Parenting and Decision Education: Everyday Decisions

May 1st, 2024
Parenting and Decision Education: Everyday Decisions

This blog is Part II of a series. For tips on making big decisions with your children, check out Parenting and Decision Education: Big Decisions.

Making decisions as a family can be a great opportunity for exploring Decision Education concepts and tools at home. But what if your family doesn’t have a significant decision looming on the horizon—can you still work on improving decision-making together? Our answer is yes! Below, we share stories from Alliance staff about how they’ve embedded Decision Education concepts and tools into everyday conversation with their families.

Thinking Through Outcomes and Confronting Thinking Traps

When one staff member brought his daughter to the library, they discussed how she might borrow the book she had in mind if the librarian wasn’t there to help her find it that day. His daughter stated that since the librarian had been there the last five visits, that meant there was a 0% chance the librarian would be absent that day.

Everyday activities like this present opportunities to explain Decision Education concepts in developmentally appropriate ways, like thinking probabilistically about various outcomes. In this case, our staff member encouraged his daughter to consider other possibilities—maybe the librarian was out sick or on vacation. Since those are possibilities that could happen, there must be a greater than 0% chance that the librarian could be absent that day.

When his daughter came out of the library stating that she was right because the librarian was, in fact, there, our staff member took this exchange as an opportunity to introduce the logical fallacy known as resulting. Resulting occurs when we judge the quality of our decisions based on the outcome they achieve rather than on the quality of the process used to make them. In other words, a desired outcome doesn’t mean our decision-making process was strong, just as an undesired outcome doesn’t mean we had a poor decision-making process. In this case, just because the librarian was, in fact, there didn’t mean it was accurate to assume there was a 0% chance the librarian would be absent (especially since we hope the librarian plans a vacation soon!).

The staff member and his daughter talked about how they could approach things differently the next time they went to the library. By using a premortem, they could think about possible outcomes and what to do in various situations before they happen. Maybe the librarian takes that vacation, and the daughter can use the online database to find her book. They also talked about being mindful of the overconfidence bias, which leads us to overestimate our knowledge or abilities in a certain area.

Everyday events like these can be filled with opportunities for diving into Decision Education concepts. Once again, libraries prove why they are great places for learning!

Clarifying Degrees of Confidence

Another staff member explored ways to help build his children’s comfort with numbers, probabilities, and explaining their level of confidence.

First, he provided his children with examples of what different degrees of confidence feel like (100% certain, 50% certain, and so on) and encouraged them that, when using a degree of confidence, they should think in terms of what they would be willing to lose for their beliefs. Why? As examined in Alliance co-founder Annie Duke’s book Thinking in Bets, people think differently about their confidence levels when they have something on the line!

Then it was time to put this practice into action around the house. When his daughter was trying to find her shoes one day, she stated, “Those shoes are definitely not in my room.” Our staff member replied, “So if I find them in your room, you’ll be okay with losing tablet time for the week?” Once there was something on the line, his daughter reflected on how confident she felt about the accuracy of her statement. How reliable was the information she based her statement on? Thinking more deeply about the situation, the daughter realized she was not 100% sure where her shoes were—or were not—and she went upstairs to do a more thorough search. (To this day, it’s not known if those shoes have ever been found!)

Using Rating Scales

Another staff member knew her efforts to encourage her son to think more rationally and numerically and avoid black-and-white thinking were starting to pay off when she overheard a conversation he had with a friend during a carpool. The two boys had just started middle school, and her son asked his friend about his new school and how he liked it so far.

The friend said, “I guess I like it.” Her son pushed his friend to be more precise, saying “You guess you like it? What does that mean? Tell me using a scale of one to ten!”

Our staff member recalled, “They spent the rest of the car ride rating different aspects of their schools, from classes and teachers to cafeteria food, and also clarifying what one, five, and ten actually meant on their scale. It was so cool to hear!”

How are you bringing Decision Education concepts to your family? Let us know!

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Check out our other blog posts

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  • How Olympic Judging Can Teach Us How to Examine Data

    We examine potential bias in Olympic judging to illustrate why understanding data accurately is crucial for sound decision-making.

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