I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Decisions. Sometimes they really do make all the difference. Other times, either path would work. And other times, you should just turn around because neither path is good. But how do you know? How do you decide?
As a parent, you face dozens of decisions about how I should raise each child. And no child will achieve successful adulthood without learning to make wise decisions. Because of this, I want to learn how to make better decisions. No, I need to make better decisions. Is such a thing possible, or are some people just born as better decision makers and others worse and there is nothing you can do to change it?
I was perusing the library shelves one day and was struck by a bright green book with bold letters: DECISIVE. It may not always be wise to judge a book by its cover, but I usually do. And since I am sometimes indecisive, I thought that maybe a book called DECISIVE would be just what I needed. I was surprised to find that it was written by the same brothers who wrote Switch, one of my favorite books. Obviously, I had made a good decision! (Maybe judging a book by its cover is not always such a bad idea.)
I found out that Decisive is a 300 page book about how to make better decisions. In order to bring it into the field of parenting, I have included their formula for decision making below. They call it the W.R.A.P. process.
Widen your options.
We often look at a decision as either option 1 or option 2. As simple as that. However, we have often narrowed our focus too tightly and are missing a lot of other good options. To avoid this problem, work hard to think of other ways to solve the problem. Of course, the most important way you can do that is by asking God. “God, this is what I’m thinking. Is that a good decision? What other options am I missing?”
Reality test your assumptions
Ahh, the assumption. A decision can be awesome or awful depending on what assumptions are at its foundation. If your child is trying to make a decision, help them shine a light on the assumptions they are making. In the first section you determined how to identify options, and in this section you learn to assess those options. All humans suffer from confirmation bias…we look for evidence that backs up what we already believe. Help your kids overcome this natural tendency. Again, train your kids to ask God about this part. “What could I do to find out if my assumptions are wrong? What could I try? Who could I ask? What parts of my thinking are flawed?”
Attain distance before deciding
Short term emotions cloud your ability to see things clearly. Esau traded his birthright for lunch, and he probably thought it was a good decision at the time. Emotion is actually an important part of decision-making…it is the short-sighted emotions that you need to overcome. Help your kids go through pro and con lists, and then help them to get more details about the decisions they need to make. Maybe help them do small experiments to see if a decision will work out well or poorly. Help them to realize what they are passionate about and what they really want in the long term. This is another time where delayed gratification and grit are important lessons to teach your kids. Fear, greed, and envy are strong emotions that can get your child in trouble. Have them invite the Holy Spirit to remove those harmful short term emotions so that they can make a decision that is in line with their core priorities as a Child of God.
Prepare to be wrong
We are all overconfident in our own abilities. We assume that our decisions are going to be right because, well, because we decided them! But sometimes it is helpful to have some plans in place in case we are wrong. Just in the small chance that we made the wrong decision we could catch it before it gets too serious. This could be as simple as saying “we will do this and then reevaluate in a couple weeks to see if things have improved.” This is an act of humility. Most decisions can be adjusted, if not totally reversed, after the fact. If we are humble enough to believe that we may have missed it then we will be able to get back onto the right track before long. Not that you second-guess every decision you make…just be open to the Spirit’s leading so that you don’t miss obvious signs that you have gone the wrong way.
This was just a brief overview of a very good book, but I wanted to get you thinking. Thinking about the way that you make decisions, and the way that you teach your kids to make decisions. A certain amount of decision-making is simply a moral issue – do they know what is right and what is wrong? But many decisions are much more complicated than that! They need to be ready.
You will not always be walking alongside them on life’s path, but if they know how to make wise decisions, it will truly make all the difference.
- What decisions are you facing? How can you use the WRAP model to improve your decisions?
- What decisions are your kids facing? What decisions will they face in the next year? How can you systematically teach them better strategies to make wiser decisions?
- This process is nice, but do your kids have the basics? “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” so they need to know the Bible and respect God. Then they need to listen to Him so that He can guide them. Then they can practice these tips and tricks for making even better decisions!
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