Teens are involved in making potentially life-changing decisions every day. Be it their career, risk behaviour, or school involvement, the choices teenagers make have the power to influence various aspects of their lives in the future.
Yet, most of them are not equipped with the skills that empower them to make healthy decisions when faced with difficult situations. As a result, they struggle when they have to decide: Should I get a job or pursue higher studies? Should I ask someone for a date? Should I go out with friends to a party where they are going to try questionable items?
According to a study published in NCBI, the steps involved in any decision include:
- Recognising that a decision must be made
- Understanding the goals that one hopes to attain
- Making a list of options
- Determining the consequences – both positive and negative – of each option
- Determining the desirability of each consequence
- Evaluating the likelihood of each consequence
- Integrating all the information
Every step of the process highlights an underlying life skill that one must possess to achieve the final goal of making the right decision. Thus, having good decision-making skills also shows that you possess a wide variety of skills such as intuition, critical thinking, problem-solving, emotional intelligence, leadership, reasoning, and creativity; making it one of the most sought after life skills by employers.
The Standford Children’s Health states that children in the age group 12 to 18 years consistently grow in their thinking capacity, moving from concrete thinking to formal logical operations. In late adolescence, children can use complex thinking to focus on less self-centred concepts and personal decision-making. In addition, they also begin to focus on career decisions and their emerging role in society.
Thus, teenagers, given the confidence and guidance to think rationally, can make the right decisions for themselves.
Parenting Teens: Helping Teens Develop Confidence
As parents of teenagers, we might often think, “Is my teen mature enough to handle important decisions in life?” It might be hard for you as a parent to let go, but it is important to understand that your child’s need for autonomy and responsibility increases later during late adolescence. To mature into responsible adults, they need to learn to make good decisions and benefit from their experiences. However, the shift of responsibility needs to be gradual and depends on the level of maturity of your child.
Individuals develop critical thinking skills by first being confident. The ability to make wise decisions rely on an individual’s confidence level. The same applies to teenagers – They must first be confident in themselves, their judgement, and intelligence, in order to independently and confidently make decisions. Here are a few ways to help your teen develop confidence:
Show love, respect and support
Teenagers need love, respect and support from their parents to become independent. Strong relationships with parents help them feel safe and secure and makes it easier for them to face challenges and overcome them. You can show your love by spending time with your children, listening to them when they need you and respecting their feelings. Taking interest in their friends and hobbies and giving them space is also a great way to connect with them and show your support.
Set clear limits and rules
Setting clear family limits and rules about socialising can help your child understand your family values and what you expect from them. Encourage them to have a healthy lifestyle and stay active by exercising. It is also good to praise them when they follow the rules. According to Dr Beth Stomshark “Positive parenting really means forming a positive relationship with your child that’s focused more on praise, support, and incentives and less on negative things like yelling, criticizing, or nagging.” It is often helpful to involve teenagers in the forming of the family rules and what the consequences might be if they do not live up to them.
Brainstorming solutions together
You can help your child develop decision-making skills by helping them through some basic steps when they have to make a decision. For example, if your teen needs to choose electives for a particular year, you can talk about the pros and cons of different options and help them make the right choice by understanding their interests. Children are most likely to stick to the decision when you involve them in it instead of taking the entire process into your hands.
As you help your teen become independent, it is important to remember that making mistakes and learning from them is a part of the journey. Your role is to give them the support required to develop decision-making skills without overwhelming them.
Empowering Carthusians with Decision-making Skills
We engage students in projects that encourage them to think and learn independently. How exactly have we managed to do that?
With meticulous planning and great attention to detail, Helping Teens Charterhouse Malaysia successfully gave form to a Future Ready learning programme:
Independent Learning Programme
The Independent Learning Programme (ILP) forms an integral part of our curriculum at Charterhouse Malaysia. Throughout the programme, our learners conduct an Independent Research Project aimed at solving a real-world problem in a community. By devising innovative solutions to social issues, they build confidence and leadership skills and a deeper sense of social responsibility.
We teach students to solve problems using design thinking, an innovative process widely used by scientists, inventors and innovators. It involves five phases – empathise, define, ideate, prototype and test. When students have mastered the skills central to this approach, they can apply them to solve any problem. Charterhouse Malaysia’s approach to design thinking is called “WEAVE”:
Wonder, students engage with a Helping Teens problem or unanswered question;
Explore, they use research skills to consider the barriers to solving the problem;
Apply, they prototype possible solutions;
Value, they refine their work based on feedback from their peers, teachers and the community; and
Exhibit, they launch their finished product.
We recognise that human intelligence is broad.
Individualised Learning and Career Guidance
Our unique education programme ensures that Carthusians have a confident take on the world’s
complexities and opportunities as they develop an ability to make the right decisions for themselves. Our school culture and curriculum are designed to develop core qualities in students. Hence, when they graduate, they will have both the academic results and the life skills to achieve their full potential. In short, they will be future-ready, willing to take up the challenges that lie ahead.