There is a mixed tendency today towards postponing the teaching of self-reliance and responsibility while also directing children towards outcomes that reflect the desire of the parents. This combination creates young adults who are moderately incapable of self-sufficiency, but, far worse, are relatively incapable of making up their own minds or choosing their own path.
Parenting should focus on guiding children, especially adolescents and teens, towards figuring out what they want and why. Not all decisions should be made by you unilaterally. By allowing your child to participate in the decision-making process, you are teaching them to develop a lifelong ability to know their own minds. Obviously, not all decisions can include their participation, but many can. Consider, for example, a choice that must be made between going to a movie with his grandparents or attending a friend’s birthday party. Assuming you approve of either choice, ask your child questions as he examines his choices. Continue gently posing new questions until the child can figure out what he really wants and why. Allow your questions to remain neutral and unbiased. For example, “Why do you want to go to the party when you already spend so much time with your friends?” could be rephrased to eliminate bias; “Is there a reason you want to go to the party instead of the movies with your grandparents?” Continue to ask questions until the child determines, for himself, which choice is best and the consequences for the choice. In this example, if the child chooses the party, you can perhaps suggest an alternative way that he can spend time with his grandparents. You are reiterating your belief in his power to make good decisions when you show respect for his input.
Do not replace sound judgment with this technique. For example, if your child repeatedly avoids the grandparents, find out why rather than forcing his attendance. He may have a very valid reason in which you are unaware. Trust your instincts in his choices as well. Often a well-reared child will make a seemingly inappropriate choice for a valid reason.
Quite simply, teach your child to think for him or herself. Do not unduly burden them with your choices. Learning independent thinking is a skill that needs encouragement to flourish.
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After obtaining her MBA, Karen L. Garvey acquired extensive business experience. Presently, Karen provides ongoing insights for workshops, media appearances, and books. She also offers sessions and coaching to clients, enabling them to shorten their success path.