I talk a lot about teaching our teens to learn how to make good decisions for themselves. This basically starts with parents not making all decisions for their kids. Bring them into the decision making process. Teens that know how to make good decisions and consistently make good decisions have better self esteem. When teenagers make bad decisions, they get beat up from both sides. They get it from their parents about what a stupid mistake it was and they also get it from themselves. We don’t come out of the womb knowing how to make good decisions, we either learn through our mistakes or we learn from someone teaching us or a little of both.
Every situation in life is an opportunity to learn, before we take action or after. If we look at the situation before we take action, then maybe we will make a good decision. If we look at the situation after the action, we have an opportunity to learn what we did right or wrong and move on. Either way this simple exercise works the same. Lets say the situation is a friend at school and he is having a bunch of kids over after school because his parents aren’t home. You know the guy and there is probably going to be some alcohol and maybe pot. So, instead of just saying sure, say I’ll let you know after lunch and then this gives you time to really look at this situation and if it’s a good decision for you.
To become really clear on this being either a good or bad choice, we have to look at the pros and cons? Now parents, I know what you are saying “what could the pros possibly be?” And what I’m going to say to you is “maybe you don’t see the pros but there are pros in their eyes.” Get a piece of paper out and draw a line down the middle, and on the left top write pros and on the right top write cons. Then write all the pros to going over to your friends house and then write the cons. Now take a good look at the list.
Now, ask yourself if it’s worth the risk. Is it worth having fun with your friends, for your friends house to get ruined, loss of trust with parents, get grounded, etc. Probably not. This is a good way to look at things before you make a choice and see if it makes sense. It also works if you have already done something and you want to get clear about it. Sometimes we just make decisions without even thinking about the consequences.
Now parents, this is for you, when you are helping your teenager make a decision, help them write a list, don’t tell them what to do. If your teen came to you and said Mom can I go over to my friends house after school, there isn’t going to be parents there and there might be alcohol. You would say “no, you can’t go”. Then next time they wouldn’t ask you they would just go. So you can teach them this exercise so that they can make good decisions for themselves. The bottom line is if your teen is making her own decisions she will feel stronger about who she is. If you make all of her decisions she will feel powerless and for a good reason.
So, have fun with the list and let me know if it helps.