3rd Grade Responsible Decision-Making

Children are not born with the ability to make responsible decisions. It is a skill that is learned over time and involves making mistakes and learning from them. As your child becomes more independent, he’ll be faced with making more decisions on his own. Director of the Rutgers Social and Emotional Laboratory Maurice Elias says that it is important to build this skill before the teenage years, when problems and decisions can have more serious consequences. Responsible decision-making encompasses all of the other social and emotional skills touched on throughout the Parent Toolkit. The ability to make responsible decisions combines your child’s ability to identify and manage his emotions with his social awareness and relationship skills. You can support your child’s growing ability to make responsible decisions so that he is better-equipped to make decisions on his own. Decisions like whom your child sits with at lunch or which shirt he puts on each day may seem small to you, but in the later elementary years decisions can become more serious. For example, in the late elementary years, some children get their first smartphones or unsupervised internet time. Choices your child makes about how to present himself online can have long-term consequences that he may not understand yet. With your guidance, he can be better-prepared for the future. 

What Does Responsible Decision-Making Look Like at This Age?
Your child should be able to understand and explain why it is important to obey rules and laws, whether it’s traffic laws, rules at home, or rules in the classroom. 
Your child should be able to understand the importance of being dependable and what it means to be responsible with regard to family and friends. For example, he should know that lying to a family member or friend can hurt their feelings and even put himself in danger, depending on the lie. 
Your child should be able to set some goals and priorities and create a plan related to them. These priorities can be related to schoolwork, like getting a good grade or completing a reading assignment, or relationships, like helping a friend or family member. He should also be able to think of different solutions for problems and think of the consequences of his choices.

Tips to Support Responsible Decision-Making

  1. Show Your Child That You Love and Support Him

    Children will make mistakes as they test boundaries and explore their growing independence. By showing your child you support him even when he makes mistakes, you’re showing him that you’re reliable and a constant comfort, which will help him not to  be afraid to try something new and make mistakes again in the future.

  2. Teach Your Child to Save Money

    If your child wants a new toy or video game, make him save up money for the toy himself. By late elementary school he is capable of doing small tasks for an allowance. He may also get money from relatives and friends for birthdays or other holidays. Teaching him to save that money for something he really wants will help him learn to make decisions to reach those goals. This also teaches him responsibility and some financial literacy as well.

  3. Help Your Child With Decision-Making Strategies

    Parent-child interactions are the foundation of your child’s social development, and when you are responsive to your child’s needs and provide her with the freedom to make decisions on her own, she is more likely to be successful in social situations. Share with your child an important choice you made in the past, and together, break down the steps that you took to reach that decision. You may even want to write it out so you can both look at it, including a list of the pros and cons of that decision. Advise your child that next time she has a tough decision to make, she can try to brainstorm a lot of options and then use a pros and cons list to help her reach a conclusion. These kinds of conversations will help you gain a better understanding of your child’s thought process, and it will allow her to see the logic and steps involved in making well-informed and thoughtful decisions.

  4. Point Out When Your Child Makes Good Decisions

    Often, children don’t realize they are making decisions at all. For example, if your child decides to read a book instead of fighting with her sibling over the remote control, tell her that you noticed she not only made a choice to avoid conflict with her sibling, but also one that will help her academically. Praising good choices can encourage your child to continue making those decisions in the future. Additionally, make sure to take time to discuss your child’s day. Look for ways to highlight positive decisions she made and talk about why she made the choices she did.

  5. Talk Through Problems, Logical Consequences, and Resolutions

    Point out that there are often several ways to solve a problem. For example, if your child is having a hard time with a classmate during recess, you can talk with her about ways she can approach the classmate and what the potential outcomes of the conversation could be. Additionally, if your child is falling behind on her homework, you can talk through ways to remedy this. For instance, she could set aside time after dinner to continue working, she could skip an extracurricular activity until she is caught up, or she could decide not to do anything at all. You can help her talk through the different consequences of missing a favorite TV show, missing her friends or falling further behind and running the risk of failing a class. It becomes apparent rather quickly that the best option would be to set aside more time at night, and you can help guide her to the decision that will benefit her the most.

  6. Teach Your Child Environmental Responsibility

    Taking a responsible role in society and learning how his actions affect others is a good way for your child to practice his decision-making skills. For example, try recycling or conserving energy. Talk with your child about how bettering the environment helps others. Then work together to come up with a plan for how you can help conserve energy or encourage recycling in your home. It shows your child how small everyday decisions and actions can make an impact in the larger world.  

  7. Take Part in a Service Project Together

    Ask your child to plan a service project in which your family can help out in the local community. It can be volunteering at the local food bank, gathering items for a clothing drive, or spending time reading to the elderly at a local nursing home. By finding ways to translate the lesson of responsibility into action, you are helping to raise a more accountable and trustworthy child.

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As your child becomes more independent, he’ll be faced with making more decisions on his own. Understanding responsibility is key to making good decisions. These featured topics on responsibility and screen time will help you help your child learn to make choices that are good for him and others.

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