Helping Children Make Wise Choices and Decisions

Mormon father talking to sonIt is often said we are the sum of all our decisions. When children learn to make wise decisions early that consider consequences and impact on others, they will have a more successful and happy life. This family night lesson will help

them learn why it’s important to choose, rather than to let life happen, and to make wise decisions.

Learn how to plan a family night.

Preparation:

1.Make a spinner for each person or adapt one from a game. On the back of each one, write the name of a family member and a critical choice or decision that person might one day make, such as who to marry or what career to select. Divide the spinner into several sections and write a possible option for the decision in each one.

You can also use die for this activity. Give each person a card with the decision to make on one side and a list of numbers that have a possible choice next to it on the other. For instance, if the decision is who to marry, the numbers will look like this: 1: Jim 2: Todd 3: Anyone my parents choose. 4: I will go down my street to the left and marry the first single man I meet 5: I’ll post on a social networking site I’m available and marry the first person who responds. 6: Rob

A little humor in the answers can make the object lesson more fun for the family.

2. Make a poster of the points in the quote below.

3. Decide on something your family can choose together using the principles taught, such as where to go on a family outing this week or how to spend a certain sum of money.

Begin the lesson by asking each person in turn to read their choice and then to spin or roll to find out what they should do. Ask them how they feel about the choice that was made for them by this device. Are they content with letting chance make an important decision for them? Why or why not?

Ask them if they know better ways to make the choices on their cards. Go back to each person and have him or her read the choice on the card. Discuss effective ways to make this choice and why it matters that it be made well. Help them see the consequences of the choice.

Following is an outline for making choices and decisions from Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen. It is excerpted from a forthcoming book called, “What We Need to Know and Do. Hand out copies of it to those old enough to appreciate it. Make an outline of the main points (just the bold sections) and display them for ease in discussion. Go through each point and briefly talk about it.

1. Focus on that which is truly important.

  • Ultimate objectives—What do you want to have happen in your life? What are your long-range goals? How will the decision that is before you advance these goals? The key to decision-making is to understand first of all what you want the ultimate outcomes to be. Dwight D. Eisenhower declared: “The history of free man is never really written by chance but by choice—their choice.”
  • Is it necessary?—Is it something you need to have happen, or just want to have happen? Let us become students of how to determine the difference between wants and needs. Let us choose this day things that matter most and then make wise decisions accordingly. The deciding moment is where we act on priorities according to the governing question: “What will bring me closer to my goals than anything else?”
  • How does it relate to my principles?—Base your decisions on gospel principles. For example, if one of your guiding principles is honesty, then any decision you make has to be made in the spirit of honesty. If it’s not honest, then you don’t do it.

2. Timing is crucial.

  • Don’t procrastinate key decisions—Take steps to reach your objectives in an orderly and timely way.
  • Act from strength—Make key decisions when you are in an “up” mood. Be positive as you make choices.
  • Sometimes the right decision is to do nothing—Recognize that every day is composed of “time.” Time is to be used wisely; therefore, anytime we do nothing, it becomes our decision to do nothing. Let us make sure such a decision is prudent.

3. Use reason.

  • Get the facts—Collect all pertinent information first, and make sure of its accuracy. Make decisions calmly, not in haste or under duress, but in a reasoned, judicious manner. Franklin D. Richards counseled: “The Lord expects us to use our intelligence in making wise decisions of choice, and the willingness to learn is a wise choice.”
  • Look at all the options—Study the pros and cons of a certain decision. Maximize the benefits in your choice. Then seek confirmation. George Eliot observed: “The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice.”

4. Consider all the people involved.

  • Weigh the consequences—Factor in how the decision will affect others. Understand the implications for the lives of all parties, now and in the future. Make sure the decisions are in the best interests of your children and loved ones.
  • Get input—Confer with your circle of loved ones and associates beforehand. Always look ahead to the effects or the results of the decision. Will it bless people?

5. Have an action plan.

  • Gather resources—First bring together the necessary resources. Make sure you can afford it. Don’t go unnecessarily into debt. Be sure you have all the adequate resources to back up your decision.
  • Organize—Decisions usually trigger a process that must be managed over time. Set up a time-line, with periodic evaluations and the opportunity for mid-course corrections. Follow through. Will it truly be effective and not just efficient? Can it be measured? Can it be changed for the better if necessary? These questions can help temper our decisions as we strive to become as “wise as Solomon.”
  • Be flexible—Make interim decisions that can be altered or adapted to new information.

Write below the outline a decision your family can make together. Help your family walk through the steps and make a decision as a group. If the group does not agree, talk about what methods can be used to come to an agreement. Remind them parents always have the final say when the choices can have important consequences or when there are factors such as finances to consider. However, try, during this activity, to select something that will not require parental choice unless the choices offered are completely inappropriate. If your children are young, offer three choices instead of unlimited options.

  • Avoid unilateral action—Be careful in unilateral decision-making or autocratic leadership—It often becomes difficult afterwards to rally support. Counseling together gives unity and strength to the decision, with greater chance for success.
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