The profession of parenthood is fraught with decisions. Are you being too strict, or too lenient? What’s the right bedtime for what age? Should you or shouldn’t you listen to that mother-in-law/neighbor/bestselling author who seems so confident that THE right way to handle a situation is the opposite of your preferred approach?
The answer to that last question is: Listen, but don’t stop thinking for yourself.
This doesn’t mean your “gut reaction” is always right. But it does mean you shouldn’t discount your own best judgment—or the years of firsthand experience behind it—just because someone who “should know” offers generalized advice counter to what you’ve found effective.
Stay aware of how they handle responsibility, how they respond to disappointment and discipline, when they seem ready to try something new. Everyone is different; the identical decision may be a much-needed firm hand for one sibling and a self-esteem crusher to another.
Rush and multitasking are the enemies of wise decisions, urging you to snatch up the most expedient solution without considering alternatives and implications. At the very least, stop what you’re doing and give a decision two full minutes of your attention before making it.
You’ll spend less time considering decisions, and make fewer bad ones, if you know where you stand on the criteria that decisions are judged by. Make up your mind you will always do the kind thing, the thing that manifests integrity, the thing that shows respect for others and concern for the world, and you’ll be surprised how often the right decision becomes instantly obvious.
Try never to make a decision without considering the point of view of everyone who will be affected, especially those under your authority. Your kids may not be any happier about not being allowed to watch a midnight movie, but if they feel heard and respected, they’re likely to at least cooperate without excessive fuss.
While it’s unwise to make decisions without fair consideration, many people are so terrified of choosing wrong that they bounce from “Yes, but” to “Yes, but” until the wrong decision makes itself by default. If you’re completely hung up between two alternatives, go ahead and flip a coin—then implement the “winner” immediately and decisively. (One exception: if you flip a coin and have an “Oh, no!!” reaction to the result, it’s okay to take that as a sign from your gut that the other choice is correct.)
In other words, don’t let yourself keep wondering, “Did I do the right thing?” once a decision has been implemented past the point of no return. If you’re ultimately dissatisfied with the results, you can learn from them, you can take action to mitigate them—but fretting over what’s already past is nothing but a waste of time and energy. In the long run, one of the most important decisions you can make is a decision not to insist you always get everything exactly right the first time.