Making Good Choices Takes Practice

Yellow arrows on concrete. One points left, the other points straight ahead

Does your child need to practice making choices? Here is how other parents have helped their kids train to make better decisions:

Reinforcing Wise Choices

We wanted to help our children recognize and resist temptation, so we developed a little exercise to train them. As we dropped off our 8- and 10-year-old children at school, I might say, "Let me know how you say no to cheating, selfishness, lying, unkindness or laziness today."

They usually climbed into the car at the end of the school day eager to relate what they'd done. These conversations became opportunities to positively reinforce their wise choices.

—Linda VanderWier

Rehearsing Right Choices

I tell my kids a story that places them in a tough moral situation and then offer several options for resolving it.

Advance preparation is the best way to help tweens make good decisions, so I invented a game called “Scenarios.”

We discuss the different alternatives and potential outcomes. The game format gives them freedom to experience their choices and consequences in a safe environment and predetermine real-life decisions without peer pressure or temptation.

One scenario addressed the issue of a new student with special needs. The other kids teased her and anyone who befriended her. When offered their choices, both of my girls decided to stand up to the teasers, be kind to the girl and even invite her to church.

Just a few months later, a hearing-impaired girl joined my daughter’s class. Immediately remembering our game, Emily saw it as an opportunity to apply what she had learned in a scenario, rather than face it as a dilemma in which she had to choose between right and wrong behavior.

The preparation we had done made all the difference.

—Nicole O'Dell

Reflecting God Through Choices

My 12-year-old daughter, Amy, knew she shouldn't have said hurtful things in her email to Katelyn—but she was angry. Later, when I confronted my daughter, she lied. Amy was surprised and mortified to learn I knew the truth.

Although my daughter lost her computer privileges for a month, it was the conversation she had with me that proved to be the greatest lesson. I asked Amy if her friend Katelyn was a Christian. When Amy admitted she didn't think she was, I asked her what she thought Katelyn would say about Christians since Amy claimed to be one. "Would she want to become a Christian like you," I said, "or would she want nothing to do with church and God?"

For the first time, Amy realized how her choices could influence others. She didn't want someone to stay away from God because of how she behaved. The next day, Amy apologized to Katelyn and to me. Katelyn and Amy's relationship has since been restored, and Katelyn is now attending church with Amy.

—Erin Austin

“Making Good Choices Takes Practice” is a compilation for “Reinforcing Wise Choices” first appeared in the October/November 2017 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. “Reflecting God Through Choices” first appeared in the March/April 2012 issue of Thriving Family magazine. “Rehearsing Right Choices” first appeared in the March/April 2010 issue of Thriving Family magazine. If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. Get it delivered to your home by subscribing for a gift of any amount.
“Making Good Choices Takes Practice” the compilation is copyrighted ©2017 by Focus on the Family. “Reinforcing Wise Choices” is copyrighted ©2017 by Linda VanderWier. “Reflecting God Through Choices” is copyrighted ©2012 by Erin Austin. “Rehearsing Right Choices” is copyrighted ©2010 by Nicole O'Dell. Used by permission.

Next in this Series: What Should Kids Choose: Discovering God's Will in Big Decisions

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