Straight Talk Advice

Oct 13, 2005

“Pre-deciding” a great tool for raising kids

Dear Straight Talk: After reading the recent columns on the choices teens face around drugs and sex, I decided to write.

The thing to realize is that by the time your teens are facing these decisions, it’s out of your hands as a parent. You have to set influences early in life.

I raised four children and I’d like to share how I taught them to make decisions. When they were just 2 or 3, we would play-act with a toy telephone. “Ring-a-ling,” I would say. And they would learn to answer, “Hello, this is so-and-so. Whom shall I say is calling?” (By the way, they loved this game—and did it ever pay off in phone etiquette!)

But this is just the basic concept. As the kids got older, I would set up more mature play-acting scenarios such as, “At some point in life, someone is going to offer you a marijuana cigarette. What will you do?”

I’d bite my tongue and wait for their reply. I knew they knew the answer deep within because we had taught them when they were young (under age 5) that drugs/cigarettes/alcohol were poor choices. 

The opportunity to play-act their decisions allowed them to think about and formulate words for the kind of person they wanted to be. They were allowed to consider different scenarios, bounce ideas around, and decide for themselves. I call it “pre-deciding” because when these situations come up in real life—and they will—they won’t have to think twice about how to respond. They will have already decided what they will do.

I used this concept of “pre-deciding” on everything: drugs, profanity, goal-setting, sex.

With sex, as with everything else, I never told them what to do. I talked about how they would have to make that decision from their own mind—that nobody else would be there when the time came. I stressed that sex was not something you gave away, but treated like a treasure to be guarded and saved for the right person at the right time. I also stressed that if they were ever in trouble with sexual issues, it was safe to come to me.

I believe children feel valued and respected when they are allowed to make their own decisions. The payoff comes later when you see them faced with difficult choices and time and again they make the healthy choice.—Two cent’s worth

Dear Two cent’s worth: This is worth gold! Thank you for sharing your concept of “pre-deciding”. I hope a lot of new parents are reading today.


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