Learning How to Make the Right Decisions

Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts, Sheridan House Family Ministries

“But how do you know how to make the right decision?” was the question from a thirteen-year-old boy living at Sheridan House. He had just made yet another bad decision with some friends at school. His consequence was to cut grass that afternoon, rather than play racquetball with the other boys.

That was a great question. And that is why we do not only give kids the discipline to follow through with their decisions. We also give them the template for how to make those decisions.


In the past we have discussed the need for parents to make their “No” mean no. It is important for the child to learn he must obey rather than argue. A consistent disciplinary plan will help a child learn this and also help the child become self-disciplined. We don’t ever want to just discipline the children. Discipline is something you slowly pass on to the person (in this case the child) you are training. The goal: to train a person to eventually become personally self-disciplined. The goal is to train a person to be able to say “No” to self.


Developing a Philosophy of Life

rightThe boy was right. It’s one thing to be disciplined enough to be able to follow through on what I want or need to do, but it is quite another thing to know how to make those decisions. Where does one go for the answers to right and wrong?

Initially, a child or immature person goes to one of two places when making decisions about their behaviors. They cave into their personal desires and lusts, or they cave into their peers and culture. 

The training assignment of the parent is to help the child know where to go for the answers to life’s decisions. This is called a Philosophy of Life. Everyone has a personal Philosophy of Life. This is the guidance mechanism by which a person makes his or her decisions. Win at all cost, money will make you happy, education is the key to life, it’s okay just as long as you don’t get caught…these are some of the philosophies that people live by.

In this very challenging culture, the Philosophy of Life every child needs is a faith in Jesus Christ. Faith grows out of a personal relationship with Christ. The relationship develops as parents decide that this is indeed a primary focus for parenting.

In Deuteronomy 6:7-8 parents are told to love God and then… Impress them (the principles for loving God) on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (New International Version).

In other words, living a life for Christ and teaching the children about Christ needs to be an overwhelming part of the family’s lifestyle. It needs to be so frequent and natural that it leaves an impression.


Practical steps

One of the ways we worked at accomplishing this task in our own home was to read the Bible every morning at the breakfast table. The fact we lived a forty-five minutes drive from the school our children attended meant we had to get up earlier to be able to sit at the table.

While the children ate, I read five or six verses from the Bible, starting with the Gospel of John. After reading, I put a marker in the Bible so I knew where to start the next day and then I always asked the question, “Does anyone have any thoughts about what I just read?” During those two decades of reading, they almost never had any thoughts or comments to share. So I tried to talk about the verse I read for a few moments and then we prayed.

This was just one way we worked at giving our children an intact Philosophy of Life…the ability to make decisions. Decisions they would have to make when we weren’t around to guide them. It’s one thing to give them the personal discipline, but what good is discipline if you do not know what to be disciplined about. Philosophy of Life is the why we make a decision. Personal discipline is the ability to follow through with the decision.

Philosophy of Life is the core to every decision a child will make. How to handle sex, how to handle money, how to handle peers, how to handle the internet…the answer: What Would Jesus Do?

If a child leaves home without an intact faith in God, he or she is going out like a lamb to the cultural slaughter.  Nothing is more important than this lesson.


In the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, “We cannot always build the future for our youth but we can build our youth for the future.”


Visit parentingonpurpose.org for more advice from Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts.

For more articles by Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts, visit goodnewsfl.org/author/dr-bob-barnes-and-torrey-roberts/

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