Do your children struggle with making good decisions? When you think about it, it’s not easy but there are things parents can do to build their skills and confidence.
Educational Leader at Ambrose Catholic Early Learning Centre (CELC) Emerton knows decision-making is something children learn. “We find some children come to us still learning to make decisions for themselves and we assist them to learn how to make decisions. Maybe they have limited opportunities to do so at home or they simply aren’t confident. We give children guidance in learning how to make decisions through role modelling. We also discuss choices, and help children narrow down their options.
“Decision-making can be overwhelming. Some children shut down, simply refusing to choose anything or to engage. We also see some children who have had limited play-based experiences and go through the centre like a hurricane, overwhelmed by too many choices but not wanting to miss out on any opportunities. I encourage them to sit with me and role model how each activity works, teach them how to play and guide them. Then I step back and encourage them to choose which activity they want for themselves.”
Helen explains we must allow children to make wrong choices in order to learn.
“Afterward we might ask them if that was the right choice? What else could they have done? How they respond depends on their language skills, maturity and age.”
Learning to make decisions as a preschooler is very important, say Helen, because once children get to school, if they’re unable to make good choices, it can lead to genuine struggles and frustration for the child and their parents. “When they get to school, they could struggle and fall behind,” Helen says.
“They need to learn to choose to listen, to take turns, to participate constructively with their peers before they reach school. Otherwise, we find they struggle in a classroom setting, or with making friends, because they might not share well or make poor choices that make them harder to play with.”
Helen acknowledges parents are busy, and it’s often easier to limit choices for children at home, but home is the perfect place for children to practise their decision making.
“An example is when we do a pancake breakfast every year. The children can choose to have it served with one of two toppings or plain. That’s plenty of choice for a young child. Something easily replicated at home.”
There are six Catholic Early Learning Centres operated by Ambrose, an enterprise of Catholic Diocese of Parramatta Services Limited supporting families through early years education as well as 41 school-age out-of-hours care services in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains. Find out more at ambrose.org.au.
This article was originally published in the 2022 Lent and Easter/Autumn 2022 edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can read the magazine here.