Everyone, no matter what age, has to make decisions. Working with your young children now to develop these skills can help them better face challenges in the future when you won’t be there in the moment when they need to make hard decisions.
During these early elementary years, when children are in a formal school setting, they’re interacting with more peers and adults. This increased exposure to others begins to broaden their understanding of the world. Children at this age are developing the ability to identify their feelings and what causes them. They are also learning how to manage their emotions and behave appropriately. 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).
Your child likely doesn’t have their own decision-making skills down solid at this point, but your child should be able to identify simple rules of behavior like needing to buckle their seatbelt in the car, or how to sit with the family at dinner time without too much fuss.
She should also be able to recognize when poor decisions, like saying hurtful comments to someone or telling a lie, can hurt other people.
One of the most basic rules parents often teach children at this young age is to not get in a car or go anywhere with strangers. Your child should know that rule and make good decisions based on it. Your child should also be able to share and take turns, regardless of whether your child wants to.
Responsible decision-making includes choices about personal behavior, but also about what society finds acceptable. In short, learning to make choices that are both good for yourself and others. That can be a tall task for an elementary school child. For kindergartners, making the transition from having a parent make all decisions to being in school and making decisions on her own can be challenging. Fortunately, many choices at this age are smaller choices and helping your child develop a sense of how to make good decisions can prepare her for more difficult decisions later on. Making decisions can help young children develop a sense of responsibility.
Keep in mind every child develops at his or her own pace. If you have concerns about your child’s development, please contact your healthcare provider or your child’s teacher or school counselor.
Learn more about how to support your child with our kindergarten decision-making tips page.
Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Anne Morrison, Pre-Kindergarten Teacher, Lycée Français de New York; Maurice Elias, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab; and Jennifer Miller, Author, Confident Parents, Confident Kids.