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The Surprising Impact of Parental Decision-Making on the Children’s Remarkable Development

Parents, if you are reading this…

Have you ever found yourself frequently making decisions for your children? 

From what they eat to the activities they participate in. As parents, it’s common for us parents to take charge and ensure their well-being. It’s completely normal, and it comes naturally to us to protect and raise our children. 

At the same time,  it also made me wonder if we might be overdoing it? 

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve caught myself deciding every little thing for my children and that got me thinking – are we unintentionally hindering their growth and independence by making all these choices for them? 

I started observing the way I parent, how my children and other children behave, did some research and some reading up.  

I’m going to share what I have experienced about the potential consequences of constantly playing the decision-maker role and explore the power of stepping back and allowing our children to take the reins. 

Believe me; you’re in for a real eye-opener as I share some personal examples (with name changed). I genuinely hope these insights will touch your heart and transform the way we approach parenting.

First, let’s look at the various negative consequences that can hinder the child’s development and autonomy when we constantly make decisions for our children:

1. Lack of Independence

When children are younger, we frequently decide for them and it develops into a habit. However, since they are used to us making decisions for them, children grow dependent on us.

Children thus struggle to become independent and acquire decision-making abilities. It might be tough for children to overcome obstacles in life on their own if they become so dependent on us.

For example:
Even though Sarah is 14 years old, her parents have always chosen all her extracurricular activities since she was young, regardless of her interests, because they believe that they are the best most important for his future success

They sign her up for piano lessons since they think it’s a useful talent. However, she is more interested in painting, but her enthusiasm was overlooked. As a result, Sarah finds herself leaning on her parents for decision-making, which sometimes prevents her from seeing things objectively and pursuing her own passions.

Do you find any resonance in this example?

2. Low Self-Esteem

As I interact with more children, I get to notice more and more children engaging in negative self-talk, using phrases like “I can’t do anything right” or “I’m stupid.”  Worse is when there is social media for them to compare with. 

However, it was not social media that influenced their behaviour; rather, it was constant direction without the opportunity for self-direction. They gradually begin to question their skills and believe they are incapable of making independent decisions.

For example:
Michael’s parents, who are perfectionists, continually schedule his activities, keep tabs on his academic progress, and choose whose friends he should hang out with.  

Despite his efforts, Michael feels insufficient since he never seems to measure up to his parents’ high standards. He begins to doubt his skills and experiences low self-esteem as a result of the continual pressure and lack of autonomy.

3. Reduced Problem-Solving Skills

We want to shield our kids from challenging circumstances because we are parents. We feel driven to step in to protect people in difficult circumstances from possible undesirable outcomes when presented with difficult circumstances. 

The opportunity for our kids to learn how to assess circumstances and come up with solutions on their own is lost because we frequently find solutions for them. In the long run, this may limit their capacity for problem-solving.

For example:
When 10-year-old Alex faces conflicts with classmates, his parents always intervene to resolve the issues. They talk to the teachers and arrange playdates with other children, not giving Alex a chance to address the problems himself. 

Due to the intervention of his parents, Alex is unable to manage social problems on his own and, as a result, affects his eventual ability to deal with awkward social circumstances as he grows up. 

4. Lack of Confidence

Making choices is a crucial part of growing in confidence. If children aren’t allowed to make decisions and experience the outcomes, they might lack confidence in their ability to handle life’s obstacles.

For example:
Emily’s parents always choose her clothes, hairstyles, and extracurricular activities. They do this with good intentions because they believe they know what’s best for her.

However, Emily’s confidence suffers as she feels her preferences and choices aren’t valued. As a result, this lack of confidence affected her ability to express herself and make decisions with conviction.

5. Strained Parent-Child Relationship

Personally, there were few situations where I unintentionally imposed decisions on my children and they were super unhappy about it. This situation can even lead to conflicts and strained relationships between parents and their children. Children may feel unheard and disrespected, leading to a breakdown in communication and trust.

