Covering parenting and child development issues
"Minds are like parachutes -- they only function when open." (Thomas Edison)
Yesterday, I took my parents to look at a senior facility. They are still vital and active, and in no immediate need of relocation, but we're doing some research so that if and when that need arises, they can move to a place they want to be in, not just whatever place is available. They may very well stay where they are forever, but we're exploring the options.
All I wanted was for them to keep an open mind -- to check the place out and consider the possibilities. I'm happy to say they did me one better, and were fully engaged in the visit, asking lots of questions, and taking it all in. What they decide to do is up to them -- and I'll feel good about their decision, whatever it is, because I know their decision will be one that is well-informed. They raised issues and asked questions that hadn't even crossed my radar, so I believe that the information we have is as complete as it possibly can be.
How often do our kids want us to do the same thing -- keep an open mind about something we're not totally in favor of or completely ready for? Less adept at the negotiation process than we are, they often overplay their hand at the outset. My daughter used to open with, "I know you'll probably say no, but..." and it was always fun to surprise her with a yes when she least expected it. Sometimes the answer was no, but somehow, the no was just the teensiest bit more palatable because she knew she'd been heard.
So many decisions we make as parents need to be made in a hurry. When we don't have the luxury of time, it's easy to question whether or not we've really made a well-informed choice, taking all of the relevant information into account. And even on the occasions where we feel that we have thought things through an unexpected issue can pop up, blowing all of our deliberation out of the water.
Part of teaching our kids about decision-making means showing them both sides of the process under a variety of circumstances. Making them responsible for finding out all of the necessary information about an outing before we proffer a yes. Having a balanced, two-way conversation about the pros and cons of something that is important to them. Explaining our rationale even when they don't want to hear it because it takes too long and/or the answer is not the one they wanted. Helping them to slow down a split second decision by asking relevant questions, no matter how much it annoys them. Knowing when it's time to stop gathering information and cut to the chase.
Like so many other things in life, decision-making is best learned by practice. Though counselors and health teachers offer our kids instruction on decision-making processes, there's nothing like living with the impact of a real-life decision to drive home what all those classroom lessons were about. By offering our kids small choices when they're small, we increase the odds that they'll be ready for bigger choices when they're bigger. By showing them how it's done in real life situations, we model for them a process that seems useless to them in the abstract, but takes on new meaning when it's applied to their lives. By showing them how to listen with an open mind, we make it more likely that they'll know how to do this in their own lives when we're no longer around to hand them a parachute before they jump.
I have no doubt my parents will make a good decision. For years, I've been watching them demonstrate how it's done.