Helping our children make their own decisions

When my son signed up for French in high school, I tried to convince him to take Spanish instead. Our community in America included many Spanish speakers and our church often organised mission trips to Spanish speaking countries. “When would you use French?” I challenged.

Still, he wanted to take French. We debated. My husband wisely told me to let it go.

Two years later, our church organised a trip to transform a warehouse into a functional church building. In France.

Guess whose French-speaking son went on the trip? When they’re little, we tell our kids exactly what to do, from brush your teeth to say you’re sorry. But as our kids grow, we shift from commander to advisor and give them a chance to decide some things for themselves.

But how?

Start small. Give your child freedom on how she spends some money. Encourage her to weigh her options and affirm her decision. Extend freedom in how (not if!) your child carries out responsibilities. Will he do homework in the evening or morning? Tidy her room on Tuesday or Saturday? Allowing our child some say bolsters their ownership and confidence.

Expect some failure. The gracious father from Luke 15 didn’t prevent his son’s foolish choices. Instead, he let consequences be the teacher and celebrated his son’s wise decision to come home. While protecting our child from serious harm, we need to let them practise making decisions – which includes accepting consequences. Our child may regret ‘wasting’ money on sweets or experience some hurt from a friendship we predicted would sour, but these life lessons stick – without our verbal or nonverbal I told you so. Rather, extend grace. We don’t make perfect decisions either!

Trust God’s sovereignty. We like to think that we know best. Often, we do. But not always. Yet God always knows what’s best for his children. He alone fully knows our child’s current struggle, deepest need, and future. He alone can redeem bad choices and turn weakness into strength. Instead of hovering like helicopters, we recognise he is in control of our child’s life and the world around them, and he loves them even more than we do. Instead of trusting ourselves, we humbly and faithfully ask God to work through our child’s good, and poor, decisions. Just like he does in ours.

Rachel Allord

Rachel is a mum of two who writes for Faith in Kids and serves on ReachGlobal’s London team. For her books and blog go to