How Do You Let Your Kids Make Decisions?

How do you let your children make decisions?
Image via Flickr/ sebilden

I grew up in a pretty strict family where we definitely had limitations on things and my parents weren't “my best friends” the way I see some parents acting today. However, one thing I always had was respect as an individual person with attention to my preferences, interests, and desires. Within reason, of course. 

Respect vs Indulgence

One trend I've noticed with parents my age is a shift towards indulgent parenting. They will say, “We want to respect our kids and their feelings.” Let me be clear – trying to avoid “hurting your kids' feelings” is NOT the same as respecting your child. At all. 

Did you guys see that video of the grown woman throwing a giant temper tantrum her husband posted on YouTube? That's pretty much what happens when you live your entire parenting life not hurting your kids' feelings. 

BUT (here's the caveat) when there's something where the outcome of the decision doesn't really matter (morally, physically, emotionally) then I believe you SHOULD respect your child's individual preferences. This teaches them decision making skills that are so important and helps them develop a true confidence. 

She learned that making a decision isn't the end of the process, but the very beginning of the process. She also learned that a good decision + hard work = amazing results!

Decisions Lead to Confidence

Unlike the pop-culture trend of building self-esteem based on nothing but breathing, I tend to praise their efforts. I feel letting your children make decisions, and then work to follow through on those decisions, is what leads to true confidence later in life.

Here's an example: 

My daughter Brianna turned seven this year and my youngest daughter, Vivian, is now out of the crib and moving into the girls' bedroom (we keep crib babies near our bed to better tend to them as needed). Since we were rearranging the furniture and bed situation (out went my office) anyway Brianna asked if we could repaint the room and if she could choose the colors. My initial impulse was to say no, but I recognized this was a prime opportunity to allow her to make some long-term decisions. 

We talked about how painting was something that would only happen once a decade, so she needed to choose colors she would be happy with for the next 5+ years. We got a decorating book from the library and talked about some of the principles of colors and light, etc. We looked through a million pages of kids bedroom designs on Houzz and she created a lookbook of her own for everything that she liked. Then we looked through her chosen favorite designs and discussed the ELEMENTS of what she liked – the colors, the fuzzy pillow, the zebra accent desk, etc. 

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Following Through on the Decisions

But that's not where we stopped! I think kids need to learn follow through, so she went with me to pick out the paint at Lowe's. She also helped me prep the bedroom. It was hard work! We had to move out a bajillion books (this number is only exaggerated by a half-million) and wipe down all the surfaces and move out her dresser and clean the floor and the windows and the closet, and so on and so on. 

Then, the painting began, and Brianna took a bigger share of child care (toddler + preschooler in the house + open cans of brint pink and aqua paint… hmmm) and learned that when someone is helping you in one area, it means picking up the slack in another. She learned that making a decision isn't the end of the process, but the very beginning of the process. But, she also learned that a good decision + hard work = amazing results!

The painting part of the bedroom is finished (minus the dressers, which I have yet to do) but there are still accent pieces she wants that I'm making her save up money for. She also got a few items as gifts and is learning patience for the rest. Her room looks great though, and she was definitely on trend with the color scheme. 

Most importantly, it is something that is uniquely hers. And in a family with five kids, those moments are super special. 

How do you let your kids make decisions in their lives? How do you walk the line between indulgence and respect?

What do you think?

How Do You Let Your Kids Make Decisions?

Angela England is a renaissance woman who doesn't let five children stop her from many pursuits, interests and tasks. Angela is a freelance writer, professional blogger, speaker, labor doula, massage therapist and can usually be found with a coffee nearby. Angela recently published her first book, Backyard Farming on an Acre (more or less) and has since published her first Untrained Housewife Guide - Getting Prepared. ... More

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