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Decision Making

Cover1W's picture

Many of you know my YSD14.5 has always had decision making problems. She just freezes or refuses to make a decision much of the time, even if it's something as mundane like "do you want the purple container or the blue container?"  I was the only one making sure that she was making a decision and she understood the ramifications of not making a decision (i.e. ok, then, no container, let's go) until I disengaged after a final grocery store trip with her when she was 13 and had a mini-meltdown when I told her to take the small cart and get what she wanted to eat at home - literally anything she wanted.

DH and BM have been tearing their hair out about what high school she's going to choose. She has about another week before she must choose.  Both schools are online. At this point it will not affect the week on/off schedule she's currently on, but if school goes back into session she'll have to be at that parent's home more often. And that's the decision. It's not an easy one. I personally think the school near us is a better fit but I think she will likely choose BMs.  Because BM.

Anyway, inspite of us knowing that YSD was going to announce her decision at the last minute, and DH saying he was done talking about it, he brought it up at dinner the other night. She refused to talk too much about it and squirmed ALOT. Then they got into a discussion about how to make decisions and why it's important. He asked her, "Hasn't anyone taught you how to make decisions?"  SD, "No, not really, I don't know how."  FFFFFFFSSSSSS!  Amazingly I controlled my eyeball roll.  Discussion continued and I left the table shortly after.

Last night DH brought up the decision making issue again (YSD is back at BMs). He said he was frustrated that 'no one' has helped her learn decision making. I remembered to remain neutral. "But do you think it's the SCHOOL or the PARENTS that need to do this? I personally think the parents need to teach this from a young age and that hasn't happened.  The schools can teach some intellectual decision making but overall I think it's the parents that need to do this." DH - immediately gets huffy because "SM blaming parents again" and I said "We need to drop this now."  Discussion was over.

How you you all teach your kids how to make decisions? So many of the skids never ever have to do this, the parents do everything for them. I mean, it should always be the parent helping them make age-appropriate choices and decsions and live with those decisions once they are made. Age 14 is too late. She's stymied. OSD never made "choices" she just did whatever she wanted but she was better overall if she HAD to decide on things; choosing between two pairs of shoes did not make her freeze up. Whenever I tried to help YSD with decisions around DH he always intervened by making the decision for her because it was taking too long or he was impatient, or didn't think I was right having her make a choice. So I stopped gradually and just don't do it any longer.

advice.only2's picture

It's DH and BM's fault. Why are they allowing her to choose which high school to attend to begin with? I mean she's still a minor, why are they putting that big of a decision on a 14 year old?
As for SD being frozen about making decisions it probably stems from her childhood and the need to please all the toxic people in her life. Think about it, when you have a bipolar parent who one day loves blue and the next day loves red, you learn not to commit to anything because you don't want to upset the crazy.

tog redux's picture

People with anxiety have a hard time making decisions - they think too much about the possible ramifications of every decision and get stuck. I am one of those people. I do eventually make the decision, but not without a lot of hemming and hawing that drives DH crazy. It's not necessary always just a logic based skill, a lot of emotion gets caught up in in it too.  Especially when it might hurt either mom or dad.

Personally, I think DH and BM need to decide and say, "YSD, we think X school would be the best for you, for these reasons: does that sound okay? You've seen them both, do you have any strong objections?"

If this is a decision that BM and DH don't agree on, then no wonder it's hard for her.

ITB2012's picture

Until recently. The kid tries way to hard to make sure to consider everyone and everything. He decided at 19 he was missing out because he just sat and spun his wheels. He's better. Not great but better. And I tried when he was little. Like how to narrow down choices or know how big or little a decision is.

Rags's picture

I am an intuitive decision maker and also an engineer so analysis and decisioning is usually a quick process for me.  DW is extremely analytical and takes every variable into account as well as how anyone the decision may impact will feel about it. It is an emotional process for her.  This drove me crazy for years.  I finally learned to let her work her process and only offer the occassional input or ask a leading question.  Mostly I let her know that it will be okay and that there for her if she needs me.  Unfortunately I do upon occassion try to move the process along when things are bogging down and there is a need for a quick decision.

