How to Help Teens Learn to Make Good Decisions

As your teenagers move their middle school and high school on their way to becoming young adults, one of the greatest gifts you can give them is good decision making skills.  Being able to make good decisions will impact every area of their lives from the minute they step out from under your protection and into the world on their own.  By teaching teens how to make good decisions you are also empowering them and showing them you have confidence in their ability to do so.

In order to understand the importance of teaching good decision making skills, it is helpful to look at what happens when we don’t.  As we get older, we get wiser.  We learn from our mistakes and gain insight from our experiences.  Unfortunately, our teenagers don’t have the benefits of age, insight, and experience to guide their decision making.  This means that they can make a lot of mistakes and a lot of bad decisions.  This is not a bad thing because learning lessons from those mistakes and misguided decisions provide the foundation for becoming better decision makers.    In order to create that foundation, teens need to be able to make mistakes and learn from them and parents need to provide the insight and perspective required to make better decisions in the future.  This highlights the importance of the first step in helping your teen learn to make good decisions.

Let them Learn their Lessons

The beauty of being a teenager is that most of the bad decisions they make won’t cause irreparable, long-term harm or damage.  Spending all their money on concert tickets and forgetting that they need money to pay for gas to drive to the concert can be a very powerful life lesson, if you let them learn it.  Unfortunately, many parents miss these learning opportunities and bail their teenagers out by giving them gas money.  Rather than helping them learn to make a better decision next time, this just reinforces their bad decision.

Don’t Curtail Consequences

As in the example above, one of the ways people learn to make good decisions is by having to live with and experience the pain of making bad decisions.  If parents rescue their teens from unpleasant consequences, they are in effect telling them that it is okay to continue making bad decisions because they won’t have to be responsible for the end result.  Why should your teen take care of the new computer you bought them if you bought it to replace one they broke because they were careless?

Put them in Charge

This is often one of the hardest things for parents to do but it is also one of the most crucial.  In order for teens to learn how to make good decisions, they have to be allowed to make decisions.  In an effort to protect them and ensure they are happy, we shield them from many things including their own bad decisions.   But we aren’t really doing them a favor by doing this.  You cannot to learn to do something well unless you are allowed to do it.  The types of decisions you allow your child to make will vary given their age and maturity level.  Pick the decisions that feel right to you and then be ready to stop yourself from intervening.  It is better to let them make a bad decision and then be there to help them afterward than to never let them make any decisions at all.

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