A few years ago, while on vacation, my 6 year old daughter was trying to help fix our dinner, and burned her hand on the stove. 5 years later, she still remembers that incident and has become quite good at fixing scrambled eggs in the skillet on our stove at home. It would be great if things worked out that way in every situation: Minor burn leads to wise use of the stove. Unfortunately there are things that are way more destructive at first contact, and require guidance and wisdom from someone with more knowledge and life experience.
One of our jobs as parents is to help our kids process and react to the world around them in a healthy manner. As much as we would like them to just be able to do this on their own, and from a young age, we are responsible for guiding our kids into wisdom. While there is some merit to allowing our kids to learn from experience and making their own mistakes, we wouldn’t want to take that chance with things with the potential for permanent and major injury, like trying heroin or robbing a bank. If wisdom came only through direct experience, we would have a lot of maimed and addicted kids.
A great way for us as parents to pass wisdom on to our kids is to have what Psychologists call “Dilemma Discussions”. These are conversations about real world circumstances where the characters involved have decisions to make. Circumstances could be real or made up, a story on the news or something you think your kids should think through. For each character in the scenario, ask your kids, “What would you do if you were in that position?” and “How could things have worked out better for that person?” and “Can you think of a verse in the Bible that might help us decide?” If your kids can’t think of one, be ready with a few proverbs or characters from Scripture that were in similar circumstances.
These conversations could happen in the car, around the dinner table, or just sitting in front of the TV (TV characters make for excellent dilemma discussions because they usually make terrible decisions!). If we’re intentional with these kinds of discussions, we help our kids develop the cognitive skills to reason through decisions and make healthy choices later in life.