Responsible decision-making is the ability to make choices that are good for you, as well as for others. It means taking into account your ethical values as well as the wishes and perspectives of others when making decisions. This piece of social and emotional development takes all of the other social and emotional skills and brings them together. Being able to understand yourself, your actions, how your actions affect others, and what is socially acceptable all go into the responsible decision-making process. As your child enters adolescence, they will begin to make more choices on their own as your child tests boundaries and becomes more independent. Choices in middle school become more complex than they were in younger years. Your adolescent may have to decide whether or not to do their homework, join an extracurricular activity, or hang out with friends who are positive influences rather than those who aren’t. By continuing to be supportive, actively listening, and being there for them, you can help your middle-schooler navigate hard choices and prepare them for future success.
During the middle-school years, young people are in transition from childhood to adolescence, and this can have an effect on their behavior. This phase is marked by emotional and physical growth. The onset of puberty may also make some teens unpredictable or moody and can cause them to feel out of control of their changing bodies. You can help your teen navigate through these years by taking the time to listen to his concerns and providing guidance and encouragement.
Your adolescent should be able to understand the reasons behind many rules and laws, like a seatbelt or drunk driving laws.
They should also be able to identify different points of view when they're making decisions. For example, their friend might want to continue playing video games instead of doing homework, but your child knows you would expect them to do their homework.
Your sixth-grader should be able to take into account how their decisions affect others.
Your child should also begin to understand that while some activities and behaviors may be popular, that doesn’t make them right. For example, if a group of their friends is saying mean things about a classmate on social media, it may be funny to them but not to the classmate.
Keep in mind that every adolescent develops at a different rate, leading to different social and emotional behaviors. The concepts highlighted in this section are based on the five sets of competencies developed by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). If you have concerns about your adolescent’s development, please contact his teacher or school counselor or your healthcare provider.
Learn more about how to support your child with our sixth-grade decision-making tips 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, and Jennifer Miller, Author, Confident Parents, Confident Kids.