How Much Milk Should A 5 Year Old Boy Drink Decision Making: The First Step in the Process for Young Children

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Decision Making: The First Step in the Process for Young Children

We’ve all heard it…

“Do you want milk or juice?”

“Yes.”

“Do you want to wear your shiny shoes or your speedy running shoes?”

“Yes.”

Young children often simply answer, “Yes,” when asked to choose between two things.

It can be sweet. It can be endearing. It can be frustrating.

However, it illustrates one of the earliest aspects of decision-making.

At the most basic level, decision-making involves making choices. Later, decision-making skills grow to include predicting outcomes, considering consequences, and weighing risks and benefits. However, at its most basic level, decision making involves making a simple choice between two things, and that’s a skill we can help our children develop.

At first we have to limit the choices we offer the young child. Start by offering just two options.

When we offer a choice between two things and the child answers “Yes,” help the child to think about the process. First, explain that the word ‘or’ means that there are two options. Explain what the two options are. Then explain that they only have to choose one of those options.

For example, say, “It’s an ‘or’ question. There are two choices. You can have milk OR juice, not both. Here’s milk. Here’s juice. Which do you want?”

Before too long, this treatment can be reduced to a simple reminder phrase, “It’s an ‘or’ question,” often accompanied by a friendly laugh. This will encourage the child to remember to distinguish and choose only one of the two offers.

Remember, with young children we must initially limit the number of options we offer to just two, until the child is able to often respond appropriately without our prompting. After that, we can increase the number of choices to more than two.

It is important that we start working with our young children to develop good decision-making skills. When young children make decisions, the consequences are usually insignificant. It does not matter whether the child drinks milk or juice. It doesn’t matter if the child wears sparkly shoes or fast running shoes. These choices have no life-changing potential. They have no potential to cause harm.

So this is where we start, helping our children learn the decision making process… by identifying and answering ‘or’ questions.

“Do you want milk or juice?”

“Yes.”

Laugh… “It’s an ‘or’ question.”

This has been such a litany in my family’s household that last week, when I asked my 40-year-old son, “Would you like to come over for dinner, or do you have other plans,” he replied, “Yes.” Then he fixed his eyes on me and grinned.

I smiled and replied, “It’s an ‘or’ question.

“I was wondering if you would say that,” he replied, his smile widening. “Yes, I will come to dinner.”

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