Wishy washy nephew

Lor_CADecember 11, 2001

I have an 8 year old nephew. Very loved and well rounded little boy, excellent in sports etc. but he can't make up his mind about anything. We can all see how he gets it from his mom and were wondering what we can do (his anunts and uncles) to encourage him to be more confident with his decisions. An example is one day I took him shopping and it took him 1/2 hour to pick between two pairs of shorts. Whenever you ask him if he wants something or wants to do something he says - "what do you want to do" or "which one do you like" Thanks for your help.

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Well, I'm wishy-washy like this too. I really don't know why exactly. Sometimes I chalk it up to being a "middle child" always wanting to please others. Sometimes I honestly *don't care* and therefore can't make a final decision.

For me, I think it helps if I am the one to narrow down the decision field and someone else makes the final call. i.e. if it's "what should we have for lunch?" I would rather say I'll narrow it down to either pizza or soup and you choose between the two. I prefer to be in that position than having you give ME the two choices and I have to make the final call. Maybe that would work with him?

Also, when he says "I don't know, what do YOU want to do?" you can tell him that you'll pick something next time and this time it's his turn. (or vice versa) Then, make sure he notices the times when you DO decide and he doesn't have to.

I really don't know the psychology of it, but making decisions is just not my forte and kind of stresses me out. I am pretty laid back and will participate in nearly anything, I'd just be happier if I don't have to decide! This may just be a personality trait you can't shake out of him.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2001 at 11:57AM
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I think sometimes kids just drag out decisions. My SIL used to give her DD a set amount of time to make a decision, or she left the store with nothing.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2001 at 12:02PM
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This happens with my son. I find it very frustrating. Sometimes he will ask "mom, which treat should I have"? He does not like to make a decision. I also give him a minute to decide. Once in a while I will make the decision for him. But I make sure I tell him that he has to be able to make such simple decisions on his own. As he gets older he will need to be confident enough to make much more important decisions regarding his life because mom will not always be with him. He can come to discuss what he is thinking and request my input, but the final decision will have to be made by him. Maybe my approach can work for your nephew.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2001 at 4:15PM
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First of all, decision-making is a process that can be learned. Taken step-by-step, it's not so tough. Has he been taught the proper way to make decisions?

If you need them, the five steps are: 1-define the problem (you need a new pair of shorts) 2-list the alternatives (this section is your size) 3-critique each (do you want pockets? white gets too dirty, we're not spending more than X dollars, etc) 4-choose one and use it (this pair looks nice, fits well and is a good price) and 5-evalute the results (how does he like wearing them? is he happy with his choice? what would he do differently next time). Now I know that sounds a bit advanced for his age, but you could certainly scale it down to his level to get him going along the right road.

Secondly, since you know this is a problem, don't offer him too many options. If you're taking him to the movies, instead of saying 'what movie do you want to see', pick out 2 you know he'd like and ask which he'd like to see. Only offer 2 or 3 choices of shorts. Sometimes kids get overwhelmed by the number of choices presented. And if you start with small steps (choosing between a few options) you'll probably be able to lead him along.

I'd refrain from making too much of the 'he gets it from his mom' thing. On the one hand, he may feel he has no responsibility for improving himself if he gets the idea it's and inborn trait (I don't believe it is at all. But he may be used to seeing how she does things). Secondly, since she's his mom, he obviously loves her and may be trying to emmulate her--not a bad thing in most cases and you don't want to make him feel badly about his mom, of course.

He's young, he'll grow into the decision-making process. Good luck.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2001 at 6:38PM
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Work with his answer... If given some choice and he asks for your input 'what would you want to do' for example, say you're not sure. Name the factors that would be 'pros' for a couple different choices. Consider and weigh some of the 'cons' out loud too. Take your time, 'waffle' back, but do your decision-making steps slowly and out loud. Come to no official conclusion, step back and say you're not sure. Ponder for a bit, then ask him for his ('I'm still not sure, after all that, which would you recommend?') considered opinion. Make sure to use a serious respectful and patient tone.

Be careful of not overdoing things. It is important when making later more complicated life decisions to be able to seek and get good counsel sometimes to help a person make good decisions. It's also a good thing in general to take into account the needs and feelings of others, and to ask for their input when deciding on activities or things like that. If he asks which you like, you can thank him for considering you... but explain that you've made the decision to give the decision to him to answer freely.

The adults in question would have to decide for themselves how much time they would allow for decision-making processes. 30 minutes, over 2 pairs of shorts may have been what he needed. Some non-decision-making factors can enter into that kind of thing in case he likes being with the adult with him, or at the place where the decision is being made. Another would be if there was something he was trying to avoid (like if he was to do chores when he got back, or something) which would occur after that decision. These kinds of indirect things can occur and will not reflect his ability to make decisions in a timely manner.

Some people feel pressured about decisions which affect others. You can try to agree to take turns sometime and make a point to do so. Make sure to get everyone's input to consider. Try to gain a sense of consensus rather than impose a decision. That can be effective, but requires some diplomatic skills.

Do his sports require any decision-making? If he has problems with figuring out what factors to consider you can try making analogies to his sports experiences. There are subtle strategy decisions for even timed races in individual sports. (A coach will often be giving that out though for the child, so this approach may not work. But, it might be worth a try).

don't use the phrase 'wishy washy' because it's not helpful and learning how to make decisions is a learnable skill and going out of his way to ask others for their input is an 'extra' that will probably take him far in life

P.S. Sometimes children will model the kind of behavior they need. He might not be doing it on purpose, but if he feels on any level, like he's not asked for enough input he could make that point in his decision-making process. You might try re-asking questions, in the same format he uses when he seeks the input of others.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2001 at 12:29PM
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