Think about it. Kids today are exposed to so many options, so many distractions every
waking hour. Directly after school, there’s baseball or soccer. Music lessons, friends, Snapchat,
Instagram, texting and a thousand and one other reasons to put off doing whatever it is
you both know they should be doing.
Homework, for instance.
Basically, it’s the same problem adults face every day. Even given the time, support and resources you need --- which rarely happens --- it’s tough to make the right call every time. Often, simply because of the conditions or behaviors we put upon ourselves.
But take heart. There’s a simple and effective way to set kids on the right path. A way to ingrain solid decision-making skills to help kids make the right decisions all day long, big and small.
Enter Mike Erwin, West Point Assistant Professor for Leadership and Psychology. Here are some pointers from Mr. Erwin as outlined in a recent issue of Harvard Business Review. Pointers that can accelerate a child’s decision-making skills now, as well as throughout their lives.
1. Encourage your child to set up a regular time or times for high priority decision making during the times they’re usually full of energy. Right after breakfast on a Saturday, for instance. This will help them develop a habit of evaluating the various pros and cons of their important decisions while they’re most focused.
2. Encourage your child to solicit other opinions from a variety of people. Each person whether parent, sibling, teacher or peer will have a different perspective. By talking things over with a number of people, your child is able to anticipate more aspects that may in the future affect the results of their decisions. This will help them to forge their own decision unique to them but informed by others they respect.
3. Encourage your child to prioritize and focus on one task by setting up a specific block of time.
Studies show --- and we know from our own experience --- multitasking makes us less effective, increasing the chance for errors. Often focusing completely on one task at a time will help them complete a series of tasks more efficiently and at a higher level of quality.
Blocks could include Morning Prep, School Time, Homework, Sports Play, Screen Time, Play, Reading, Time with Friends. Calendars help, as well. They’re a visual way for kids to realize they can’t do everything all at once. It can help them slow down and take the time to create specific time slots for important tasks and eliminate non-essential activity.
4. Encourage your child to stick with their commitments once they’ve made them.
One of the most valuable skills your child can develop is the ability to commit fully, once they’ve made a decision. New opportunities and distractions will continue to come up. Helping your child to assess, evaluate, decide and then commit will help them eliminate distractions and accomplish more with greater ease. Additionally, they’ll build greater self-confidence not constantly secondguessing their own decisions. The positive results they gain from completing homework assignments, gaining better grades, performing better in sports, will add to their enjoyment of life and encourage them to take charge of their life with their newfound decision-making skills.
5. Encourage your child to choose their prime time to make decisions not when they are emotionally charged, tired or distracted. No one makes their best decision when they’re angry, sad or worn out. They just don’t. Encourage you child to postpone decisions until they’ve calmed down and had a chance to assess a situation from multiple points of view. And be sure to remind them everything looks different and clearer in the morning after a good night’s sleep.
6. After a few months of using these tips, your child will begin to intuitively know when they’re able to make their best decisions or when to step back and postpone making those decisions until they have all the details and have reached emotional equilibrium.
So, Step One, recognize your kid is pulled every which way every waking day. And Step Two, try running through these six tips with them from a West Point Assistant Professor in Leadership and Psychology who knows his stuff. Help them make better decisions now and into their future as they become more confident, more relaxed and more accomplished adults.
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