How to Make Wise Decisions During Conflict

How important is it to teach teenagers about wise decisions we may ask? Extremely. There is no place to hide or shield our teenagers from life. Fortunately we don't need to ship our kids to an island or lock them in their rooms until they turn 35. Instead, helping them learn to make wise decisions is better than a room or an island.

A wise decision or choice is having the ability, through discretion and extensive knowledge, to sensibly discern and judge something before receiving or acting upon it. The “art” of making good choices isn't a temporary solution. Instead, it becomes a skill that will benefit your teen for the rest of their lives. What a precious gift!

Pro vs. Con List

“Pro vs. Con” list is a very simple method that helps create a situation where peace is kept in the midst of negotiation. Having a system like this can also help guard against a major solution roadblock: manipulation. A young teenage boy rolled his eyes in disgust as he listened to his parents get manipulated when they were buying life-insurance. Despite a great sales pitch, a salesman was unable to convince the couple to purchase his policy. “I absolutely don't want to pressure you into a decision,” he proclaimed while walking towards the door. “Please sleep on it tonight, and if you wake up in the morning, let me know what you've decided.”

As this family found out, being manipulated is not a helpful way to make a wise decision. Likewise, when parents put pressure on their teenager during an important choice, it can cause major conflict. To keep arguments from flaring up and to promote harmony, you and your teen can use a “Pro vs. Con” list to help negotiate major decisions. Here is how this simple method works.

First, divide a piece of paper into a “pro” side and then a “con” side. Next, began on the “con” side, and brainstorm why the decision might be a poor choice. Repeat the same process for the pro side—listing any reason why the decision might be a good choice. It's important when brainstorming to keep from evaluating the reasons until you've recorded every idea.

The next step is to evaluate each “pro” and “con” and tease out the more relevant or important ones. The final step is to evaluate the highlighted factors, to determine what seems like the best choice.

Regardless of the final choice, the main issue is that both the parent and teen agree that the decision is the best one. If a choice is not obvious or agreed upon, then continue listing additional pros and cons. You might need to take a break or show the list to a neutral third party for advice. Using the “Pro and Con” list can help each other stay in harmony through a major disagreement.

Fostering Responsibility Through Making Decisions

It’s not necessary to do all the things mentioned above to solve every problem. Judge the severity of the conflict needing to be made. You could use the 0-10 scale, with 10 being a major issue. If a conflict is judged to be a 1-5, then you may not need to use all three steps. But if you assign a 6-10 to a particular issue, then you may need to be more careful. Agree on the number that needs careful attention.

Teenagers need the freedom to start making some of their own choices. This is a process. The moment a child becomes an adolescent, you do not allow them the total freedom to make every decision. Like anything else, they need to earn the right to make decisions. Depending upon the age and maturity level (it will different for every child), a teenager needs to have the opportunity to put into practice all the things that they have been taught. Of course, they will have to earn further responsibility–in terms of making decisions–but they at least need the opportunity to prove that they can make wise decisions.

It’s clear that teenagers need the opportunity to make decisions. As parents, we can help them by—not only giving them chances—but also, holding them accountable for their decision. If the decision turns out to be a poor choice, they need to be held accountable to face the logical and natural consequences that follow. However, agree ahead of time about the potential consequences.

Greg Smalley, PsyD
Website | + posts

Dr. Smalley previously served as the director of Marriage Ministries for The Center for Healthy Relationships. He is the author or co-author of twelve books concerning marriages and families, and currently serves as the executive director of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email