Our 20-year old daughter Ruthiey came home with a big decision to make. She had asked for time off of work for an extended hike on the North Shore in Minnesota. But she had already taken a month off, and her managers said that if she took off additional time, she would need to put in her resignation.
She has worked there for a couple of years and feels ready to move on. But she does not have alternatives in place. We talked about her need for routine and what other options were available, but I was pleased to hear my husband say, “We are not going to make this decision for you.”
We want our kids to make good decisions, so we’re tempted to make them for them. But is that helpful in the long run? James Van Fleet, in The 22 Biggest Mistakes Managers Make, says “…you will never be able to develop a complete sense of responsibility in a person until you force him to make his own decisions.” (Of course we are not talking about very young children. They should learn to obey specific rules.)
Leaders take responsibility. Leaders must be decisive. How will we raise children who are decisive?
Some decisions are moral decisions. For these we must teach our children the Word of God so they can discern between right and wrong. But that is not the subject of this post.
To give our older children opportunity to make decisions while they are still under our guidance and protection, we can use what Van Fleet calls mission-type orders – where you tell a person what you want done but not how to do it! By doing this, you
…open the door wide for your …[child] to use his initiative, his imagination, and his ingenuity to solve the problem you’ve given him.
I dislike being micro-managed and enjoy a project much more if I have room to make decisions. Our children are no different. Let them decide what size bowl to use for the cookies or how to organize the garage.
And what about those times in life when one feels stuck, and a major life decision needs to be made between a number of legitimate options? Dr. James Greer gave us some decision-making tools that we are passing on to our children.
- Definitions: write out your problem concisely — one sentence if you can.
- Blue sky. List all possible alternatives, even those that initially seem wild. If they are not sinful, they are options.
- Build alternatives, thinking through all of the implications and consequences. Gather lots of information and seek counsel. Remember that there are always trade-offs with any choice.
- Through all of this, articulate and write down your values and their order of priority: church, marriage, education of children, financial aspects, stewardship of gifts, extended family, stability, etc.
- Give all of this process time; allow for a time of incubation. Keep a notebook to record priorities, alternatives and information gathered. Do not let emotions drive you away from good process. Pray through each step.
Ruthiey decided to forego the hike and keep her job. Now she has time and a place to build alternatives.
O LORD, bless us to raise decisive children for your glory.