“I need your help, please.” Morgan, 17, asked while getting ready for school, and putting the last items she needs in her backpack.
“I can’t tell you what to do. You really need to make your own decision,” I told my daughter.
“It would help me if you told me what to do. I don’t want to make the wrong choice!” Morgan rolled her eyes at me as she grabbed her keys to head out to school.
As a mom of four kids, I realize how important it is to have my kids make their own decisions. As they grow older, this is crucial. My oldest child is having a difficult time deciding where to go to college. She wants to swim on a swim team and also wants to have a good Biology program wherever she attends. However, she is struggling in deciding where she would be a good fit and where would help her most succeed. I have had her do all the research and fill out all applications on her own. That seemed like the easy part for her. I am available for input – but as you know, kids lean on parents to lead them to decisions. I am trying to let her approach all these decisions on her own. I am enjoying watching her decide in this process.
Helicopter Parents or Lawnmower Parents
Parents can and should not make decisions for and/or shield children from choices and consequences. Numerous studies have shown that kids have too many difficulties in making their own choices or how to make choices when not given many opportunities to do so.
“Helicopter parents” tend to hover over their children and “Lawnmower Parents” rush ahead to save their children from any problem. Our society doesn’t allow kids to make mistakes and if we don’t change that – our kids won’t be successful self-sufficient adults.
Choices Have Consequences
It doesn’t matter what decision your child is going to have – help them think of different outcomes for each choice they make. When I had toddlers, my kids would have to make decisions – I would give them options. It is easier to have two options than hundreds. An example is lunch. I would ask would they like a grilled cheese sandwich or a hot dog. That gives them an opportunity to decide and they can determine themselves what is happening and you are giving them some control in that. Another option would be clothes to wear for the day. Have your kids show you two outfits and ask them why they chose those two and which one they ultimately want to wear and why. You can give them choices and some choices might not have the best outcome – but they need to learn that. If an older child wants to play tennis and soccer, but needs to decide – let them make that decision. Kids need to have control of the decisions but also know what would change if they make a certain decision.
Coaching is a co-creative relationship. Both you and your child can “use all your knowledge, resources, skills and intuition to problem solve.” “Coach Training Accelerator, Second Edition” from Coach Training Alliance.
Once your child realizes that a decision is to be determined by them – here are a few good questions to ask for them to think about. Do not try to lead them to an answer, but listen to them. You can coach your child and let them determine their own decision.
Figure out the desired goals before you start your conversation. What do you want to solve? When does it need to be solved?
“What do you need in order to make your choice?”
“How can you find out what you need to know?”
“How can you enjoy the process of solving this problem?”
“What plan do you need to create in order to succeed here?”
“What’s the best outcome you can imagine?”
Don’t get me wrong – parents can make observations to your child to help them figure out situations and solutions. Have faith that children are more capable of deciding things than we give them credit for.
I have found these can be especially helpful when your child feels bullies. My son was having a few boys in his class pick on him about his size as he was growing. I asked him what he wanted to do about it. “What is the best possible outcome?” “What can you do to improve the situation?” “When do you want to accomplish this by?” “What are you responsible for?” All these questions helped zone in and have my son look at the entire situation in a way he could handle. He chose to handle it the way he wanted to. As parents, I know it is difficult to watch your child struggle, and it is only a matter of time until you watch them struggle with something. This is a time to watch them try to problem solve and observe how they go about making tough decisions. Give them opportunities so you can watch them with confidence and strength in their choices. They might surprise you with great grace in the decisions they do make.