‘What can your kids teach you?’ Well, I believe something different about kids. We don’t own them, they have their own knowledge. From the start you have to make the choice to listen. – Faye Wattleton

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Most of the time in families, 1 or 2 people are the decision makers and the others are just sort of along for the ride.  Generally this makes sense for day-to-day decisions – you can’t stop and take a poll about everything – but some decisions can be shared.  And shared decision making can build a stronger family unit.

Giving everyone a say doesn’t have to be an impossible task.  It might take some time to find your groove, but it will be well worth it.

Here are some tips to get your started.

Only offer choices you’re willing to accept.  If you’ve already decided that your kids are going to Grandma’s while you and hubby enjoy a weekend away, don’t offer them a choice of Grandma or Aunt Buttercup’s house.  Offering a choice means that you’re open and willing to accept whatever option is chosen.  Never offer a fake choice, or the illusion of choice.

Narrow down the options.  If you were to ask Miss O where she’d like to stay when Mommy and Daddy are away, she’d probably say the park, Target, or that she wants to go with us.  Giving a choice, then immediately saying, “No, no, no,” is going to stall the process and lead to resentment.  Instead, give a limited number of options, all of which are doable.  Also, choosing from 2 or 3 possibilities is a lot easier than choosing from an infinite universe.

Give everyone a voice.  When making a choice as a group it’s important to set up a way for everyone’s voice to be heard.  Every family is going to have different personalities, some louder than others.  Make sure than even little voices are given an opportunities to speak their mind without getting interrupted or talked over.

Value everyone’s opinion.  It’s easy to overlook the opinions of our littlest family members, but their feelings are valid, too.  It might be harder to understand, but taking time to do so will pay off in the end.  Actually, listening to young children’s thoughts makes them feel like part of the family and less likely to throw a fit if they don’t get their way.

Understand everyone’s why.  Sometimes it seems like someone’s being difficult by sticking to their guns about a family choice, but understanding why it’s important to them can provide a lot of insight.  Maybe your little one wants to share the cookies you’re making with a friend with a nut allergies.

Strive for consensus.  Consensus means that, though not everyone gets their way, they’re all in agreement about how to move forward in the best interest of the group.  Majority rules is a popular decision strategy because it’s quick.  But it can leave people in the minority feeling resentful and ignored.  Consensus may take longer, but in the long run decisions will be more easily accepted and supported.

Assignment: Let you kids help make some decisions for the family.  Start small; Where to go or what to have for dinner.  What color to paint their room.

Next week: Laughing Together

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