Wednesday, 15 January 2014

children and making decisions

My mother-in-law does a brilliant job of keeping reading material up to our children.  Every few years she scours the local primary school libraries and sends across loads of discards.  Most of these end up in the Talua library or in the library at the local school. The bonus for us is that they pass through our house first while they are sorted.

So we end up reading lots of books that were on the shelves in when I was at school.  One of the big issues in children's literature then seems to have been broken families.  I was reading one today, Better for Everyone, by Penny Hall that explores that very issue (otherwise I wouldn't've mentioned it).  In this book, Meg, about to start high school, is asked to go and live with her Father and his new wife and her teenage children.  She leaves behind her mother, her elder brother and twin sisters and begins a new life in the city.

She is asked to make the decision about whether to leave her mother and family by herself.  She is able to talk about it with different family members, but in the end it is up to her.   Later, when holidays come, she also has to make the decision about whether to go home or to stay during the holidays.  She struggles with the responsibility of these decisions, trying to do what is best for everyone.

The author, I think rightly, criticises the tendancy to leave such monumental decisions to those so young.  As difficult as they are for parents and step-parents to make such decisions, I think it is their responsibility to make them.

It's started me thinking about how we teach children to make decisions.  First, parents just make the decisions.  Then there's a period of leading and guiding and counselling.  Finally, they will be able to make the decision themselves.  For instance, when my eldest was a baby, we dressed her.  She had no part in the decision making process what-so-ever.  Now, she dresses herself, although she follows rules we have set.  One day she'll have left home and be dressing herself with complete freedom.  We hope she'll follow certain principles... but she'll make those decisions herself.

But the significance of the decision will greatly affect when they move through those stages.  For example, deciding what one has on a sandwich at lunch-time is of much less significance than whether one joins the family for holidays.

There are so many sorts of decisions we are preparing our children to make.

I wonder at what ages children are old enough to make them?  What do you think?

How do we know when they're ready?


Anonymous said...

Hi Rach,
This is an interesting concept to think through.
We take the approach that we give them responsibility with simpler things eg, making wise food, clothing, activity (play time) choices, and when they show consistently wise choices in these areas we add another area of responsibility. Little by little with them proving they can manage the level of decision making before giving greater freedom. I don't think it's always easy as parents though to work out the right balance!
Julie x

Rachael said...

Do you have a conscious list of areas of responsibility... or is more that you recognise that they're ready for a new responsibility when it arises?