The Critical Components to Teaching Kids to Make Good Choices

Teach Your Child to Make Good Choices
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When faced with problems and hard times, a child’s behavior will either become part of the problem, or part of the solution. Choosing to make good choices – even when you don't feel like it – takes guidance, coaching, and practice. Help your child develop the mental strength necessary to manage his own behavior, even when he’s feeling bad or when he’s faced with tough circumstances.

A child’s behavior – as well as thoughts and emotions – is often quite dependent upon the circumstances.

A child who does well on a math test may think, “I’m smart,” and he may spend the day feeling good about himself. Later that evening, he may cooperate when his mother asks him to do his homework because he’s already feeling good.

But, if that same child receives a failing grade the following day, he may think, “I’m stupid,” and spend his day pouting and feeling sorry for himself. When his mother reminds him that it’s time to do his homework, he may argue or complain about doing it because he feels bad.

It’s critical to teach kids that even when they feel bad, or when they’ve had a hard time, they can still choose to make good choices. Initially, it will require a lot of support and training from caregivers to teach this skill. But the eventual goal should be for your child to learn to manage his own behavior, so he can make healthy choices even when you’re not there to help.

Focus on the Cause and Effect

Kids need to know that their behavior results in consequences of some type.

It’s important to show them that the choices they make influence how they feel, as well as how other’s feel.

Teach your child empathy and encourage him to pay attention to how his behavior affects other people. For example, if he wants to quit the soccer team, that choice may impact everyone else on the team.

Or if he chooses to exclude someone from his birthday party, that could hurt that person’s feelings.

Also, discuss how his behavior influences his mood. For example, if he chooses to sit and watch TV all day, he may feel bored. But, if he goes outside to play with a friend, he may excited and energized. Or, if he chooses to hit his friend when he’s feeling frustrated, he may then feel worse because he hurt someone else. Talk about the importance of finding healthy ways to cope with feelings.

Instill Confidence that Encourages Your Child to Tackle Problems

The way kids choose to respond to life’s problems will make a big difference in their overall life experiences. Even when they hear potential solutions, many kids are quick to decide each idea “will never work.” Their negative thoughts prevent them from even trying.

Too often, kids avoid solving problems because they convince themselves they can’t do something or that it will be too uncomfortable. A 6-year-old may walk away from a group of friends because he can’t figure out how to ask if he can join in and a 13-year-old may avoid doing his homework because he doesn’t know how to do it and is afraid to ask for help.

Encourage your child to consider whether his behavior will solve the problem, avoid the problem, or make the problem worse. Children need to be taught specific problem-solving skills so they can have the tools they need to address problems in a productive manner. With each problem they solve, they’ll gain confidence in their ability to address problems head-on.

Encourage Perseverance

Kids are often quick to abandon their efforts when they’re not successful the first time. Whether it involves not making the basketball team or it’s a failed attempt to pass a test, kids often give up prematurely. They tend to draw conclusions and label themselves as “bad” or “stupid.”

Kids often try to hide their mistakes or cover them up because they’re afraid “mistakes are bad.” Show your child that it’s okay to make mistakes. Mistakes can be one of the best learning tools – but only if kids are willing to take responsibility and try again.

Praise your child’s efforts regardless of the outcome. Rather than praising your child for getting an A on a test, or for getting a goal in the soccer game, praise his hard work and perseverance. Positive reinforcement that emphasizes his willingness to keep trying, will encourage him to recover from his mistakes.

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