As a social group teenagers are not noted for their good decision making skills. Psychologists tell us that there is a disconnect in the brain at this age that means that the thinking is all short term and that cause and effect don’t get considered. Apparently it is all the fault of the frontal lobe!
As a parent this can get real frustrating real fast. Especially when the same child stood before us not a year ago making wise choices! It is a constant source of friction in many households.
So how do we as parents help our teenagers to make the smart decisions when it comes to schoolwork?
Yes, fundamentally they do understand that good grades mean a better future for them, but they don’t seem to relate that to the day to day choices that they make.
Some reasons why decision making can be hard for teenagers include:
- may see only either-or choices rather than a variety of options
- may lack the experience, knowledge or feeling of control over their lives to come up with alternative choices
- may misperceive certain behaviors as less risky, and may be overly optimistic about their ability to recognize and avoid threatening situations (they think they are invincible)
- may favor their own experience over probabilistic evidence when determining the likelihood of the consequences of their actions (Nothing bad has happened to them before)
- may focus more on the social reactions of their peers when deciding to engage in or avoid risky behaviors (Peer pressure is even more important to them now)
- may not be able to accurately estimate the probability of negative consequences
- may have a hard time interpreting the meaning or credibility of information when making decisions (tend to believe what they want to and look for facts to support it)
- may be influenced by their emotions and fail to use decision-making processes
And yes, adults can fall into all these traps as well!!
So what does good decision making look like?
The basic process of making a decision involves:
- Listing the relevant choices
- Identifying the potential consequence of each choice
- Assessing the likelihood of each consequence actually occurring
- Deciding the importance of these consequences
- Combining this information to decide which choice is most appealing
How can we help our teenagers make good decisions?
There is no one right answer to this I’m afraid. But there are a number of things as parents we can make sure that we help them with.
- helping them understand how their emotions may influence their thinking and behavior
- encouraging them to search for new information when making decisions
- helping them to avoid overestimating their knowledge and capabilities
- helping them understand how their choices affect others
- assisting them to recognize their own biases
- providing them with opportunities to practice and rehearse decision-making skills
- make sure they understand and use a general framework to help learn how to think critically about decision problems (e.g., “GOFER”-goals, options, facts, effects, and review; “going through the GOOP”-goals, options, outcomes, and probabilities)
Good decision making is critical as each teenager develops more and more autonomy. As they progress from High School to College they no longer have the parental influence on hand as a check and balance so need to have the skills themselves to handle the adult decisions and situations they will be faced with.
By hitting some of the points above we can help our kids to improve their skills over time so that when the critical decisions have to be made, they are ready!
If your child is struggling to control their time and get the results you know they are capable of then it is time to take action. The Focused Time Management System TM for Students avoids all the clutter and gives you the most important things to focus on to get you back in control of your time and your life. It’s all step by step, not a big mish mash of things. So you do step one of the system, and when you’re done with that, you move on to step two, and so on. So easy! All the tips, tools, and worksheets are handed to you on a silver platter. E mail me at Julie@thegradecoach.com to arrange a time to chat over your issues and see if I can help