Westlake High School

Responsible Decision Making: A Skill that Stands the Test of Time

Responsible decision making is a necessary skill for all of us.  We want our graduates (Eanes Graduate Profile) to accept responsibility for personal choices, actions, and mistakes and to be resilient so that they can recover from disappointments and setbacks.

Educators and parents alike understand that fostering this skill is not always easy.  As adults we often want to fix or make our children’s decision for them, fearing the negative consequences for making a bad decision.   By doing this, however, we are depriving them of the valuable lesson of learning through mistakes.  Recovering from these mistakes is what develops resiliency and grit within our children and, in turn, encourages responsible decision making skills.

Responsible decision making is among the five core competencies of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and is the district focus during the fourth nine weeks of the school year.   What can we as parents do to give our children the tools to make the responsible choice when facing that fork in the road?  One way is to start at a young age by giving children choices within parameters. For example “Do you want broccoli or green beans with your dinner?”  Neither one is probably the first choice as a side dish for a child, but it ensures that either choice is a healthy responsible one, at the same time giving the child a sense of independence.  Once children get older, you can expand on the amount and the importance of choices you give them, while also reviewing the possible consequences, good and bad, that come with each choice.  

Guide them in accepting that they must live with the choices they make and the consequences that come with them.  Of course, inform them that you are the parent and can override specific decisions since you are always considering what’s best for them.  For example “You can participate in this extra-curricular activity if you choose, but if your grades suffer, then you won’t be able to.”  Overall, having some autonomy, either as a young or older child, and accepting the consequences that come with those choices will enable them to develop responsible decision making when you are not there to guide them. 

Below are some additional resources on helping children develop responsible decision making:

Responsible Decision-Making | Social-Emotional Learning

Best Guide for Teaching Kids the Decision Making Process Steps

Raising Good Decision Makers

The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed by Jessica Lahey