The Decision-Making Process in Children

The decision-making process in children is a tool that our little ones will be able to use for the rest of their lives and grow up successfully.
The Decision-Making Process in Children

Last update: 10 April, 2022

The decision-making process is elementary in everyday life. Every human being is constantly making choices: What to eat? Left or right? Like or dislike? What to do now and later? We don’t even realize how often we do it.

Decisions begin to develop in childhood, little by little. For this reason, it’s very important that we know how to guide our children, as in this way, we’ll ensure that the decision-making process becomes a valuable tool in their lives and not a reason for being overwhelmed.

What is the decision-making process?

Decision making is the process by which we select the best option within an available set in order to solve a particular situation.

Therefore, the decision-making process can be present in any area: Social, family, work, etc. Then the selected option will be considered to be the most:

  • Beneficial
  • Viable
  • Correct
  • Adequate
  • Or, simply, the easiest

In other words, in the decision-making process, the existing data is analyzed, and based on the different alternatives offered by the situation, one is chosen to obtain the greatest benefit.

During childhood, children are helped to choose many things, from clothes to food, in a way that allows them to visualize what options they have and why some are better than others.

Cookie jars on a counter top.

If we go with them to a candy store, even though we take into account what catches their attention, we help them decide on the best option.

Some recommendations for decision-making in children

Deciding is an act of will. It takes courage, confidence, discernment, and judgment. When children decide and do so firmly, they’re demonstrating their freedom. Here are some recommendations for parents who have the difficult task of teaching their children to fly.

Avoid being overprotective

It’s very difficult for parents to avoid the feeling of overprotection. This is because they know the difficulties that reality offers and they want to avoid pain for their children. But mistakes are the best way for our children to learn; making mistakes and making amends tempers the spirit.

Parents have had their own chance to do this and they can’t deprive their children of that experience. What’s more, they won’t be able to prevent it from happening to them at some point, when they’re not there to avoid it. The best thing then and what’s most recommended is for both parents and children to face the adventure of trial and error.

Value effort and learning from mistakes

In light of the above, it wouldn’t make sense to open the doors for our children to experiment if we then evaluate their errors negatively. It’s not only about seeing the positive side, but also recognizing the problem in all its dimensions; because that’s precisely what mistakes allow.

Errors help us to see the complete reality, from the difficulty and the effort; they allow us to see what the blinding brilliance of triumph doesn’t allow us to see.

Allow your children to complete chores at home

Children at home must have obligations, tasks according to their age, and commitments that need to be fulfilled with set delivery times. Notions of social time inform their actions and prepare them to take on tasks and accomplish them.

Weighing and choosing is thinking

There’s a curious relationship between the word regret and thought. The verb to think means to weigh or to calculate. It allows us to place our options on a scale and evaluate which is best.

So, we need to allow our children to weigh, that is, to reason and think; this means we need to give them options and allow them to make choices. These simple actions are very complex and respond to the highest functions of thought.

Input from the decision-making process

Decisions allow children to develop:

  • Discernment
  • Critical abilities
  • Responsibility (and in the long term, ethics)
  • Empathy, or the ability to put themselves in another person’s shoes
  • Problem or conflict management

The emotional influence on decision making

Life skills, as defined by the psychologist René Diekstra, are related to the acquisition of skills in the social, emotional, and ethical spheres that complement and optimize cognitive and intellectual skills.

Reason and emotion can’t be separated. Therefore, learning to manage emotions is key to teaching your children to make more assertive decisions. We must keep in mind that emotions have a decisive influence on decision-making.

A child who knows how to manage their emotions will shine not only in the workplace, but also in other aspects of theri life.

You can learn to educate your emotions and thereby easily find a balance. As Diekstra proposes, in an interview with Elsa Punset, in order for our children to learn both to manage their emotions and make decisions, they can be included in activities that teach them to practice self-control.

Activities that help children manage their emotions

The activities that best help children learn to identify and manage emotions are the following:

  • Performing arts
    • Theater
    • Dance
    • Music
  • Plastic arts
    • Painting
    • Drawing
    • Sculpture
    • Crafts in general
  • Sports and physical activities

It’s not about enrolling children in every activity that exists. Nor should we saturate them in their day-to-day lives. The best thing is for these activities to be sporadic or serve as a hobby or pastime.

A girl running freely in an open field.

Another alternative is to do theater and dance therapy sessions at home, go outdoors, and play a team sport.

At the same time, it’s important to emphasize that the more we help our children to be independent, the better they’ll do in life. This doesn’t mean that we’re going to leave them alone. We simply have to know that we’re here to guide, advise, and teach them–not do things for them.

If you’re tempted to do everything for them and always decide what’s best for them, tomorrow you’ll have frustrated and/or self-conscious adolescents or adults.

The decision-making process is a contribution that we can offer our children so that they can manage the situations that may arise in their day-to-day life. Whether they’re good or bad. In addition, this will contribute to their mental agility, creativity, and flexibility, which will be of great help to them in any social field.

Both mental agility and flexibility constitute a great treasure for individuality, as in this way, children can allow themselves to make mistakes, learn, and move forward more easily than if they don’t have these tools.

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