Professional Development

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The ABCDs of decision making

Tuesday, 16 November 2021 00:00

You’ve used the basic guidelines for integrating youth choice and well-informed decision-making in OST. Now what? Let’s look at a model for teaching young people about the decision-making process and how to make thoughtful choices. ABCD Decision-Making focuses on the steps involved in the decision-making process. When used repeatedly, kids will begin to go through the steps as part of their normal thought process. 


Adult Support: Help define the decision by asking, “What decision do I/we need to make?” and follow up with probing questions such as, “What’s happening? How does it make you feel?”  

  • Summarize what was said.
  • Articulate the problem from the young person’s point of view.
  • Encourage the young person to state the decision at hand.


Adult Support: Help evaluate possible options.

  1. Encourage sharing of multiple ideas about how to proceed.
  2. Advocate for generating several ideas and gathering ideas from numerous people.
  3. Refrain from sharing opinions. If there are a lot of ideas, encourage writing them down.


Adult Support: To help choose the best option or solution, invite evaluation of each idea. 

  1. Propose listing the pros and cons of each and analyzing the consequences of making a particular choice. 
  2. Encourage making a specific plan that includes who, what, when, where, how, and how much.
  3. Recommend writing it down and reading it back to help determine if the option is realistic


Adult Support: Put the decision into action.

  • Continue to ask probing questions.
  • Practice active listening.
  • Encourage as necessary to support the decision.

If you are thinking about trying this process, consider the following ahead of time--and periodically after implementation--to increase success: 

  1. In which situations would this work best?
  2. How do you see this working in your program?
  3. What concerns do you have about using this process?
  4. What would the next step be?
  5. What would you add to the process to make it more effective?

You may be thinking, “That’s fine when you have a lot of time, but what about when a decision needs to be made immediately or if decisions are part of a positive guidance strategy to redirect behavior?” Our next blog post in the Choose Choices series will offer a model and suggestions for time-pressed circumstances.