road sign with arrows pointing to dependency and autonomy

Parents want their children to have a degree of autonomy so that they flourish, are able to be independent and learn how to make their own decisions. We hope that they will have listened to our values and beliefs and taken them on board so that they make choices that we are comfortable with. But there is little that parents can do once their friends hold more influence and children start to waiver on sticking to what their parents want them to do. They will want to make their own decisions based on their own changing views and what their friends will think and parents won’t always like their choices.

Autonomy Develops Decision Making Skills

So what can parents do when they know their child is making a bad decision? It could be something fairly trivial like wearing clothes they don’t like, to something bigger like wanting more independence and pushing boundaries. No matter what the reason, parents have the following choices:

  • Do they support that decision and see how it plays out or do they put their foot down and say no? Do they suggest that they meet them halfway so that the thing they want to do is not as dangerous or inappropriate? If so, how do they phrase it, as they don’t want to tell them they have to do x?

Children want their parents to support their decisions so they feel they are doing the right thing and, as hard as it is, sometimes parents have to stand back and see the outcome of their ‘terrible’ decision’ (if it’s safe). It may not always be bad but if it is, don’t say, ‘I told you so’. They will already know that they made the wrong decision, even if they don’t admit it. They will learn the most valuable lessons from their mistakes but this will help them to grow as a person.

Sometimes children just want to hear that parents respect their decision despite them coming round to their way of thinking later. It’s all in the words parents use. Making decisions is an important life skill and will help children to grow into rounded adults who trust their own instincts when making choices.