Developing Good Decision-Making Skills
There is a key “transitional” stage in childrearing called “co-regulation.” This is where parents set general guidelines but allow their child to begin making specific choices for himself. Think about a very young child and a teenager. They get hungry between lunch and dinner. Would you say to the young child, “Go get yourself whatever you want.” Of course not. You decide if it is okay for him to have a snack, you decide exactly what he will have and precisely how much, and then you supervise him while he eats it. Meanwhile, the teenager won’t even bother to ask – he’ll just go in the kitchen and consume whatever he likes.
Now think of a child in the in-between stages. You might say something like, “You can have a snack, but try to eat something healthy, and don’t eat too much because we will be having dinner soon.” It is then up to the child to decide exactly what he will have and precisely how much. Responding in this way can be a little scary as it is possible the child will make some mistakes. But it is critically important to give the child opportunities to start managing his own behavior. Eventually, he will be beyond your physical control, and if he hasn’t been given the chance to learn how to make good choices himself, he can easily get into serious trouble.
The trick is to set appropriate parameters and allow the child to operate independently within those parameters, gradually loosening the limitations and increasing his freedom as he develops good decision-making skills. And it is a good idea to start this process as soon as possible.
That is another reason why Romp n’ Roll is so developmentally appropriate for preschoolers. The Gym, Art, Music, and Adventure classes are designed with the perfect balance of group structure and individual options that permit children to play and learn in a manner that is always proper and productive but also increasingly geared toward allowing them to select the most suitable specific activities for themselves.
Micro-managing everything your young child does may give you temporary peace of mind. But in the long run, giving him suitable opportunities to develop good decision-making skills through co-regulation is considerably more sensible and satisfying as it lets you sleep well at night all those years in the future when he is grown and gone.