It can be more than a little frustrating for adults when kids don’t think through the consequences of their decisions, say, when they ‘forget’ to do their homework or ‘accidentally’ hurt their younger sibling playing too roughly.

The younger the child is, the more likely they are to focus on satisfying their immediate wants (ie eating lollies just before bed) and the less likely they are to consider the outcome (ie the inevitable sugar-high preventing a proper night’s sleep).

Rather than telling them what they should do, you can step children through the process of making good decisions so they can master this important life skill. Here are some expert strategies.

Little kids

Consequences need to be simple for young children, but early childhood is nonetheless an excellent time to start teaching them about choosing wisely.

  • Give them chances to make simple decisions 
    “Would you like to wear your red jeans or your spotty skirt today? Which is better for climbing trees?”

  • Encourage problem-solving
     “Oh no, we’ve run out of bread for sandwiches! What else could we have for lunch?”

  • Allow them to make mistakes
     “It’s nice that you wanted to make a cake for Daddy, but next time you need a grown-up to help you, okay?” 

  • Tell stories about good and bad decision-making 
    “Do you think Goldilocks did the right thing going into the bears’ house without being invited?”

Older kids

School-age children are better able to see other viewpoints and anticipate consequences.

  • Step them through the decision-making process 
    “Okay, this is the issue, now what are our options? Which is the best choice? Why? Alright, let’s give it a go and see what happens!”

  • Praise them for taking responsibility
    “You know we have a ‘no skateboarding in the house’ rule, but I’m happy to see you cleaning up the mess you made.”

  • Set goals together
    “If you get your homework out of the way now, you will have the rest of the afternoon to play.”

  • Support them to stay on track
    “I know it’s hard practising piano while your sister is crying. Why don’t I take her for a walk and give you some peace?” 

You may like to read more about helping children to make good decisions.