My twelve-year-old daughter has a very hard time making decisions. The truth is, I see myself in her because I'm the same way. Decisions were always difficult for me and I often procrastinate as a result. Therefore, my question is, "How can I help my daughter?"


From all of creation, only man has the power of free choice. All other creations are subject to the natural laws with which G‑d created the world. A ray of sunlight will always be refracted into a spectrum of seven colors and the sun will always rise in the east and set in the west. Even an angel's existence is static. Man alone has the capacity to become closer with G‑d through his ability to make choices on how to respond to life's situations.

Life is a series of decisions. Who you are today is a result of the choices you've made until now. We're constantly choosing: what to wear, where to live, to be happy or not. We even choose whether to make a decision or to have the decision made for us.

A decision entails tradeoffs, it entails commitment, and it requires one to take responsibility for the consequences of his choices. The very act of deciding limits us; it strips us of the illusion of freedom we have when all options are open to us.

Acting upon our decisions also takes courage. If we don't act, we don't risk failure. In this regard, Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl, in his book Me'or Enayim, informs us that with everything we do, the counsel and intelligence that enters our head before taking action is sent from G‑d. Hence, a life of faith helps us keep the sometimes-paralyzing fear of failure at bay.

Every day, our children, like us, are presented with a myriad of choices. Each choice they make reveals values, defines character and instills confidence to make further choices. Empower your children – from a young age – by teaching them to choose. Provide them with lots of opportunities to make small decisions. While too many choices can be overwhelming for a small child, allow them to choose their preferences within a given framework: An apple or cucumber, music or dance, baseball or basketball.

By nurturing our children with the ability to make decisions, we also teach them to think before they act, to understand the concept of cause and effect. A child who becomes skilled in these areas will learn to evaluate his options. And he'll feel good about himself and stand strong in his convictions, even in the face of peer pressure.

Every child is bound to make mistakes. While success is wonderful, failure actually provides more opportunity for growth. If after you've explained to your child the importance of finishing his book report, he chooses to play instead, let him. Personal experience is the best teacher. Later, refrain from using the "I told you so," rebuke, but rather, use this incident to talk about what he's learned from his decision. Here are some more tips to enhance your budding decision-maker:

  • Describe your child's everyday actions in terms of decisions: You chose to come late, you chose to share, you chose to break down the tower you built.
  • Teach your child that they have the power to choose whether or not to feel embarrassed, hurt, to forgive a wrongdoing, to despair or be optimistic.
  • Express confidence in your child's ability to make correct decisions. Shopping with a teenager provides an excellent venue for encouraging statements, such as "If you like it, it's nice," or "I'm sure that you will choose the right gift for your friend."
  • Use stories to explore different kinds of behavior and to delve into the idea of cause and affect. Help your child identify and reflect upon good and negative choices and the resulting outcomes. Ask thought-provoking questions like, "What do you think the character should do?" or "What do you think would have happened if the character had made a different choice?"