sign when they are busiest or not able to pay attention.

They will come up with all sorts of excuses to avoid facing the consequences when they choose to do wrongly. One child to his father: “If you don’t come to school and see my teacher, she will surely kill me. Once you pay the fine to her, she will let me off.”

Instead of checking with the teacher to find out what the child has done, the father paid the fine. His son did not learn any lesson from this incident.

Children need practice with decision-making. Start by giving them opportunities to make their own decisions. For example, instead of demanding holiday activities from their busy parents, the children can plan the activities and work out a budget before presenting the proposal to their parents.

Parents need practice in letting go. Children fare better when they develop independence.

When children learn to take responsibility for their own actions, they gain the experience of being in control, and develop leadership skills. They have to do the right thing; then they can defend their stand when challenged.

by Ruth Liew.

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