How to empower our teens to make wise choices
By Samantha Chin
Today, thousands of students in Singapore will receive something they have been anxiously waiting for — their GCE O-Level results.
Following that, they have just 6 days to make the important decision of which school or course to register for. Yet this is only one of the many monumental decisions that teens will have to make growing up.
How can we equip our emerging adults to make responsible and wise decisions, starting from the small, everyday matters to the big, life-defining ones?
With advice from David and Claudia Arp — seasoned speakers and authors on marriage and parenting, here are some practical ways that we can help our adolescents hone their decision-making capabilities.
Involve them in family decisions
As the Arps say, “The more family decisions teens can participate in, the more confident they become in their own decision-making ability.”
This may range from choosing a place to eat at as a family, to doing research on holiday destinations, to making decisions on how to spend the weekend on a fixed budget. By having opportunities to make decisions in the safe constraints of the home, these teens gain valuable training ground for the times when they eventually need to make bigger decisions in the real world.
The more family decisions teens can participate in, the more confident they become in their own decision-making ability.
Provide a framework
Making a decision can seem daunting for teens, so providing a framework might facilitate the process.
- State the problem or situation – Having a clear idea of the scenario is a good starting point.
- List possible options, and the pros and cons of each option – This can seem time-consuming, but will provide a clearer comparison between the options.
- Choose a plan of action.
- Evaluate your decision – the decision-making process doesn’t end at the choice made, but should involve looking back and weighing whether it was a wise one.
Allow them to make mistakes
“The hardest part of reaching teens to make decisions is watching them make mistakes,” say the Arps. Out of the love and protective instincts that we have for our children, it may seem safer to make a decision on their behalf than risk them making a wrong choice and having to live out the negative consequences.
However, through the process of making their own decisions and learning from mistakes made, teens gain much-needed experience and confidence. We can then help them learn from these mistakes, and guide them on how they can make better choices in the future.
Provide resources and support
I still vividly remember the time when I was in this same season, trying to make a choice among the different tertiary institutions. I appreciated that my parents did not place any demands on me or force me into choosing something of their choice. Instead, they guided me through the decision-making process.
Other than letting me know the importance of comparing the different schools and considering different factors like distance, they also encouraged me to speak with older, wiser friends who could offer me advice. Rather than giving easy answers, my parents chose to ask questions along the way that helped me evaluate my choices. Most of all, I had the assurance that they would support me through whatever choice I made, and that was probably the most valuable aspect to me in my decision-making.
As the Arps say, “If the ultimate goal of parenting is to prepare children to function independently as adults, then you need to have a release plan.” Integral to this “release plan” of launching them into young adulthood is equipping them with decision-making skills.
When our teens are empowered to take responsibility and make their own decisions now, they will be ready to make the many life choices that await them in the future.
© 2018 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Whether your child is a pre-schooler or a pre-teen, be equipped with skills at our Parenting with Confidence workshops to lay a strong foundation for your relationship so that the teenage years will not be fraught with tension and exasperation.
Suddenly They’re 13: A Parent’s Survival Guide for the Adolescent Years by David & Claudia Arp
This article was first published on family.org.sg and republished with permission.