Related Articles

Decision-making affects everyday life. We learn these skills over time — from the people around us. Kids, who begin life acting on impulse, need help from adults to develop healthy decision-making habits. Here’s why it’s important to help kids develop decision-making skills at an early age.

What are decision-making skills?

Decision-making is more than settling on a choice. It’s a process of identifying what needs to be done and how it can be achieved along with reflection on motivations and consequences. When a person has good decision-making skills, they have reasonable expectations about what their actions (or non-action) will do, and they understand why certain actions are best for their wellbeing and the concerns of others.

Healthy decision-making allows a person to recognize when they’re acting on impulse — and why feelings for quick action may arise. They’ll also be able to evaluate for more positive results in the future.

Understanding the Process of Decision-Making

Understanding the process of decision-making is an important skill for children to develop as it helps them to make informed and responsible choices in life. The process of decision-making involves identifying a problem or situation, gathering information, evaluating options, making a choice, and taking action.

To help children understand this process, parents and caregivers can start by explaining the importance of decision-making and how it can affect their lives. Encourage children to think about the consequences of their choices, both positive and negative. This can be done by asking questions such as “What do you think might happen if you choose this option?” or “How would you feel if you made this decision?”

Parents can also encourage children to practice decision-making in their daily lives, such as choosing what to wear or what game to play. This can help them build their confidence and develop critical thinking skills.

Decision-making is a process and mistakes can happen. Encourage children to learn from their mistakes and make adjustments for future decisions. By understanding the process of decision-making, children can develop important life skills that will serve them well into adulthood.

The Role of Emotions in Decision-Making

Understanding the interplay between emotions and decision-making is crucial for fostering healthy decision-making habits in children. Emotions significantly influence the choices we make, from the most mundane to life-changing decisions. Recognizing and managing emotions is, therefore, an essential aspect of decision-making that children need to learn for better outcomes in their personal and social lives.

Understanding Emotional Influence

Emotions can both positively and negatively affect decision-making. Positive emotions often lead to more cooperative behaviors and a willingness to explore new ideas, enhancing creative problem-solving. On the other hand, negative emotions might result in more conservative and sometimes risk-averse decisions. For children, who are still learning to identify and manage their feelings, emotions can be overwhelming and heavily influence their choices.

Teaching Emotional Awareness

Teaching children to be aware of their emotions and how these feelings can influence their decisions is a vital step. It involves helping them to recognize different emotions, understand their sources, and see the link between how they feel and the choices they make. This awareness is the foundation for emotional regulation – the ability to manage and respond to an emotional experience with a range of strategies that are socially acceptable and flexible.

Strategies for Parents and Educators

  1. Model Emotional Regulation: Children learn by observing adults. When parents and educators demonstrate how to manage emotions effectively, children can mimic these behaviors in their decision-making processes.
  2. Encourage Reflection: After making a decision, encourage children to reflect on how their emotions influenced their choices. Was the decision made in anger? Did excitement lead to an impulsive choice? Reflection helps children understand the impact of their emotions.
  3. Develop Coping Strategies: Teaching children coping mechanisms for negative emotions can help them make better decisions. Techniques such as deep breathing, counting to ten, or talking about their feelings can reduce the emotional intensity, leading to clearer thinking.

The Impact of Peer Pressure on Decision-Making

Peer pressure is a powerful force that can significantly influence children’s and adolescents’ decision-making processes. Understanding how peer influence works and teaching children to navigate peer pressure effectively are crucial for promoting healthy decision-making habits. This aspect of social interaction can lead to positive behaviors, such as cooperation and striving for excellence, but it can also result in negative outcomes if it pushes individuals towards harmful actions or decisions against their better judgment.

Navigating Peer Influence

Peer pressure can shape decisions through explicit suggestions or implicit expectations within a social group. It can affect choices related to academic performance, social activities, risk-taking behaviors, and adherence to group norms. Teaching children to recognize when they are being influenced by their peers and how to stand firm in their values and decisions is essential for their personal development and well-being.

Strategies for Handling Peer Pressure

  1. Developing Self-Confidence: Strengthening children’s self-esteem and confidence in their own values and judgments can help them resist negative peer pressure. Encouraging self-expression and praising individual achievements are ways to build this confidence.
  2. Teaching Assertiveness: Children should learn to assert their own needs and opinions respectfully and confidently. Role-playing scenarios in which they practice saying “no” or expressing their own views can be effective.
  3. Fostering Critical Thinking: Encouraging children to think critically about the consequences of their actions and the motives behind peer pressure can help them make more independent decisions.

