The Realities of “Voluntary Decisions”

Let me start out today by telling you a story about our children and a process that we went through with them every Labor Day while they were in elementary school, junior high school and in high school.  This was a modeling of a process that you can employ in your own life and with your children and when carried forward over time it will produce critical thinking skills and decisions which are made,  with 100% responsibility and they are 100% voluntary.

If you are unfamiliar with the three terms which are in BOLD.  You are not alone.  These skills are very rarely modeled in today’s workplace, and in today’s families. Let’s go to the story so you can see what I am talking about.

Each Labor Day we would sit down in our library (where every family member had a desk), and we would  have the “School Year Goals” meeting.  Each child was responsible for deciding what they thought they were capable of achieving in terms of their academic level of performance each year, along with many other items. 

First: We would ask what are the subjects this year.  They would say the 5 or 6 things they knew for sure and would list them. 

Second:   We asked them what activities they might like to participate in during the next school year.  They would then add them to their list. 

Third:   We would discuss was what will you do in order to achieve the level of academic performance you wish to have?  That was added to the list.

Fourth:  What do you expect in return for this academic performance?

Fifth:  What should happen if you do not meet the level of academic performance that you have set?

What jumps out at you first?  I will help you here:  as a parent modeling “voluntary decisions”  the student not the parent is setting the bar.  The next modeling behavior is that the student decides what the expectation is for poor performance and for meeting or exceeding the performance.   This is the beginning of taking 100% responsibility for their decisions and it is also the beginning of the “critical thinking skills process”. 

I know that I must add this precautionary note here.  A new pair of $300.00 athletic shoes is not on the table.  Once you set the boundaries then the choices are easy for the student.  You are the parent must be willing to follow through. 

A word about after school or in school activities is in order also here.  Children just like adults need to know that there are limits as to time, money and ability to focus to pursue any and everything that one desires.  We had a strict rule of  “1” that’s “ONE” after school activity.  From the time the school bell rang at 2:45 pm until dinner, your time was your own.  It could be used to play, go to the park, be in a band, take ballet, engage in scouting, or any other activity.  Once it was time for dinner then it was time to go their own desk and work on homework or read, or a long term project or some other type of research. 

At the end of our meeting each child would write or type up their contract with themselves and everyone in the family signed it.  Copies were made and posted on the frig, on the bulletin board at their desk and in a parent’s hanging file drawer.  Why did everyone sign the contract you may be wondering?  Good question.  You see we are a unit.  A family.  We support each other and our goals both individually and as a whole.  When one of us succeeds we all succeed.

This is only  1% of this modeling process on making “voluntary decisions” from childhood on through the mature eyes of a parent who also values this process and uses it daily.  To read more about this and many other realities in the hole we carry around as women; join us on our weekly call and feel free to down load the small report where we begin this conversation.