Raising Good Decision Makers (ages 6-10 years)

decision making eight year oldBy Abby Bordner

I had a wonderful session with a private client this week. We were discussing her 8 year old son and how he’s been particularly defiant lately. He resists her requests to get things done and is especially annoyed by Mom exerting too much control over his free time. He’s been whining, breaking down into tears, yelling and sulking.

One thing I like to do for parents is take a step back and look at what your child is trying to accomplish developmentally at this age. Sometimes parents get into a routine of coasting along and then all of the sudden, your child starts behaving completely differently. There’s a possibility that your child has shifted developmentally into learning a new task. At this point it’s always helpful for parents to consider, “How can I shift in order to support my child’s new stage of development?”

Essentially during the ages of 6-10 years, your children need your guidance but also want to assert more control over their lives. Children are exposed to more challenges, frustration, motivation and successes that have meaning in their lives. During these ages, the things children are learning that support their overall emotional health are:

  • How to set goals and break down the steps to achieve them
  • How to overcome challenges and become problem solvers
  • How to take accountability for their actions
  • How to make decisions

Wow! This is a tall order for small children. How can we parents support our children in these tasks? Good question. Our children don’t need the same kind of parenting that our younger children need. They like to feel more independent and in control of the things that are important to them. Of course, parents are still guiding, teaching, correcting and connecting with our children to help ensure they complete these developmental tasks of learning! Here are some tips for parenting children in this age range:

  • Let them make decisions. Making decisions requires thoughtfulness, foresight and follow through AND it takes practice. So, include your children in decision making. Map out pros and cons. Give them the power to make decisions that involve their lives, even if it’s difficult for you to let go of control. (Of course, their decisions have to ultimately be acceptable to you.) And when kids practice decision making in this age range (and consequently learn from their mistakes), they improve and get better at it. The good news is that they’ll be better decision makers by the time they reach adolescence!
  • Notice the areas of their lives that are highly important. Take an interest! These are the things that will motivate your child to learn, problem solve and manage challenges. Within the context of topics, activities and interests, your child has endless opportunities to grow into a more mature and responsible person.
  • Comment on the process and efforts your child puts forth to succeed. Let your child know that you appreciate how hard they are working and how focused they have become on something that is important to them. Don’t focus too much on the end results. That isn’t as important. When we acknowledge our kids’ efforts, they feel more confident and capable.
  • Take the time to talk with your kids about your values. During this stage in their life, they are highly influenced by what you, as parents, value and believe. When correcting your children’s behaviors, talk about why you don’t approve of their behavior. Tell them, “I don’t want you to hurt other people.” And “I don’t like it when you are disrespectful.” And “I expect you to be responsible with your decisions.” These are important words to help your child learn about your beliefs and expectations. Remember, discipline doesn’t have to be mean and angry; discipline is truly the act of imparting your values to your children.
  • Give your children some responsibility. They really want it at this age and it’s a good time for them to earn your trust and become accountable. Let them know how proud you are when they have given their best effort and impressed you with their independence.

These efforts to “let go” as a parent help your child become more autonomous and independent. That’s what we want, right? If our goal in parenting is to control our children, then they don’t get the valuable practice of making decisions and learning from their mistakes. With more responsibility, children learn to trust themselves, find solutions and build self-esteem.

What’s your challenge with your 6-10 year old? Post your comment below.

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Leave A Reply (8 comments so far)


  1. hodges
    3 years ago

    My son wants to be in his children’s life after a 12 month break .they are 9&6 and livid with him most of there lives .they were ask if they wanted to see there father and 6year old said no & 9 year old wanted to think about it .I feel that these 2 boys are to young to make a serious desion like this and feel the don’t understand what the desion saying what it means .my son has never hert his children or have they ever been on a at risk registered can you give me some advice


  2. Rodney C. Davis
    3 years ago

    It ban be so difficult for parents sometimes to keep track of all the things they need to remember. I’ve found that simple rules-of-thumb help. For example, the old adage: “Anytime you take control and make a decision for your child, you rob them of the opportunity to make their own decision with your guidance.” They find that much easier to apply in an age-appropriate way than some of the professional jargon we may be tempted to throw at them.


    • Abby
      3 years ago

      Thanks, Rodney. Yes, that’s a good rule of thumb!


  3. Pat Kozyra
    3 years ago

    Dear Abby,
    Pat Kozyra here , a Canadian teaching in Hong Kong for the past 13 years and author of “Tips and Tidbits For Parents and Teachers” celebrating 50 years in the classroom and sharing what I have learned. ( Amazonbooks.com)
    I enjoyed reading your material and all about you and was wanted to say that anything you can do to help promote my book for parents would be very much appreciated.
    I look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely Pat Kozyra


  4. ukaur
    2 years ago

    My son is 6 year old now and I noticed a big difference in him.he is not even listening to us.and I feel so bad.he is a very good boy by nature.he never hurt anyone and but these days he is not interested even to play with his 30 months old brother.he loved him so much in past.I applied 1,2,3 farmula and he finish his work everytime just before saying 3 now he does not even care abt that….


    • Abby Bordner
      2 years ago

      Ukaur, perhaps your son is entering a new phase in his development and his needs are different now. It’s always good to reconsider what he may need at this point in his life. This blog posts discussed one such need; the need for more control over his environment. I’d be happy to discuss with you new ways to engage his interest and help him connect with you and his brother. Email me abby@relationshipbasedparenting.com to set up a consult. Good luck!


  5. Sana
    1 year ago

    My son of nearly 8yrs does not show an opinion and personality yet, he can seem babyish to boys his age and has trouble finding friends that will play with him. He lacks confidence although he is intelligent and loves reading. How can I develop his maturity ?


    • Abby Bordner
      1 year ago

      Good question, Sana. My guess is that your child has a “slow to warm” temperament. He sounds intelligent but socially not confident yet. He most likely does well in small groups or just with one other child. He may need lots of reassurance and comfort in order to become more social. Ask him his opinion and find opportunities to have him make decisions. Some kids love to pretend so you can “act out” some social situations that help him practice. You can also play with dolls or action figures and act out social interactions. Let him take the lead. Feel free to schedule a consult with me and we can discuss more.