Transcript for
Give your child the opportunity to make decisions – episode six

Runtime 00:10:59
Released 25/6/20

Narrator [00:00:02] Welcome to the Emerging Minds podcast.

Drew Radford [00:00:07] This podcast is part of a series called Supporting Children Through Drought.

G’day, I’m Drew Radford. In this episode, we’ll focus on giving your child the opportunity to make decisions and have their voice heard. Drought is notable for the sense of powerlessness it creates, which is why giving children choices and asking their opinions can help them feel more empowered and positive. To explore this in detail, we’ll speak with mental health professionals and importantly, parents who live in remote locations about their own experiences. One of whom is Belinda, from a station in the Flinders Ranges. She places an enormous importance on her children’s opportunities to make decisions.

Belinda [00:00:58] The greatest power that I can give my kids, and it’s probably not all just related to working here on the farm and on the station. I think it’s giving them them knowledge that we, what we’re doing it, you know, sending them away to school is giving them not the opportunity to be better than anybody else, but have that opportunity to educate themselves so that if and when and whichever one all of them do or none of them do, that they have the tools to deal with something like this if it happens again as an adult. So for us, sending them away to school whilst their school is not a ag school, I think their education will help them build our business if that’s the way they want to go. So that’s one thing. But obviously, they are all capable on the motorbike, they’re all capable wtih stock and they’ve been introduced to it from a young age. So letting them know that they are appreciated and that if they make the decision to help muster or whatever, whatever decision, if they want to go a certain way, or if they think that’s the way to attack a paddock to muster. Then we try to let them lead with the skills that we’ve given them, I guess.

Drew Radford [00:02:07] Thanks, Belinda. To drill down into this further, I’m joined in the Emerging Mind studio by psychologist John Dean. John, there are some great examples in there from Belinda, in regards to supporting decisions. But also not pressuring them to follow any predetermined path. It must be though, a fine line for a parent to tread.

John Dean [00:02:28] Yeah. Belinda is really talking about fostering her children’s decision-making skills, I guess. And a decision like staying on the property, going away to school, that sort of thing. That’s a pretty big decision. And to make a decision like that successfully probably needs quite a bit of experience in sort of making lesser decisions. That’s what I’d be thinking. And there’s really some simple sort of approaches to decision making and working with children at a young age to help them make decisions, as she talked about, you know, how to approach mustering a paddock or even much more basic decisions as they’re much they, is important. And look, that’s really just about stating what the problem is and then thinking about what sort of solutions there might be and then thinking about what might happen if you were to do one of those things and then deciding what might be the best course of action and giving it a go. And trying it out and then being able to come back perhaps to an adult and talk about how that went, and that adult be able to work with you about whether that ended up to be a good way of doing it or whether perhaps there might be another way that you could have approached it. And Belinda is quite right that farm kids do gain lots of skills very quickly in all sorts of directions and different skills to work that perhaps a kid growing up in a town or city might have. And it can make them feel special and taking an interest in what your child or young person is doing around the farm, or particularly with interests that they have, is a great way of building their self-esteem. And provided they’re doing that in a safe way. I think that’s a great opportunity that kids growing up on a farm have.

Drew Radford [00:04:34] You make an important distinction there too. In supporting it in a safe way, are you supporting decisions which may be wrong, let them find out from experience. Provided there’s no personal harm in the process.

John Dean [00:04:46] Yeah, and that’s a really important distinction to make. And as as a parent, our responsibility is to make sure that the decisions they make are not going to lead them into harm. But also we need to be giving them enough room to explore the world and find things out for ourselves.

Drew Radford [00:05:04] Psychologist John Dean. Some wise words there in treading that fine line when supporting your child’s opportunity to make decisions. Thanks for joining me in the Emerging Minds studio. How, though, do you support decision making with younger children? I spoke with Kirsty, who has been raising four young children in a very isolated corner of South Australia about what she and her husband do to provide opportunities for decision making.

