Parents: How Can You Help Teens Make Smart Choices?

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Spring Break is just around the corner and summer isn’t far behind – both times when parental supervision levels may change as kids are away from home more. But even beyond these big events, kids need to be making good decisions about their lives and the things that might impact them every day. So, how can you help kids make smart choices?

Teaching kids decision-making skills helps them become more independent, responsible, and self-confident, so it’s an important skill to focus on since it also helps them develop into successful, happy adults. Making good choices requires an appreciation of two elements: how different choices can impact different results and how those outcomes are desirable – or not.[1]

Help kids to learn to think before they leap by asking questions like:

• “Why do I want to do this?”
• “What are my options in this situation?”
• “What are the consequences of my actions?”
• “How much trouble will I get in?”
• “Is this decision in my best interests? Or “How will this decision affect others?”

Then come up with lots of answers and options.[2] They may know that doing something is unwise, but children can make snap judgments and act on them without thinking. Peer pressure can get them into situations where they feel stuck having to make a certain choice – one that may not be their own. Take every opportunity to remind your kid that he doesn’t have to do everything that his peers do.

Age 14 seems to be a critical point in solidifying decision-making skills; that’s when most kids start to resist peer influence, rather than just following the leader, according to a study published in Developmental Psychology.[3] Decision-making and risk-taking behaviors also involve brain areas that develop and change during adolescence. As these different of parts of the brain mature, those changes may play a role in making choices made based on a preference towards immediate gratification.[4]

Learning good decision making is complex and takes years of experience (even adults do foolish things sometimes). Don’t be afraid to talk to teens about difficult subjects like substance use, relationships, sexuality, online footprints, bullying, body awareness, and safety. Watch for teachable moments and be open and available when they are ready to talk or ask questions.[5]

The key to helping teens make good decisions on their own is providing guidance but not overdoing it. Be willing to give input when necessary, but don’t be afraid to step back.[6] Because you can’t always be looking over their shoulder, you can use times when they do leap without thinking (and things don’t turn out so well) to ask them how they could have made a different choice in hindsight. Bad decision making is almost an essential part of growing up. While kids may make bad decisions and suffer for it, they can learn from the experience and make better decisions in the future.

Social and emotional learning have an impact on student success and academic achievement. That’s why Pride Surveys created our learning environment survey to measure students’ perceptions and behaviors that affect student engagement.

The benefit of choosing a survey company is that we take the guesswork out of the surveying process to ask the difficult questions. Browse the different types of scalable student surveys we offer and find out why Pride Surveys is the best choice to help you survey your school. Questions? Give us a call at 800-279-6361 or contact us here.



[1] “3 Ways to Improve Your Decision Making.” Retrieved 26 February, 2018 at

[2] “Steps to Good Decision Making Skills for Teens.” Retrieved 26 February, 2018 at

[3] “School Readiness and Later Achievement.” Retrieved 26 February, 2018 at

[4] “Risk-taking and decision-making in youth: relationships to addiction vulnerability” Retrieved 26 February, 2018 at

[5] “Life with Teens.” Retrieved 26 February, 2018 at

[6] “Steps to Good Decision Making Skills for Teens.” Retrieved 26 February, 2018 at

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