A lot is said about the challenges of parenting, but there is one particular area that is often overlooked: decision making.
As a parent, the ability to make decisions can often desert you. There are two prime reasons that you may be struggling to make decisions as you used to:
- Concern. This especially applies to decisions regarding the health and well-being of your child. You can spend hours agonizing about various decisions, unable to actually come to a conclusion due to circular thinking— and the moment you do make a decision, you panic that it’s the wrong one. You’re so consumed by making the right decision, the one that is absolutely the best one, that it becomes impossible to make any decision.
- Sleep deprivation. If you’re struggling to get enough sleep — a scenario that parents are likely to be very familiar with — then your decision-making abilities are compromised. Sleep deprivation can impact you in a number of odd ways, and if you find yourself unable to make even the most basic of decisions, then this may be at the root cause.
It should be noted that neither of these reasons are bad. After all, it’s completely natural for a parent to want to find the best solution for their child, and sleep deprivation is part and parcel of the parental experience. However, there’s no doubt that the inability to make decisions is something that you’re going to have to try and work around.
The need for good decision making
It is a cruel twist of fate that parents need to make good decisions at a time in their life when they are not — due to the aforementioned issues — particularly well-equipped to make good decisions.
At its heart, parenting is a series of decisions. You will decide the majority of your child’s life for their first 18 years, and there’s no doubt this is a peculiar kind of pressure. Finding a way to navigate these decisions without causing yourself undue anxiety is important— and the good news is, it’s possible. Making decisions as a parent is tough, but keep the ideas below in mind, and you should find a new, decisive you is eventually about to blossom…
Bring things down into either/or
If you look at the image above, it seems like it would be a good thing: lots of possibilities. What’s not to like about having lots of possibilities?
Well, if you’re struggling to make decisions, a huge number of possibilities is actually a problem— you simply have far too much to consider. The more you have to consider, the more likely you are to get caught in a loop of thinking, and thus struggle to draw any absolute conclusions.
It’s therefore important to reduce every single decision down to just two options; the frontrunners that are worthy of more thought. It’s easier to do this than you might think. Rather than trying to decide which exercise activities your child should engage in, cut it down to two: cycling vs trampolining, for example. If you’re wondering how to help your child sleep better, then cut back all the considerations to a simple one-or-the-other decision, which in this case may be: Weissbluth vs. Ferber method. By pushing aside all of the different areas you have to consider, you can focus in on the core consideration that is at the heart of the decision.
When it comes to making decisions, less is definitely more. With just an either/or decision, you’re able to focus on the merits of only two possibilities, which should mean you find it far simpler to reach a decision.
Set a deadline by which a decision must be made
Decision making that is allowed to linger is, almost always, poor decision making. The longer you allow yourself to worry over the ifs, ands, and buts, the harder it will be to actually make a conclusive decision. You will often find that the decisions that have to be decided by a certain point for reasons outside of your control (for example, deadlines imposed by playgroups or the parents of other children) are actually easier to make. This is because the lack of time forces you to be concise and consider only the most important points.
Try to replicate this feeling by setting deadlines on all decisions. Obviously, this will require some level of discipline, as you only have yourself to answer to if you miss the deadline. However, if you focus and adhere to the deadlines you set, this technique can be surprisingly helpful.
If you do make a decision by a self-imposed deadline, there’s no harm in enjoying a little “well done” treat— positive reinforcement isn’t just great for kids, but it works for adults too!
Don’t write down the “pros and cons”
When trying to make decisions, many people write “pros and cons” lists. These can be useful, but they also have a tendency to complicate matters. What, for example, happens if you end up with the same number of pros as you do cons? This can actually make the eventual decision harder.
So, try doing things differently. Rather than writing down the pros and cons, just write down the cons. After all, if you’re considering something, doesn’t that inherently suggest that it has plenty going for it in the first place? You’re not going to be considering something that is completely worthless, so the pros just aren’t necessary, and can actually confuse matters.
By just writing down the cons, you are able to focus on the absolute heart of the matter. In isolation, the cons will either look rather mild and easily dismissed or quite clearly something that should be avoided. You don’t need the “pros” complicating the matter, so just focus on the downsides, and you should be able to make an effective decision in no time.
Hopefully, the above will help you to find a way to effectively make decisions in future. This should make your life, and the life of your child, far simpler, and allow you to move forward and embrace all the possibilities the world has to offer.