Use Choices to Build Responsibility

Offering children choices promotes the most important skill for success in life: the skill of making responsible decisions. Responsible behavior is directly related to the number of responsible choices a person makes. Positive discipline approaches—of which offering choices ranks high on the list—motivate children to want to act responsibly because it feels good and because children realize it is in their best interests to do so. In contrast, if we deprive people of choices, we deprive them of positive motivation. By giving children opportunities to make decisions starting early in life, we prepare them for greater success as adults living in the 21st century.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, manufacturing led and fed the economy. There were few originators; most people were followers. Obedience, implementation of rules, and top-down management were the order of the day, in part because information was limited to those who were in control. Times have changed. With technology and especially the Internet, information is no longer limited. Few people will stay with only one company all their working years. More people will work as independent contractors or become entrepreneurs. An issue of Time magazine’s cover stated, “The Future of Work: Throw away the briefcase; you’re not going to the office. You can kiss your benefits goodbye, too. And your new boss won’t look much like your old one. There’s no longer a ladder, and you may never get to retire.” Fending for retirement is increasingly becoming an individual responsibility and requires making decisions, rather than relying solely on one’s employer.

What drives the 21st century is the creation and distribution of information. Instead of compliance, initiative is required. Today we all need to develop decision-making skills; we can no longer merely follow someone else’s plans. And this skill doesn’t just happen; it must be developed. Offering children choices helps develop this necessary skill for responsible living.