Decision Making 101
When you are a little kid, most of your decisions about life are made by other people, mainly adults. The adults in your life decide when and what you are going to eat, when you are going to sleep and what you are going to do, see and learn; they do a lot of your thinking for you. As you get older, you get to make more and more decisions about what you do, what you like and how you understand your options and the things you experience. This process helps you learn more about how to think on your own and make decisions. You become even more advanced at making thoughtful decisions and thinking about thinking when you are able to link decision making to specific goals and long term plans. If you want a new pair of shoes, then you know you need to save your allowance for the next few weeks by limiting how much money you spend with friends. A young child has a harder time linking goals with decision making. The video below is a classic experiment that depicts how children handle these types of delayed and goal-oriented decisions.
As you can see, the children in the experiment struggled with the decision to wait and delay taking something they wanted right away, even though waiting meant receiving a bigger reward. Young children are not yet skilled at thinking about their behavior, problem solving or understanding the consequences of their decisions. For example, a young child who decides not to do their homework has trouble thinking about the impact of that decision. If a teen is deciding between doing homework and going online, they have the capacity to understand what the impact is if they choose one option over another and how it might affect them outside of that specific moment. The teen can understand the potential consequences and results of the decision.
Understanding how and why we make decisions is an important part of maturing. Being able to think about our thought process helps us make more informed decisions and makes it easier for us to develop and work towards personal goals. It’s not all personal though, our decisions can have an effect on the people around us too. Read more about how our decisions have an impact on the way we navigate relationships here.