Creating Open Communication: Maintaining an environment where children feel comfortable discussing their social interactions and the pressures they face enables adults to provide guidance and support.

Tips for Helping Children Develop Healthy Decision-Making Habits

Here are some tips for parents and caregivers to help children develop healthy decision-making habits:

Encourage critical thinking

Teach children to think critically by asking open-ended questions and encouraging them to weigh the pros and cons of their choices.

Model good decision-making

Children learn by example, so be a good role model by making thoughtful decisions and explaining your reasoning to them.

Teach problem-solving skills

Help children learn problem-solving skills by encouraging them to identify and evaluate different solutions to a problem.

Foster independence

Allow children to make decisions for themselves, within reason, and encourage them to take responsibility for their choices.

Provide information

Provide children with accurate and age-appropriate information to help them make informed decisions.

Support resilience

Encourage children to bounce back from mistakes and setbacks and teach them that failures are opportunities to learn and grow.

The Benefits of Developing Decision-Making Skills for Children

  • Exposes them to consequences. Children need to understand that choices have consequences. They first learn this when they cry for food, but to grow into empathetic, responsible adults, they need to learn how their actions affect themselves and others — and why. The outcome of a decision may not be the one they hoped for, or what they wanted may not actually be what’s best. Help your child connect consequences to wellbeing, and use mistakes as learning opportunities.
  • Teaches them to think ahead. Once kids understand consequences, they can begin to see how choices impact a larger picture — their future. They can also learn how decisions for instant gratification may not be considerate of what’s really important in the long-run. Having a goal is motivating and gives purpose to smaller decisions. Keeping patient while waiting for an achievement can be challenging for kids, so make sure to help your child set a reasonable goal they can be proud of.
  • Have a life-long impact on communities as a whole. When people practice long-term planning for their lives, they give themselves more options and opportunities to plan for positive outcomes. As your child learns how their actions affect their future, you can teach them how decisions reach farther — to other people and their communities. Communities are built by the people who belong to them. As your child grows into someone who is self-aware and empathetic, they’re more likely to make positive contributions to those around them. 
  • Empowers them and builds confidence. When decisions have results that can actually be seen and felt, kids learn the real impact their independent thoughts have on their lives. The understanding that their thoughts matter is empowering. It’s motivation to keep practicing healthy decision-making. Positive outcomes build confidence, and this is important as children figure out limits and boundaries within their personal control. With good decision-making skills, kids have the agency to make decisions they can learn and grow from.

Teaching Children the Consequences of Their Actions

Teaching children the consequences of their actions is an important aspect of their moral development. Children need to understand that their actions have consequences that can be positive or negative, and that they are responsible for the outcomes of their choices.

Parents and caregivers can teach children the consequences of their actions by discussing different scenarios and encouraging them to think about the potential outcomes. For example, parents can talk to children about the consequences of hitting a friend, such as hurting their friend’s feelings or causing physical harm.

It’s important to ensure that consequences are age-appropriate and that children understand the cause-and-effect relationship between their actions and the outcomes. This can help children develop empathy and a sense of responsibility for their actions.

By teaching children the consequences of their actions, parents and caregivers can help them make informed decisions and develop a strong sense of morality.

The Role of Long-Term Planning in Decision-Making

Children who learn to consider the long-term effects of their decisions may be more likely to make responsible choices and develop better decision-making skills. 

Parents and caregivers can encourage long-term planning by helping children set goals, discussing the steps needed to achieve them, and encouraging them to think about how their choices will affect their future. By incorporating long-term planning into decision-making, children can develop a sense of purpose and direction, and make decisions that align with their values and goals.

Helping children develop decision-making skills at a young age takes time and patience, but with your guidance, children can begin healthy practices to last a lifetime.

Parentally Speaking: Interested in learning more about this topic? Check out our other blogs to learn more about parenting today.


  1. 1
    Nyesigyire Loice on October 26, 2023

    This is so helpful, I have enjoyed the page
    Thanks 🙏🙏🙏 for the services.

  2. 2
    Dr Valeria Lo Iacono on March 24, 2024

    Great article. The advice and the idea to teach problem-solving skills I think is a great point.

    Understanding how to problem solve can greatly aid children in their growth and success and it’s so important also in how they’ll develop emotionally, as you have said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *