Understanding Kids and How They Make (Occasionally Baffling) Decisions

There are those moments as a parent that define us. The moments when we glance at our children and can’t stop the happy smile from spreading over our faces, marveling at this amazing being we brought forth into the world. Moments when we are so proud it feels like our chest is going to burst with the intensity; moments when we feel the simple delight of watching our child master a new skill.

These are defining, beautiful moments that confirm over and over again our decision to be a parent. Of course, it’s not all sunbeams and lollipops – but what in life is? Occasionally, we find ourselves contemplating something our kids have done and feel – deep bewilderment.

Think back to your childhood. Reflecting on some of the things you did with an adult mind is probably enough to make you wince now, isn’t it? We all made (what now seem to be) stupid decisions, such as running across the road or wandering away from our parents in a busy shopping mall. We look back at some of the things we were scolded for as children and realize, in retrospect, that our parents were 100% in the right to have an issue with it. What were we thinking?!
Well, we weren’t – and your children aren’t either. If you ever find yourself bewildered, stunned or shocked by a decision your child has made or an action they have taken, it’s immensely frustrating. Sometimes it’s even enough to make you question your whole parenting ethos. How can you be doing it right, you lament, if they keep doing things like [whatever it is today]? It’s not enough to take the shine off the good moments, but it is enough to give you pause.

So, listen: you’re not a bad parent. You’re not making incorrect decisions. Your kids aren’t making bad decisions for any other reason than they physically aren’t able to make good ones yet.

Yep, kids make strange decisions, baffling decisions, because their brains are still developing. 21 is the age of brain maturity, when we’re capable of making complex, reasoned decisions. So don’t be surprised if your eight-year-old decides it’s a good idea to try and skate on the ice with bare feet or jump right off the trampoline onto the ground! They’re just not able to process the decision-making process yet, no matter how much you explain it and implore them to be more careful.
Does that mean giving up? Accepting your child may occasionally imperil themselves, and hoping through some Darwinian twist, they will make it through the innocent youth, through the reckless teenager stage, to 21?

Of course not: you can fight back with boundaries. They’re far more likely to avoid catastrophic choices if they don’t have the limits to do so.

1. Make sure all equipment they have access to is as safe as it can be. This goes from their bike to their school supplies to the toys you have in your backyard. Even items that sound fundamentally dangerous, such as a trampoline or a backyard swing, can be safe if you do your shopping around. Check out this Skywalker trampoline review over here or ask parents with experience of swing sets, as well as consulting online opinions. The safer an item is, the more you lessen the chance of anything disastrous being possible.
2. Don’t expect them to just “get it”. As adults, we might look at a boiling pan and know not to touch it. To a child, they have no such reasoning skills – even if they have been burnt by it before! So the best you can do as a parent is to keep the pan out of their reach. Apply this same philosophy throughout the house, no matter how old your kids are.

3. Don’t wrap them in cotton wool. It’s tempting in the face of all of this to try and keep your children safe, preventing them from any exposure to anything that might be harmful. Keep them cocooned until they’re 21 and can process information correctly, right? Wrong. Children who feel stifled and aren’t allowed to play tend to make even poorer decisions because they don’t have practice at learning the consequences of their actions. So take the appropriate precautions to ensure nothing truly horrific can happen, but then to an extent, you have to stand back and let them learn for themselves. The baby birds have to fly out of the nest at some point, no matter how worried it makes you feel!

4 thoughts on “Understanding Kids and How They Make (Occasionally Baffling) Decisions

  1. My baby hates drinking milk from a bottle but loves chewing on, of all things, shoes. So I totally get the “what are you doing?” feeling.

    It’s also helpful to remember that this applies to social/emotional stuff as well. There was a period that my older son would hit me or his brother on the head and run away laughing. He sort of understood that it hurt, but not enough to realize why that wasn’t funny. Thankfully, our talks about why that was a bad thing to do sunk in and he grew out of it.

  2. Perfect! It can get so discouraging at times and frustrating, but then I have to remember that I too was a child once and my parents had patience and grace with me. Thanks for sharing! 🙂 <3

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