Table of Contents, Thinking Tools Resources Page Previous Section, Thinking Tools Next Section, Thinking Tools

Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

The Early Decisions

(2–11 Years of Age)

By reviewing some of the major decision-making that has shaped our lives, we can gain insight into the problems inherent in the process. For example, in our early life we are not in a position to exercise significant control over our decision-making. Our parents usually give us some opportunity to make decisions, however, when we are very young, we have limited capacity to take the long view. We are naturally dominated by the immediate, and our view of the world is highly egocentric. What is more, many parents exercise excessive control over their children's decision-making, on the one hand, or insufficient control, on the other.

When humans are very young, they need to be restrained from acting egocentrically and sociocentrically so these negative patterns can be modified as soon as possible and with as little damage to themselves and others in the meantime. Even young children, however, need to exercise power in their lives and begin to learn to accept the consequences of their own decisions. Children cannot learn to be responsible for their behavior if they are given no opportunities to make their own decisions.

One of the problems with the decisions of children is that they are often the result of the "party-line" of the peer groups to which they belong. Youth culture—with its media, movies, music, and heroes—plays a large role in the decision-making of most children. Human insecurity drives children to seek recognition and acceptance from other children. Many of their decisions and their behavior reflect an attempt to be liked by and included in their peer group. The behavior patterns that result from these decisions often become the basis of short- and long-term problems.

One way or another, the decisions made by or for us have an impact on our personality and character. Decisions influence our beliefs and attitudes, our sense of ourselves, and our sense of the world in which we live.

Test the Idea
Evaluating Childhood Decisions

Review in your mind your earliest recollections about your life as a child. See if you can remember or reconstruct some of what proved to be significant decisions either made by you or for you. Ask yourself the following questions. If you cannot answer a question, simply move on to the next:

  • To what extent did your parents give you opportunities to make decisions?

  • When did you begin, or have you not begun, to take the long view in your decisions?

  • To what extent were your early decisions highly egocentric?

  • To what extent did your parents exercise excessive control over your decision-making?

  • To what extent did they exercise insufficient control?

  • To what extent did your parents restrain you from acting egocentrically and sociocentrically?

  • To what extent would you say that you still are an egocentric or sociocentric decision-maker?

  • To what extent did you exercise power in your life as a child and begin to learn to accept the consequences of your own decisions?

  • To what extent do you think you have learned, by having to bear the consequences of your own decisions, to become responsible for your own behavior?

    Table of Contents, Thinking Tools Resources Page Previous Section, Thinking Tools Next Section, Thinking Tools