For Parents – teaching kids how to make good decisions

The goal of humanistic parenting is to raise autonomous human beings capable of making good decisions, as in decisions that don’t get them killed or cause harm to themselves and others.

There are a lot of ways to die.  And it simply isn’t true that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Sometimes what doesn’t kill us leaves us permanently disabled.  Sure, we can persevere and still have an amazing life, but it will be different and more difficult.

I know of no parent who would wish extra difficulties on their kids. Life is hard enough without adding to the difficulties you already have, whatever they are.

As humanist parents, our job is to help our children grow into autonomous human beings who can basically function independently without doing too much harm to themselves or others. In order for our kids to learn that, they have to learn how to make decisions. How to weigh the pros and cons and how to make choices despite their instincts which may be compelling them to do really horrendously stupid things.

How can you help your child make better decisions, by teaching them, explicitly, how to make decisions. How to weigh the pros and cons of any given situation. Helping them understand the benefit of taking the time out of their hormone ridden lives to actually do some thinking.

Telling them the answer isn’t helping them learn how to think. I’m not saying don’t set boundaries. I’m saying explain why you set those boundaries and be open to negotiation about where exactly that boundary may be. Encourage your child to set their own boundaries and to make their own choices. Walk them through possible consequences, both good and bad so they get in the habit of this sort of structured thinking early on.

Is it easier to just insist they do things a certain way and demand compliance? Actually it isn’t. When you chose to demand they behave a certain way – they learn moral and intellectual dependence. That’s way more exhausting to deal with. I would much rather have a kid who can think through problems for themselves and who is morally independent because then, I don’t have to worry about them so much!

If you have a tween or teen, consider reading The Humanist Approach to Happiness together and discussing the situations you find in there and how they might think about similar situations in their lives.

If you have a teen or young adult, consider having them take the online course Planning for Personal Success, which will help them think through their choices more effectively.

Both of these parenting resources cover all the topics parents tend to worry about - sex, and drugs and relationships.

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