2nd Grade Responsible Decision-Making

Everyone, no matter what age, has to make decisions. Older children may be used to making some decisions without your input. Decisions can be small, like what to wear in the morning, or big, like whether or not to cheat on a test. Responsible decision-making includes choices about personal behavior, but also about what society finds acceptable. Responsible decision-making includes choices about personal behavior, but also about what society finds acceptable. In short, learning to make choices that are both good for yourself and others. That can be a tall task for an elementary school child. Fortunately, many choices at this age are smaller choices, and helping your child develop a sense of how to make good decisions can prepare her for more difficult decisions later on. Making decisions can help young children develop a sense of responsibility. Working with your young child now to develop these skills can help her better face challenges in the future, when you won’t be there in the moment when she needs to make hard decisions. 

What Does Responsible Decision-Making Look Like at This Age?
Your child likely doesn’t have her own decision-making skills down solid at this point, but she should be able to identify simple rules of behavior like needing to buckle her seatbelt in the car, or how to sit with the family at dinner time without too much fuss.
She should also be able to recognize when poor decisions, like saying hurtful comments to someone or telling a lie, can hurt other people. 
One of the most basic rules parents often teach children at this young age is to not get in a car or go anywhere with strangers. Your child should know that rule and make good decisions based on it. She should also be able to share and take turns, regardless of whether she wants to.

Tips to Support Responsible Decision-Making

  1. Show Your Child That You'll Always Love and Support Her

    Adults and children make bad choices at times, and supporting your child through hard decisions and poor choices shows you love her unconditionally. Of course you want to point out that some choices are not acceptable, but if she makes the same mistake again, make sure to reinforce you still love her. You can also help her make up for those mistakes. Did she hurt a friend? Have her write an apology note and ask for forgiveness.

  2. Give Your Child Room to Make Decisions on Her Own

    Some decisions like which book to read at bedtime or whether she wants carrots or sweet potatoes with dinner are not big choices for you, but allowing her the choice will make her feel more involved and give her more autonomy. Also give her room to make decisions even if she doesn’t make a choice you agree with, as long as the consequences don’t affect her health or safety. For example, if your child wants to take her allowance to school, let her make that choice. If she ends up losing a few dollars or coins at recess, she will likely feel bad about it and learn that it wasn’t a good idea. Letting children learn from their own mistakes is a great teaching opportunity that they will likely remember longer than if you had simply said “no” from the beginning.

  3. Talk to Your Child About Consequences

    This can help give her tools she can use to make her own decisions in the future. Ask her questions like, “What do you think will happen if we don’t wear our coats outside today?” or, “If you don’t go to sleep on time, what do you think you’ll be like at school tomorrow?” or, “How do you think your sister will feel if you play with her favorite toy without asking?” Taking another person’s perspective enhances the quality of your child’s decision-making because in order for your child to make the best decision she must be able to understand how it will affect others. Learning that there are consequences for actions that affect your child and others is a good way to promote empathy and responsible decision-making.

  4. Use Bedtime Stories to Talk About Responsible Decisions

    Books that center on characters that have to make decisions, like the Berenstain Bears series, are a great option. Pause when the characters get to the problem. Ask your child what she thinks the bears should do, and what she thinks will happen. Talk about the problem as you’re reading, using terms like, “How would you solve this problem?” or, “What is the problem again?” and “What should Sister Bear do now?” This is a great opportunity to ask your child about problems she has faced recently and how she was able to solve them. For more age-appropriate book examples, see our reading list.

  5. Explain to Your Child That Different Rules Apply in Different Settings

    For example, inside or quiet voices need to be used in places like libraries and movie theaters, but cheering or loud yelling can be appropriate when watching sports or playing them. This allows your child to understand the differences in situations that can impact her decision-making.

  6. Talk About a Decision You Are Currently Making

    For example, you could focus on things like what you’re planning to buy at the grocery store. Talk through your plans for making dinners, what ingredients you think you’ll need and why you’ll choose what you will. Why are you going to make tacos instead of pasta? What are the health implications of the items you’re buying and why do you choose them? Are you trying to make sure everyone in the family has something they like to eat this week? Maybe you’ve decided to make pancakes for dinner one night for a change of pace, or you’re planning to put broccoli in the mac and cheese to get a vegetable into the mix. This gives an opportunity for your child to see the decision-making process in action and understand that even simple decisions like what brand of tomato sauce to buy have reasoning behind them. Alternatively, you may make a choice that doesn’t have reasoning behind it, like choosing a sweet potato over a plain potato. Letting your child see that some decisions can’t be explained will be a comfort at this young age, when your child is likely unable to give a reason behind most of her decisions.

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