Kirsty [00:05:35] Yeah, I guess they ask like that. And it’s putting that time aside. I think it’s very easy to become consumed in all things work because we live there, we work there, we socialise there. Like everything happens at home or in that community. And I think it’s very easy to become consumed in that. But I’m not saying we’re very good at it, but I think my husband and I are getting better at actually going. You know what? It can wait. And if kids want to go for a horse ride, we’ll make it happen. So, yeah, I think it’s taken a are staying four kids to get to that. But making the time and setting that aside. And don’t you know, put phones away, put all the other stuff like that tank can wait till tomorrow until we fix that. And putting that time aside for the kids so that they actually feel like you’ve, because it it becomes all things work otherwise.

Drew Radford [00:06:33] Kirsty makes some great points there about making time and space for her children to do the things that they want, not just what she and her husband want to discuss how infants and young children are so reliant on their parents or adult caregiver. I’m joined in the Emerging Mind studio by psychologist Dr Andrea Baldwin. Andrea, how do adults provide opportunities to make choices and decisions for children of this age group?

Dr Andrea Baldwin [00:06:59] Well, Drew, it’s probably easier with slightly older children because they’ve got more language and they’re able to tell you more about what they’d like to do. But there are also lots of ways to encourage young children sense of agency and help them express themselves and teach them about making choices and experiencing success, even when they’re babies. So in the early years, a lot of this is about encouraging them to explore and play. That’s their main job at this age, because that’s how that’s how they learn and grow. So even with babies, you can pay attention to what they’re doing and comment on the things that they’re looking at or reaching for and follow their lead. So say baby starts drumming their hand on a surface, you could smile and encourage them, drum along with them, maybe take turns. They hit the table a few times. Then you hit the table and you make a welcoming expression and smile and laugh, and talk with them about what you’re doing together and the fact that they’re the ones leading the activity. Toys, play equipment, art materials. All give little ones the opportunity to make choices, express themselves and experience success. Have you ever seen a one year old when they managed to get the square blocks thorugh the square hole? The delight on their face because they’re experiencing success. As they’re becoming toddlers you can offer choices like, would you like to wear your red shirt or your blue one today? And the older they get, the more they’re likely to talk to you about their choices.

[00:08:18] They’ll be gaining skills and language and self-expression, and they’ll want to tell you about their day. And you can ask them about what choices they made and how they feel about different things that happened. And it’s really important to show them that you’re listening and acknowledging what they have to say. It’s not just washing over you. Ask their opinions about different things, enlist them in choosing what to have for dinner, encouraging their ideas. And there are there are short term and long-term reasons for this approach. So obviously, kids are the adults of the future. We want them to develop the competence to speak up and ask questions, make suggestions and actively participate in decision making and make more and more decisions for themselves. And in the short term, we really need to counteract that feeling of powerlessness or helplessness that can come during hard times like drought. We do want to encourage them to get involved and do what they can do to help while reassuring them that adults are responsible for managing the big stuff. It’s not a burden for them to carry. They can’t control the weather or the big things, but there are smaller things they can control or influence in a positive and constructive way. Like what goes on the sandwiches at lunchtime or how tidy the playroom looks.

Drew Radford [00:09:27] Psychologist Dr Andrea Baldwin, thank you for that insight and for joining me in the Emerging Mind studio.

Dr Andrea Baldwin [00:09:32] Thanks very much Drew.

Narrator [00:09:38] If this podcast brings up any difficult emotions for you, please reach out to someone you can talk to or call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Beyondblue support service on 1300 22 4636 at any time.

Drew Radford [00:09:57] Thank you for joining us for our Supporting Children Through Drought podcast series, this podcast series has been made possible by funding from country South Australia Primary Health Network, ending collaboration with parents from Isolated Children’s Parents Association SA Branch, Remote Isolated Children’s Exercise, Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health in Children’s Health, Queensland Hospital and Health Service and School Link and Got It Programmes and New South Wales Health Murrumbidgee Local Health District.

Narrator [00:10:37] Brought to you by the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health, led by Emerging Minds. The National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health under the National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Programme. Visit our website at

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