helping teens figure out what’s a big or small decision


Teen Talk: Choices – How Big or Small?

by Dawn Lyons

Teens face what can often seem like a constant onslaught of choices as they navigate the twists and turns along the path to their futures. It is imperative for teens to recognize the impact that choices, whether considered major or minor, can have in both the short- and long-term.

Big or small?

Regardless of the perceived enormity of the choice at hand, the consequences of a choice can have a powerful effect on the future. Consider, for example, a teen who chooses to post something online using offensive wording because they think it is cool or amusing or will please a particular person or group. This may seem like no big deal, however, what if someone who is offended by the post shares it with the teen’s parent or a teacher?

What if the person or group the teen was trying to impress pay no attention to it or are, in fact, not impressed at all? Additionally, has the teen considered that the use of offensive language could cause others to pass judgment about the type of person the teen is or wants to become? That judgment just may stick – whether it is the truth or not.

While it is easy to worry about the choices teens consider to be “big” – what are they supposed to do after high school; should they be sexually active and if so, with whom; should they try a cigarette or a drug or a sip of alcohol at a party – the impact a seemingly “small” choice can have should not go overlooked. The possible fallout related to decisions linked to these bigger issues is, of course, more obvious.

With the “smaller” issues however, the possible negatives are often a bit more difficult to determine. After all, a simple choice to consume the entire contents of a bag of chips every day may not matter on one particular day, but will eventually build up to result in negative effects on an individual’s physical health; which, in turn, could affect them mentally and potentially cause problems for their friends or family members.

Discuss the importance of choice with your teen. If you can use a story from your own teen years, whether about yourself or someone you knew, it will help your teen to realize that you can truly relate to the issues while also having the perspective of short- and long-term results in that particular situation.

Attitude is everything

Another important aspect of choice is for teens to recognize that choices they make with regard to their overall outlook and point of view toward individuals and daily life can have a drastic and direct impact on their lives. A teen who consistently gets low grades in a certain class and claims the teacher does not like them or is targeting them in some way is choosing to ignore the truth and by so doing, creates a negative situation.

Instead, the teen could choose to speak with the teacher to determine the reason for the low grades and attempt to rectify the issue. This proactive approach would gain respect from the teacher as well as help the teen to feel empowered by taking an active involvement that improves their knowledge or skills and could even help the teacher open their eyes to a difference of opinion they may see as valid. This positive and practical approach can be applied in all areas of difficulty or frustration.

It may seem a cliché, but truly deciding to face each day with positivity and optimism is so important for anyone and this is particularly true for teens who can so often be bogged down with negative thoughts and feelings about their appearance, their abilities, their likes or dislikes, needs, dreams and desires. Instead, by being positive and creatively thinking through problem areas and seeking the assistance and support of others as needed, teens can gain a sense of self-confidence in their ability to make solid decisions.

You can help your teen develop and maintain a positive outlook by first and foremost, demonstrating by example. Your own positivity about yourself, your daily tasks and your coworkers, not to mention your belief in your teen’s abilities and value as an individual will speak volumes to them. You can hardly blame your teen for tossing responsibility for a bad grade from them to their teacher if you forget to process some paperwork and blame it on your boss.

Also, make sure your teen is aware of your willingness to help them work through any problem they may be having or to help them find help or resources to assist them as they try to make a decision.

It’s not about never making a mistake – errors in judgment are inevitable and are always experiences that create a learning opportunity to further grow and gain an enhanced understanding of life’s twists and turns. Rather, by carefully considering possible options and outcomes prior to making a decision, teens can gain confidence in their ability to make wise, positive choices that help them to consciously create success in their relationships, their schooling and employment.


Dawn Lyons is a mother to three boys and a professional freelance writer. She is passionate about empowering teens to create their own success and also helps adults who influence youth development to have a greater understanding of teen culture. Follow her on Twitter and visit her at www.linesbylyons.com.