We have learned how to work together on decisions as I am sure you and your DH have figured out something that works for you.


Exjuliemccoy's picture

I have no bios, so I never had the responsibility of teaching decision making to small kids. I did, however, emphasize concepts like cause and effect, good choices/bad choices, and weighing options to YSD when she lived with us as a teen.

Divorce often results in diluted parenting from one or both parents. I was a COD myself, and being on ST challenged me to look back over the period of my parent's divorce with new eyes. It's clear to me now that both parents lowered their game considerably before and after that event. 

I wish more emphasis was placed on parents being teachers, whose job is preparing their kids for adulthood. It's a task with measurable definitions of success, but I think many parents have never been introduced to that concept.




Survivingstephell's picture

My second daughter didn't know how to decide and it showed up when she could talk. When she was a toddler I gave her a choice between two things and started her that way.  When she was in middle school I allotted my daughters a certain amount of cash for back to school clothes and took them shopping. She choose an expensive dress and made the choice to buy it and wipe herself out.  Next day she had a buyer's remorse meltdown and begged to return it. I made her keep it to teach her a lesson. ( mall was an hour away and I was not driving back for this drama).   She's 25 now and launched. 

It's a process and a major life skill that parents teach. Not everything can be learned at school.  Parents cause so many problems when they fail to parent. It's a verb, not just a noun.   

Have her make a pro/con list.  Put it on paper so she can see it. Start with that. 

BethAnne's picture

I struggle with decisions. All sorts of decisions, from every day decisions to big decisions. I can over analyize an issue and see the pros and the cons and not be able to come down on either side. I am not sure that making pro and con lists of everything is always the way to find an answer. 

Big decisions like a school choice, can seem very daunting and life changing. What happens if you make the wrong decision? Will everything go wrong because the wrong decision has been made? As adults we know that she should be fine at either school, but that perspective came with time and experience. 

I think I agree with tog and that if sd has no real preference for a school that BM and your husband should choose for her if they can agree. Or perhaps just toss a coin??

Cover1W's picture

You all are super helpful thank you!

I agree that BM and DH are putting a heck of a load on her to choose the HS. And BM and DH disagree - BM wants her closer to home (control) and DH wants her to have a better schooling experience. He'd be sad if she chose BM's but we've discussed it and he can live with it since they would still figure out the home schedules - it's not like OSD who is PAS'd.

I mean, I'm sure she sees it as having to choose one parent over the other.

And there's no way that BM and DH can discuss this. BM refuses to consider any of DH's choices, period (i.e. OSD and that whole PAS mess).  He's willing to talk but not her.  And YES they both give both SDs way, way too much power. I don't think YSD ever wanted it.

I cannot intervene - it's all blown up on me too much in the past for lesser things. I am disengaged from any parental decision making. I can only watch and be there if YSD wants to talk. And she never, ever, ever does.

lieutenant_dad's picture

I think you hit an important point with your YSD: she doesn't want the power. And people who are in a power struggle (i.e. your DH and BM) are not going to be good at recognizing that YSD doesn't want power or control, or more appropriately, doesn't want to be involved with the struggle. 

I understand where you're coming from. I've been working with OSS on making decisions as he's about to launch, and he's terrified over everything - and I do mean everything. Example: it took him literal minutes to pick out a flashlight at the store to take with him to college. When I told him to pick out body wash? Deer. In. Headlights.

BM has always made decisions for the boys because of control. To counter that, DH has made all the decisions for the boys as an "act of mercy" in his eyes. BM didn't fully let them choose who they are and made life all about her, and DH saw time with him as a refuge and wanted them to be able to mentally relax as much as possible. All that did was mean both parents were making decisions for them, thinking they were correcting a problem that they only made worse.

I've started jumping all over DH when he does it. I don't care if it takes the boys 20 minutes to find a pair of pants they like. They need to find their voice. My biggest pet peeve with DH right now is speaking on behalf of the boys. Like, STFU and let them decide how they feel and what they want to divulge. I don't want YOUR answer; I want THEIR answer in THEIR words.

I have no real tips other than patience and asking why the mundane decision is difficult, then offering tips from there. Literally, with OSS, I had to tell him to smell the bottles of body wash or deodorant, pick one he liked, and remember that he can always buy a new bottle if he ends up not liking it.

