Your child must weigh the impact of her choice on both herself and others. It is through making choices that she learns about hurting and helping others, and gains important relationship and problem-solving skills.
Responsible decision-making is the ability to make sound judgments about your behavior and how it affects others. Responsible decision-making includes all the social and emotional knowledge your child has built so far.
Will she share a new toy with a friend? Or will she keep it all to herself? Preschool often marks a time when children are transitioning to a formal school setting, and in doing so, they are starting to make decisions based on their own interests. When your child is this age, it is up to you to manage the choices she makes while also giving her freedom to make her own choices. For example, “Do you want cereal or eggs for breakfast” is a better way to give small children a choice than an open-ended, “What do you want for breakfast?”
What Does Responsible Decision-Making Look Like at This Age?
At this age, your child should be able to make decisions based on your rules and values, like sharing with others and taking turns.
She is also learning how to recognize decisions that hurt others, like yelling at siblings and friends.
She should be able to make decisions based on the options you give her. For example, “Do you want to wear pants or a skirt today?”
Tips to Support Responsible Decision-Making
1. Allow Your Child to Make Some Choices on Her Own
As a parent, it may be tempting to step in and make all of the decisions for your child, but this doesn’t allow her to grow her decision-making skills. Instead, at this young age, allow her to make simple choices where you set the boundaries. For example, asking, “Do you want carrots or broccoli with dinner tonight?” instead of, “What vegetable do you want?” makes the decision easier on both of you. You’re allowing a choice, but both choices are good.
2. Teach Your Child Where to Seek Help
Knowing whom to go to for help can also be a part of responsible decision-making. Even at this age, you can teach your child about the adults in her life to whom she can turn. When you’re out with your child, take a little time to point out the “helper adults” in the area. For example, a security officer at the mall or a police station near your local park. Tell your child that if you ever get separated in these areas she can go here for help.