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  • Jo Ellis

Left or Right...?

Updated: Aug 3, 2019

As an ADI I use and read verbal and non verbal language a lot to assess how my pupils feel about situations in the car. One of my pupils has a lovely little squeak that lets me know when he’s feeling overwhelmed. This week I asked him a simple question that elicited "the squeak”. We pulled over and talked about the situation that had caused him to feel stressed  and the subsequent conversation got me thinking.

On the previous lesson, he had carried out a lovely independent drive home, with no major problems, I had expected him to do the same thing this week- but I asked him a different question. Last week I asked him if he knew his way home from our current location - this week I asked if he wanted to go left or right at the end of the road...

On discussion, it turns out that my pupil has very little experience of decision making and a real skills gap. The reason? He is the middle child of 3- he defers to his older brother “because he’s older than me” and he defers to his younger brother “because he’s the baby - he always gets his own way”. The end result... a lovely, intelligent young man, who never gets to practice decision making at home and who now is faced with a real skill gap while he’s learning to drive.

I wondered how many young people are emerging into adult hood without these essential skills? Time poor adults hurry children up, or make decisions for them because they are taking too long. From my days of doing the school run, I am aware that some of the Mums would not allow their children to do things "because they won't do it right" (by which they usually meant "they won't do it to my standard"). In some cases parents don’t even suggest that there might be more than one option - because that will lead to explanation and deliberation - which takes time or creates difficulties for the adult.

Helicopter parenting as well as family dynamics can have an impact on a young persons decision making opportunities. What impact is that having on future generations to make good decisions on the road?

How do we teach decision making skills to young people? Parenting books when I had my children were full of such advice - Start early and allow them to practice... with easy stuff that is low risk and low consequence. “Do you want a Custard Cream or a Bourbon?” (It doesn’t really  matter either way - the child gets a biscuit - if the child regrets his or her choice, he or she will learn to make a different choice next time).

It’s only by practicing these essential life skills from an early age that we can hope to raise future generations of young people able to make good decisions about being on the road. We have already seen the trend for restricting adventurous activity in our litigious culture - thankfully establishments have begun to realise the overall benefits of adventurous activity outweigh the risks and it seems we have stemmed the tide.

Is decision making destined to be the next skill that will be lost?

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