Set aside the natural tendency to lecture or say “I told you so” when a child makes a choice and finds out afterwards it wasn’t such a great one. Thinking about how the choices they make turn out in the end is an important part of decision-making.
Evaluating the results means that after all is said and done, kids stop and think about their choice:
- Was it a good one?
- Am I happy with the results?
- Would I do the same thing again in a similar situation?
Their answers to the questions above will direct us toward our next move:
- Celebrate the wise choices they made OR
- Learn good things from the unwise ones
Celebrate wise choices
Making wise choices is hard work, and children deserve to celebrate when they make one. They can:
- Tell someone in the family or text their best friend.
- Put a sign on their dog and parade him around the neighborhood.
- Write about it in their diary or journal.
- Hug somebody.
It’s especially important to celebrate when they chose to do something risky or new and it turned out well. Even if it was a little thing like cleaning their room without being told or not getting mad when they lost a game… don’t forget to celebrate!
Learn good things from unwise choices
Sometimes children realize they made a mistake. Making mistakes does not feel very comfortable, so they want to blame someone, throw a tantrum, withdraw and feel too ashamed to talk to anyone, or try to hide it by lying about it.
It is OK to say they made an unwise choice!
We can offer them the opportunity to talk about their choice and guide them to identify a more helpful choice for future situations. We’re looking to strengthen responses like these in the child:
- I didn’t make a very good choice that time. I’ll choose something different next time.
- Everyone makes mistakes once in a while.
- When you’re growing up, it takes time to learn how to make good decisions.
- Sometimes the only way we really learn is by making a choice and then finding out it wasn’t such a great one after all.
- I can ask for help because talking about my mistakes is the best way to learn from them.
These are grace-giving responses, and grace is a spiritual quality.
One of the greatest gifts we can give children is permission to make mistakes with the full assurance that we will not “go away” physically or emotionally. Grace is God’s way of giving us room to grow. It is the assurance that no matter what happens, all our imperfections are accepted. Grace is the antidote to shame, enabling us to see mistakes as opportunities to grow rather than opportunities for self-criticism.
The choices we make from day to day set the direction our lives will take.
The C.H.O.O.S.E. tool takes time and practice to become a skill. The steps will feel awkward and uncomfortable at first. But as you work through each step with the child, identifying options and choosing from among them becomes an automatic response to the situations they face each day.
Relax with it and have a good time together as you learn to C.H.O.O.S.E.!
(The CHOOSE tool was developed by my friend Linda Sibley, who is happy to share it.)