Responsible Decision-making, answering, “yes” and adding, “what if…”

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There is a positive energy after returning from break! The New Year is a great time to focus on the Social Emotional Learning component: Responsible Decision Making. New Year intentions, or a one-word focus, is on decision many of us tackle. Goals and bucket lists are other activities we look at this time of year. With a clean slate of every new year and new day, discussing daily decisions seems very timely as well. too. I was once challenged by a college instructor to always answer yes to children’s requests (because who likes to hear no?!) Obviously, you can’t stop there! We need to add to the answer in order to teach responsible decision making. For instance, “Can I have a cookie?” Our answer can be, “Yes, as soon as you eat a healthy lunch!” If a child has assistance understanding consequences, they learn self-regulation and good decision making. Two words are needed to teach this skill. “What if…” As students become older, you can answer, “Yes. Let’s talk about the what if.” Returning to the cookie question, some results might be I won’t be hungry, my body won’t be fueled, or I will have too much sugar. This practice allows us to develop the reasoning it takes to make good choices while considering the consequences. As an educator, it also brings clarity to my answer, which allows for modeling during the process!

I wanted to share an amazing thought one of our older students shared during a “What if…” discussion. They mentioned it is important to ask, “What if I don’t”. They were talking about the importance of being a leader and an example to others who may be making a dangerous choice. I was so impressed with this extension of our exercise. Our student’s can have a profound impact on each other when given the opportunity!

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