One of the most important aspects of helping our teens make responsible decisions is first and foremost recognition by the teen when initially confronted by a decision. This is very simply realizing that the situation you are facing requires a decision by you and that your decision may have consequences for others, yourself or the environment around you. Parents can teach their teens to think in terms of always trying to be aware and alert when a situation which requires a decision is thrust upon them. And parents should share with their teens the critical need to always try to evaluate the significance of every potential decision before committing to an often irreversible solution. It is very important to stress to your teen that the quality of their decisions at this juncture can have a positive or negative impact, sometimes just for today but other times for the rest of their lives. Parents who are willing to make the effort to instill an awareness in their teens of not only recognizing when a decision is imminent but also the potential importance of making the best decision possible, will be contributing substantially to their teens’ maturation process and ultimate well-being.
An exceptional tool that teen parents can utilize to assist their children in making responsible decisions is what I like to call consequence review. Here it is important to recognize that you are dealing in a potentially very fragile aspect of your child’s life in some cases so you have to proceed accordingly. You must guard against becoming judgmental in this process or risk alienating your children and or terminating your dialog. You are going to do your best to help your teens examine the consequences of their decisions and how their decisions contributed to positive or negative outcomes that affect their lives now and or possibly in the future. When you take the time to review the consequences of some of the decisions made by your child, you are sharing not only your own insight regarding your child’s decisions but also creating a dialog with your child that can go a long ways toward a more powerful bond. This bond can only nurture an even stronger parent/child relationship—and hopefully promote even more responsible decisions by your children. Ultimately, the consequence review should help your children recognize the importance of their decisions and at the same time illustrate how they might make a more positive decision next time and or applaud them for the wonderful outcomes they have achieved and encourage them to continue to make such great decisions. When all is said and done you are sharing with your child that their decisions really do count!
In a different vein, parents of teens can help their children make more responsible decisions by teaching them the value of time whenever they are confronted with a decision where a deadline is involved. Often in this case, children can decide to begin preparing for a mid-term exam, which is scheduled for two weeks hence either immediately, or decide to wait until the last minute and then be forced to cram two weeks of study into one night. Parents can assist in helping their children make more responsible decisions by monitoring situations such as an upcoming midterm exam and discussing with their children what type of preparation they intend to utilize and stress the importance of allocating their time for adequate study appropriately. Parents can strongly encourage their children to always respect their ally of time when they are making decisions involving deadlines or situations which allow their children enough time to make decisions only after thoughtful consideration. Parents would be well advised to teach their children to be thoughtful and carefully consider all the various factors involved in making the best decision possible through proper time utilization. Parents who teach their children to respect their ally of time, will have given their children a real gift that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.
As parents, you have made the vast majority of the decisions affecting your children’s lives up until now. Your children are now in their teenage years and they are going to be making more and more of their own decisions as time passes. The times when all they had to do was chose between option A or B because you provided the choices for them are fading away fast. Now as part of their maturation process they will be responsible for more and more of the decisions that will shape their future lives. As parents, we fervently hope that we have done our part in preparing them for the decisions that lie ahead.
Daniel P. Gates, Author of “Decisionology – A Guiding Compass For High-School Students”. For more information, visit www.decisionology.info.