I've also had a lot of talks with OSS about how he is GOING to fail at some point. He'll bomb a test, miss a class, screw up at work, etc. It's going to happen, and it will suck, and he will bounce back. His hesitancy with making decisions is specifically because he's afraid of failure (YSS is because he has always been babied and never allowed to do for himself). So, it's reminding him of what happens if he fails - usually it's nothing super catastrophic.

Unlike your DH, it seems, mine is willing to listen. He balks, then usually comes around. He has gotten better, but it may be too little, too late. I'm not sure he or BM can unteach what they've taught, so it'll be years of helping them develop workarounds for it.

Cover1W's picture

The BM and DH aspects are very much the same here. DH wants her to relax and take it easy and BM wants her near her and to be #1.

I am able to make sure YSD makes choices when she and I are doing something alone. DH cannot be there. I've got into telling him at the dinner table to knock it off, i asked *her* if she wanted soy sauce or teriyaki sauce, let *her* choose. It's really at that supid level. I've told him to stop protecting her from life, let alone me who wants nothing more that her to become a good, well adjusted adult human.


The_Upgrade's picture

How you you all teach your kids how to make decisions? So many of the skids never ever have to do this, the parents do everything for them.

Umm you do what you did like the example with the containers. Except you start at toddler age - do you want a bite of cake or icecream? Hurry up or no dessert. They'll figure it out soon enough. 

strugglingSM's picture

I was taught how to make decisions because I always had a deadline. My mother, who is a very bad decision-maker herself, was a big planner, so if there was a decision in my hands, she would give me a deadline by which the decision was needed and hold me to it. If I didn't make it, she would make it. That said, something like choosing which school to go to would not have been my decision. I could weigh in on what I wanted, but my parents (primarily my mom who was "in charge" of education) would have made that decision. Granted, my parents were not divorced, so they could more easily reach agreement.

In my experience, pushing decision-making off to the children in step situations is a manipulation tactic. Whenever there is anything that comes up that would change visitation, BM always has to say "I'll have to ask the boys to see what they want. I won't do anything if they don't want to do it." She does this even when the change was her idea. For example, three weeks ago, she asked DH if SSs could come to our home the night before they were supposed to under the CO. DH said yes, but they couldn't come over until 10pm because we would not be home. At first BM protested saying "why can't they come early and stay alone at your house?" And "don't they have a key to your house?" When DH didn't respond, BM finally said, "I'm okay if they go to your house at 10pm, but I'll have to ask the boys if it's okay." Um, okay, BM, it was your idea, but knock yourself out. I think she does this to make DH feel as though the kids might not want to see him or that any decision she makes is really just her looking out for them, but I think it's BS. 

Cover1W's picture

Yeah, both DH and BM are constantly asking YSD (and formerly OSD) about the visitation schedule and what they want. I think it's crazy.  Again kid with too much power. 

Example:  YSDs return time to BMs weekly was Friday early evenings. DH would have to log off work early and then be late coming home for dinner depending on commute. I refused to help with this because "YSD wants to go back at that time."  I pointed out so SHE determines your work and home schedule? I'm out.

Then it was switched to Sunday evenings - good.  For ONE weekend. Now it's changed to a Monday exchange, see above, same sitch different day. "Because YSD prefers it that way." I do not help with anything.


Picardy III's picture

My SD15 has debilitating fear of decision making. But she has strongly held opinions on clothes, room decor, etc. (not selfish or demanding, she just knows what she likes and dislikes) - so it's not that she's entirely passive.

But ask her to make her own decision on which path to take for a run, or how small to chop the vegetables - and she starts shaking and even will throw a small tantrum (followed by an embarrassed apology, at least).

I think it's an unhealthy fear of growing up: it's easier to throw all responsibility back to your parents when it comes to mundane decisions that do imply growing adult awareness and independence. But it's exhausting and infuriating to correct and encourage a teenager behaving like she's 5 years old.

That said, I wouldn't think the decision of picking a school, especially when it effectively implies choosing between parents, is appropriate for a young teenager to have to make.