Making Choices

I took my oldest daughter shopping for shoes about a month ago. Apparently the big thing in shoes for kids her age are DC skate shoes. I had never heard of these shoes before, so I went online to see what they looked like -- and almost choked on the price. I also didn't much care for several of the styles that looked like they had graffiti sprayed all over the heel of the shoe.

We talked about it, and I told her she could have the shoes if she was willing to pay the difference between what I thought was a reasonable amount of money to pay for shoes and what the shoes actually cost. I also had to approve the style. We spent several hours hunting for these shoes. When we finally found a store with a decent selection, it took us another 45 minutes to agree on a price and a style. Finally, we left the store with a pair of shoes with which everyone was happy. My oldest only had to pay $10, and I thought the shoes were acceptable for school and other activities.

Two years ago if my daughter had wanted those shoes, I would have looked at her and said "No," and we would have gone on our merry way to Target to buy sneakers. But, as she gets older, I have to let go of some of the decisions and begin to let her make them. As far as the shoes went, everyone ended up happy with the decision. She loves her shoes and hasn't had any second thoughts about her purchase.

But not every decision that we allow her to make ends up so happily. Sometimes she regrets a purchase. Sometimes she has to deal with the consequences of choosing poorly -- whether she's tired because she chose to go to a sleepover on a busy weekend or she fails a test because she chose not to study.

As my daughter much too quickly approaches the teen years, it's tempting to hang onto the decision-making responsibilities. I still get the final say on most things at this point, but if I don't let go of some of those decisions and let her get some practice making decisions, then she won't know how to make wise ones. The temptation is often to save our kids from the natural consequences of their decisions, but when we do that, we rob them of the opportunity to learn to make wise decisions. The consequences for a bad decision are much less at 10, than they are at 23.

You are still available to offer guidance and discuss your child's options with them, but you allow them to fail. Unless the consequences will be disastrous beyond measure (someone gets hurt or property gets damaged), letting them fail teaches your children valuable lessons they can't learn in any other way.

As you loosen the reins on decision-making, keep these things in mind:

  • Choose age-appropriate places for your child to make decisions. A 3-year-old can decide which shoes she wants to wear. A 15-year-old can go shopping by herself, knowing the parameters you find acceptable.
  • When your child is struggling with a decision, be available to help him see all the options and their logical consequences. When we arm our kids with information, they can make better decisions.
  • Always talk about how God feels about the issue. Use scripture to back up the godly option. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." Scripture is designed to help us make good decisions.
  • If your child makes a poor decision, don't offset the consequences. Do sit down with them and discuss what happened and why. Help them decide on what would have been a better option and what the logical outcome of choosing that better option would be.
  • Encourage your children to take their decisions to God before they make them. God is the source of ultimate wisdom, and He will never not give us wisdom when we need it. James 1:5 says "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."

    Today, take a look at whether you are giving your child enough decision-making power. Remember to keep the decisions age-appropriate, but give your child the opportunity to make decisions. If we want our kids to make good decisions, we have to let them begin practicing that skill while we are around to be a sounding board and a source of wisdom. If we hold onto the decision-making reins too long, our kids will begin to feel stifled and rebellious. Avoid that by helping them to make good decisions on their own.