I took my fifth-grade daughter to try-the-instrument night at the high school last night. We're in the throes of the big decision of deciding what instrument she wants to play in band this year.
She thought she wanted to play the tuba, but when we tried it last night, she realized just how big the tuba really is. It was awkward and difficult to hold. She decided that while it looked cool, it wasn't the right instrument for her.
So, now we're down to the trumpet or the clarinet. I'm thrilled because we have one of each of those in our basement. I played the clarinet growing up, and my husband played the trumpet. I think the trumpet is probably a better fit for her abilities and personality, but we're going to let her choose.
Until I took her up to the high school last night, I didn't realize what a big decision this is for the fifth-graders. It's really the first school-related decision that they get to make on their own. We're offering input, but the final decision is up to her.
Many of the decisions we make in life are a lot like this decision about playing a musical instrument. They are loaded with gray areas, not necessarily wrong, just not the best fit for us.
Helping your child navigate the waters of making choices, of finding the best choice when there isn't necessarily a right one, is tough. Figuring out the best path to take when both choices have benefits and drawbacks requires wisdom and good judgment. Sometimes it takes trial and error. Making a poor choice in one area and dealing with the consequences may keep your child from making the same mistake with bigger stakes when they are older.
Equip your kids with tools to make good decisions.
- Encourage your kids to seek wisdom. 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." God is the source of wisdom. Any decision made without His input is a decision made without the right framework.
- Illustrate the importance of asking God for wisdom when making a decision. Find an instruction book for your child's favorite toy or video game system. Ask them what they would do if they had a problem with that toy. They would probably ask a parent for help, consult the instructions, then talk with the customer help line if they couldn't solve the problem. Explain that when we make decisions, it's just like asking for help with a toy. We need to go to the source by consulting God. We can pray, look for the answers in the Bible and ask a trusted adult for advice.
- Explain that God wants us to bring all of our decisions to Him. He wants to help us make the best choices. He tells us in Matthew 6:33 to "Seek first his kingdom and righteousness." When we do that, we can make the best decisions.
- Avoid the temptation to make all the decisions for your kids. As our kids get older we need to allow them the freedom to make their own choices. If we shelter them from ever making a poor decision, we don't allow them to learn that our choices matter. Generally, the stakes are small in the choices that younger kids are making. It's better to learn that it's important to make wise decisions when the consequence is small than to have to learn that lesson when the consequence can ruin the rest of their lives.
Teaching our kids to make wise choices is a process. They are going to fail some of the time. But each time they make a choice that doesn't fit -- like the tuba that didn't fit my daughter -- they learn something about how to make a better choice next time.
Giving our kids the tools to tap into the source of wisdom is the best thing we can do to help them make the best decision in any situation.