LITTLE THINGS ABOUT
Dr. Gayatri Bezboruah
“Why do you always make such a terrible choice?" or "Well, well, I'm really happy about your choice this time." Our conversations with our little ones often include one of the above sentences, often the first, and thankfully sometimes sprinkled with the second! As our children grow, so do the number of choices they have to make in life - some specifically for themselves, and others for family or friends. The choices will begin just as soon as they start school and will continue to grow in complexity as they mature. So, what does it take to make a choice? Making a choice takes a balance of self-confidence and the mental ability to think through the consequences of our decision. Therefore, teaching our children to make good choices will benefit them for years to come and will definitely set them in the right direction. Our children should be eased into decision-making at an early age.
When children are in the preschool age group it is a great time to introduce decision-making to them, by offering simple daily choices to our little ones. We could start in the morning by picking out two shirts for them and ask them which one they would like to wear for the day. Throughout the day we can continue with small choices, "Would you like an apple or banana for a snack today? If they are unsure of which to pick, we need to let them know it's okay to take their time and just pick one. When we are giving our children a decision to make, we must be sure to allow them to make the choice, otherwise they may depend on us to make all their choices.
Once they get the hang of making decisions for themselves, we should offer them choices that affect the entire family as well. Do you think we should have rice or rotis for supper? Or which flowers should we plant in the front lawn, the white ones or the red ones? This gives our children the sense of family contribution and self-worth, and they feel that their opinion is important to the family unit.
Now the children have grown and have started going to school. As most of us parents know, teaching through example is a very good starting point to teaching our children the values we want to instil in them. Talking about good choices is our next best tool, so we should explain to them what a good decision is. A good decision is one that results in more good than harm, considers the feelings of others, is selfless, follows the rules, and is positive and beneficial.
At this stage of childhood, children will make a number of choices that we aren't happy with or make us turn the other cheek and wonder if they are actually our children! Allowing our children to make these choices, good or bad helps, and when the choice comes up that is not so good this is the perfect opportunity to talk about choices with them. "The choice you made to spit in the house was not an appropriate decision. So let's talk about choices and how they affect you and the people around you."
When our children are in the higher classes in school, it's an essential feeling for them to know that they are needed or of importance. Normally we gain this understanding by the jobs we do and the positions we hold in society or our home life. It is also a very important feeling for children. This not only helps children to make the right decision when they have choices presented to them, but this ensures they will make the right choice. We have to give our children a responsibility that makes them feel they are making a difference, not simply taking out the trash, but something that makes them feel they are contributing something important. For example, taking care of the family pet, making sure the wild birds have food, etc.
Telling our children, the truth about a variety of important issues, especially when they ask, helps. Children that feel as though they are being misled or lied to by us don't feel as though they are important enough or not smart enough to handle the truth. We also have to encourage our children to form positive friendships. One other very important step is to talk to them about the effects of negative choices and the effects of positive choices. The more open we are now with our children, the better and stronger the lines of communication when they get to an age where peer pressure, bad choices and the negativity of the teenage years will be in abundance.
Dr Gayatri Bezboruah is Professor of Paediatrics, Gauhati Medical College, Guwahati. She can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org