Assessing Your Teen's Decision-Making Ability

Assessing Your Teen's Decision-Making Ability

It is sometimes very difficult to decide how much independence and/or freedom you should allow your teen at any given time. We know that one of the primary developmental tasks of adolescence is to learn how to make good decisions independently of parental guidance, but it is not always easy to assess how well this task has been negotiated. "Behavioral autonomy", as this developmental task is referred to, is a necessary skill for functioning in the adult world.

There are four major criteria that parents can use to help them assess whether or not their teen has achieved or is close to achieving behavioral autonomy. You might even try using a 1 to 5 scale to help you see exactly where your teen is, and where improvement is still needed. These criteria are as follows:

Risk Assessment

This involves the capacity to look ahead and assess the risks associated with a decision by foreseeing all the possible consequences of an action, as well as alternative choices that could be considered. Two cognitive changes occur during adolescence associated with this skill. One is the ability to hold two viewpoints in the mind at the same time in order to compare them, and the other is to think hypothetically. Mature teens are more likely to objectively assess a situation before taking action. They weigh and compare various options and make an informed and well thought out choice. Less mature teens tend to think emotionally and are more likely to plunge into situations impulsively before assessing all of the consequences that could occur.

Consulting An Expert

The teen is able to see the value of consulting an outside expert to assist in making a decision when enough information is not available to make the right choice. The mature adolescent will seek others beside parental figures, such as talking to a college advisor when choosing a college. Implicit in this practice is the realization and understanding that others have valuable input and skills to offer which can and should be accessed.

Adjusting to New Information

Involved here is the capacity to change one's mind or attitude in light of new information. This development means that one has achieved a certain degree of logic and flexibility, different from the more black-and-white view of younger adolescents who have a higher emotional stake in being right.

Showing Discrimination in the Acceptance of Advice

This one is a more sophisticated skill. It means that one can perceive the biases held by another that influences their advice. It implies the understanding that each of us has a particular perspective that is colored by our backgrounds and motives, which necessarily influence our opinions. The mature adolescent is able to link together these various factors before accepting wholesale someone else's view.

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