How to Teach Children to Use Good Judgment

Good judgment is a crucial skill for your child to develop. It affects all areas of his life, from steering him away from peer pressure in adolescence to influencing his career choice in adulthood. You can begin teaching your child how to make good decisions from an early age, giving him opportunities to develop his skills and providing him with the feedback he needs to improve his judgment calls.

Decisions and Control

From a young age, present your child with many opportunities to make choices, advises the Kids Matter website. During the toddler years and early childhood, let him choose between bubbles or bath paint in the tub, have him help pick out his clothing and decide on the vegetable for tonight’s dinner. As your child gets older, let him choose which healthy snack to bring to school each day and how to style his hair; and as he approaches his preteen and teen years, let him pick which activities he participates in. As you encourage him to make decisions, make it clear where his control ends to avoid constant clashes over authority. If he can choose what he wears to school but you pick out his church clothes, for example, make this type of limitation clear.

Discussing the Process

Talk to your child about decision-making processes to help him determine how to make appropriate choices 2. For example, “How will you decide what to wear to church tomorrow?” Encourage him to talk through his decision and discuss the various positive and negative consequences and repercussions, such as, “I wonder if you won't have enough time for homework if you take on another extracurricular activity after school?” When he’s made a decision, discuss how it worked out. For example, “I know you were nervous about joining the school's soccer team. Are you glad you did after making new friends on the team?”

Showing and Telling

Call the shots as you see them and use every opportunity you can as a teaching moment. Whether you can interject a lesson about good judgment into the middle of a sibling argument or call attention to the mistakes made by examples in the media, your child begins to assemble an internal list of what is right and wrong -- and even more important, why they are right or wrong. Show your child what using good judgment looks like, too, by making good judgment calls yourself for him to witness. Be respectful when dealing with others, use reasoning skills, act with empathy and use self-control to provide your child with a good role model to follow, recomments the U.S. Department of Education in the “Helping Your Child Become a Responsible Citizen" publication.

Praise and Patience

As you give your youngster plenty of opportunity to practice using good judgment, shower him with praise when he gets it right by encouraging him to be proud of himself. This positive reinforcement helps him internalize your message and encourages more good judgment calls in the future. When he uses poor judgment, be patient. Help him understand how his call was flawed so he can make a better decision next time. However, just like all other things your child is learning to do, good judgment is a development skill that takes time to perfect -- or at least to get it right most of the time. Let your child know you're available to help him brainstorm, act as a sounding board or offer advice any time he could use your help.