Research has shown the more we practice making decisions the better we become at it. Learning how to make decisions and to be able to defend them helps one to be independent and responsible -- a part of growing up.
As we look at teen decision making, one has to consider the development of the brain during adolescence. Teens' brains are going through a period of intense development, and they naturally seek out risky, novel experiences and peer approval. As a result, decision making can be less than rational.
It's during this period of development that
A new book called The Teen Years Explained: A Guide to Healthy Adolescent Development by Clea McNeely and Jayne Blanchard explains that teens get personal higher rewards, or an "increased rush" when they follow those social and emotional influences for risk-taking versus "thinking" through a situation logically.
So what does this mean for programming for teens? We know that making good decisions is related to cognitive development so we need to help teens develop reasoning and thinking skills. And we know that learning to make good decisions is necessary for transition to adulthood, so we need to focus on creating safe places for risk-taking and practicing making decisions.
Youth development programs such as 4-H, in which participants are engaged in the leadership of the program, help youth to practice safe decision making. The 4-H consumer decision making judging program is a specific decision-making program that teaches youth to make decisions around topics that regularly make up our daily decisions; food and nutrition, clothing & textiles, personal care, entertainment and recreation and personal finance.
In what other ways can we as youth workers capitalize on teens' prime motivators of peer influence and novelty-seeking to encourage teens to be better decision makers?
Extension educator & associate Extension professor, educational design & development