Are You Raising One of the Next Generation of Hoodlums: Reinforcing Making Good Choices
Most parents are aware that helping their sons learn to make good choices is an important part of parenting. Although higher level reasoning skills don’t begin to develop until children are between 7 and 8 years old, even preschool children can learn to make simple, age-appropriate choices. So please, don’t wait until your son is already in school to begin to help him with this important skill. As your son begins to learn to make choices, he is learning important life skills and developing independence. Teaching your son how to make good choices and making him aware of its importance when he is young can make it easier for him to make good choices as he matures.
The first step is to offer simple, age-appropriate choices to your son when he is a toddler and when he attends preschool. Offer a limited number of options to avoid overwhelming or confusing him. For example, ask your son whether he would rather wear his blue shirt or a brown one, instead of letting him choose from all of the shirts in his wardrobe. Of course you should not allow your son to make choices that would negatively affect their health, well-being or safety, and don’t allow your son to choose his own bedtime. Instead, you might offer your son the choice of brushing his teeth before or after he bathes and get into his pajamas.
It is not appropriate to offer your young son an open-ended choice such as, “When would you like to leave the park?” unless you are prepared to accept his decision. Help your child learn that choices and decisions are to be treated with respect. Teach your young son how to say no in an appropriate manner. Engage in role-playing activities to help him practice remaining strong for the times when he will face peer pressure. Doing this while he is still young can yield tremendous dividends as he reaches adolescence.
As your son grows, he will begin to ask questions about possible choices and their consequences. This provides you, the parent, an opportunity to help him work through the decision-making process. Be alert to offer guidance rather than answers. Always provide positive reinforcement when your son makes a good choice, and be careful not to rush in to lessen the negative consequences of a bad decision, but use it as a gentle “teachable moment.”
Model good choice-making skills yourself and verbalize your decision-making process when appropriate. This will help your son learn to think through options and consequences. As his parent, your modeling will go a long way toward teaching your young son the importance of making good choices. When teachable moments present themselves, take advantage of the opportunities to point out to your son the good choice or the poor choice, and discuss the consequence of both.
As he grows in age and maturity, increase the choices you allow your son to make for himself.