Later that night we settle down and I start creating her nightly bedtime story. I ask my daughter what character she would like to be in her story and she says "hmmm, give me options!".
In fact the phrase "give me options" has become quite a standard line in our house. I smile every time, as sounds really quite amusing said with great seriousness by a small child, But I was thinking just the other day just how happy I am that decision making is part of her life.
I passionately believe that to grow adults that make sound, well reasoned decisions, society needs to afford children and young people practice, PLENTY of practice, at making decisions. All types of decisions.
Decision making is a skill and a skill that many of us adults are not always really that good at. Decision making requires us to identify when a decision actually needs to be made, consider what all the options are, and weigh up the pros and cons by looking ahead and predicting the potential consequences of that decision. Decision making can be a complicated process and as we get older, we often need to make complex decisions quite quickly and these decisions may have far reaching consequences.
So how do we get good at it? Practice!!!
Yet too often, children are not given the time, space or opportunity to practice making decisions. I understand why. Children can be impulsive, often choosing the first thing that comes into their head - with less life experience they they may not consider all or any of the consequences. Alternatively, they may dither any take what feels like forever to make a decision, unable to narrow down the choices easily or decide which is best.
I want to see our culture become more accepting of children making decisions. More understanding that they will make mistakes (even that they need to make mistakes - and lots of them) to slowly and surely gain those skills that are so fundamental to us in our lives.
Already in my three year old, I see her growing ability to make and be confident with choices. When discussing the dinner option takes 20 minutes, or the clothing combination she selects hurts my eyes, it truly can push hard at my overwhelming desire as a parent to go the easier route. But I feel confident that when she is starts being faced with difficult choices under pressure as a teen and young adult, such as whether to get in the car of someone who has been drinking or to try out substances at a party, no matter what she decides, she will not be ill prepared or want for lack of practice at the process of making decisions.
So whether you are a parent or teacher, or someone who works, lives or plays with a child, next time you see an opportunity for them to make or be involved in making a decision, GO FOR IT - give them a choice!