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Choices—Decisions the Family Makes

Decision-making is a skill. Thinking about what to do is a skill. Learning to make good choices is a skill. Some children intuitively pick up these skills, but most children need some help. Families influence this process.

Young children experience making decisions from their family. This process begins at birth. Learning how to calm down, to use a pacifier, thumb or blanket, is an infant's way of showing preferences and making one his first decisions. Young children show their likes and dislikes from the moment they are born.

The parent's first job is to watch your child closely. This means from the moment your child is born. At birth children are able to distinguish what smells they prefer, and what feels good against their skin. You have the capacity to know your child better than anyone else in the world.

The steps to making informed choices happens within the family. In the beginning, the choices can be held closely or loosely, laying on back or stomach, what to eat, toys your child chooses to play with in the tub, or which books to bring to the doctor.

Parents are responsible for making all decisions regarding a child's health, safety and well-being throughout childhood. You are also responsible for giving your child opportunities to make age-appropriate decisions in his or her daily life. Research validates the family's influence even throughout the teenage years. Their decisions show that parents are still very important. The beginning to successful decision making begins when your child is young.

Help your child create possible solutions to problems. Encourage your child to be a question asker and information gatherer. Allow for mistakes to happen. Bad decisions will be made, but be there to help your child understand the consequences of the decision and support your child. If you overreact to mistakes, your child might become so fearful of failure (and your disappointment) that she or he may be unwilling to make future choices or find answers.

Your child may need help getting information about decisions. Allow your child to think up possible solutions or decisions about problems. Think through the strengths and weaknesses of each choice. Think about the consequences of the choices. Then use your intelligence and feelings to make decisions. Doing this together will help your child use this family process even when you are not there. Your influence will last a lifetime.

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