For example:
Jake, a 16-year old teen and approaching college, wants to pursue his passion for music. However, his parents insisted that he should study engineering to secure a stable career. 

The constant disagreement and refusal to respect his wishes lead to arguments and tension between Jake and his parents, straining their relationship and making communication difficult.

You now understand the different unfavourable effects of continuously making judgements for our children. Does that imply that we give them complete discretion to decide for themselves? 

Not really. 

What I want to let you know is that we should provide the opportunity and flexibility for our children to make certain decisions at a certain age. 

It is never too young to learn to make a choice. In fact, they should start learning to make choices when they are young so that they can slowly gain the experience. All we need to do is to think of how we can support and guide them to make their choices. It is NOT about RIGHT or WRONG choice. It is about providing them the opportunity to learn to make simple choices.

When children are given the freedom to make decisions and take responsibility for them, numerous good results can be observed. Let’s take a look at them. 

1. Improved Decision-Making Skills

The ability to make decisions varies with age. If we want to encourage the development of critical thinking and decision-making skills in our children, we have to start allowing them to make decisions that are suitable for their age. 

For instance, allowing a preschooler to choose which shoe they want to wear. 

With this ability, they are able to evaluate options, consider consequences, and make better choices in the future.

For example:
Emma came back from school with a form to sign up for after-school activities. Instead of choosing it for her, her parents discussed the pros and cons of different options with her and encouraged her to make her own decisions with their support. 

As a result, Emma gets to learn how to weigh options and improve her ability to make better decisions.

2. Increased Independence

This is one obvious skillset I see in most children over the years, especially my children. Since young, I always give them the option to make decisions when there is an opportunity to choose. Given the freedom to form their own opinions, I noticed my children began to show signs of independence and self-reliance. 

For example:
I allowed my elder child to manage his own weekly allowance when he started secondary school. I taught him about budgeting and saving, and he took the responsibility for buying his own school supplies and personal items. 

This independence helps him to develop a sense of accountability and self-reliance I previously indicated.

3. Enhanced Self-Esteem and Confidence 

Being able to make decisions successfully boosts a child’s self-esteem and confidence. They learn to trust their judgement and feel capable of handling various situations.

For example:
Maria’s parents involved her in family decisions, such as planning vacations or organising gatherings. They acknowledged her input and praised her for contributing positively. Maria’s self-esteem increased when she got to participate in decision-making because she felt appreciated as a family member.

4. Ownership of Outcomes: 

You’ll notice that when children start making their own decisions, they are more likely to accept responsibility for the results, whether positive or negative. Accountability enables them to learn from their mistakes and accept responsibility for their actions.

For example:
Ethan wanted to join the school soccer team and informed his parents about it. His parents supported his decision but also reminded him about the commitment required for practices and games. 

Ethan acknowledged and took ownership of his choice and put in the effort to balance his schoolwork and soccer activities while learning valuable time-management skills.

5. Better Leadership Skills: 

Making decisions fosters leadership qualities in children. They learn to lead themselves and others effectively, which is a valuable skill for success in both personal and professional life.

For example:
As part of a school project, Sarah’s group is assigned the task of organizing a charity event. Sarah takes the lead, delegates responsibilities, and ensures everyone’s ideas are considered. 

She increased her confidence in her capacity to manage a team successfully and develop her leadership skills as a result of this experience.  

In conclusion…

We must understand how critical decision making is for our children’s personal development and progress.  We need to consciously provide them the flexibility and opportunity to make their own decisions. Parenting with positive leadership involves encouraging children’s independence, teaching them values, and rewarding their efforts. 

By doing this, we provide our children the abilities and characteristics they need to lead with assurance and succeed in their future endeavours. Let’s move aside and let our children take the initiative, and help them along the way to become independent, confident people.

PS: How are you starting to encourage your child’s ability to make decisions?

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