3rd grade decision-making tips: Here's how to help your child

Here are tips on how to help your third-grader make responsible decisions.
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By Jamie Farnsworth Finn

Want to help your third-grader with their responsible decision-making skills? Here are some tips that experts suggest.

Show your child that you love and support her

Children will make mistakes as they test boundaries and explore their growing independence. By showing your child you support her even when your child makes mistakes, you’re showing her that you’re reliable and a constant comfort, which will help her not to be afraid to try something new and make mistakes again in the future.

Teach your child to save money

If your child wants a new toy or video game, make him save up money for the toy himself. By late elementary school they are capable of doing small tasks for an allowance. Your child may also get money from relatives and friends for birthdays or other holidays. Teaching him to save that money for something your child really wants will help him learn to make decisions to reach those goals. This also teaches him responsibility and some financial literacy as well.

Help your child with decision-making strategies

Parent-child interactions are the foundation of your child’s social development, and when you are responsive to your child’s needs and provide them with the freedom to make decisions on their own, they are more likely to be successful in social situations. Share with your child an important choice you made in the past, and together, break down the steps that you took to reach that decision. You may even want to write it out so you can both look at it, including a list of the pros and cons of that decision. Advise your child that next time they have a tough decision to make, your child can try to brainstorm a lot of options and then use a pros and cons list to help them reach a conclusion. These kinds of conversations will help you gain a better understanding of your child’s thought process, and it will allow them to see the logic and steps involved in making well-informed and thoughtful decisions.

Point out when your child makes good decisions

Often, children don’t realize they are making decisions at all. For example, if your child decides to read a book instead of fighting with their sibling over the remote control, tell them that you noticed your child not only made a choice to avoid conflict with their sibling, but also one that will help them academically. Praising good choices can encourage your child to continue making those decisions in the future. Additionally, make sure to take time to discuss your child’s day. Look for ways to highlight positive decisions your child made and talk about why your child made the choices your child did.

Talk through problems, logical consequences, and resolutions

Point out that there are often several ways to solve a problem. For example, if your child is having a hard time with a classmate during recess, you can talk with them about ways your child can approach the classmate and what the potential outcomes of the conversation could be. Additionally, if your child is falling behind on their homework, you can talk through ways to remedy this. For instance, your child could set aside time after dinner to continue working, your child could skip an extracurricular activity until they are caught up, or your child could decide not to do anything at all. You can help their talk through the different consequences of missing a favorite TV show, missing their friends or falling further behind, and running the risk of failing a class. It becomes apparent rather quickly that the best option would be to set aside more time at night, and you can help guide them to the decision that will benefit them the most.

Teach your child environmental responsibility

Taking a responsible role in society and learning how their actions affect others is a good way for your child to practice their decision-making skills. For example, try recycling or conserving energy. Talk with your child about how bettering the environment helps others. Then work together to come up with a plan for how you can help conserve energy or encourage recycling in your home. It shows your child how small everyday decisions and actions can make an impact in the larger world.

Take part in a service project together

Ask your child to plan a service project in which your family can help out in the local community. It can be volunteering at the local food bank, gathering items for a clothing drive, or spending time reading to the elderly at a local nursing home. By finding ways to translate the lesson of responsibility into action, you are helping to raise a more accountable and trustworthy child.

To learn more about decision-making for your child, check out our third-grade decision-making page.

Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Maurice Elias, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab; Jennifer Miller, Author, Confident Parents, Confident Kids; and Michele Borba, Author and Educational Psychologist.