Making Responsible Choices Essay

Consider what you want from life and make sure your decisions help you reach your goals.

Every day you have choices to make. Some of those choices don’t have much to do with your eternal salvation (“What color shirt should I wear?”), and some of them have everything to do with it (“Should I break this commandment?”). You may sometimes wonder, “Do my choices really matter?” Or you may even think, “If no one knows what I’m doing, do my decisions really affect anyone?” The answer is yes! Decisions do matter.

Why They Matter

In order to understand why your choices matter, let’s go back to the premortal life. When Heavenly Father presented His plan of salvation, not everyone agreed. Lucifer objected to the plan and “sought to destroy the agency of man” (Moses 4:3). Because of this, he became Satan and he and those who followed him were cast out of heaven and denied the opportunity to progress by experiencing mortality. Agency was so important in God’s plan that those who wanted to destroy it were cast out of heaven!

Heavenly Father’s plan gives us the opportunity to choose for ourselves because that’s the only way we can learn, grow, and become more like Him. One of the purposes of life is to learn to use our agency wisely. But we weren’t given agency just to do whatever we want. For the Strength of Youth teaches, “While here on earth, you are being proven to see if you will use your agency to show your love for God by keeping His commandments” (For the Strength of Youth [booklet, 2011], 2). Choosing to keep the commandments shows God that we love Him and are willing to follow Him. The choices we make—including our attitude in making those decisions—are a big part of the test of mortality.

Choosing Good

You’ve been taught repeatedly that choosing to disobey God’s commandments brings consequences. But have you considered that the same is true for good choices? For the Strength of Youth teaches: “While you are free to choose your course of action, you are not free to choose the consequences. Whether for good or bad, consequences follow as a natural result of the choices you make” (For the Strength of Youth, 2; emphasis added).

So what are the consequences of good choices? You could probably come up with a large list of blessings that come from making righteous choices. A good place to look for these blessings is in the scriptures and your For the Strength of Youth booklet. For example: “If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life” (D&C 14:7); “Observing the Sabbath will bring you closer to the Lord and to your family” (For the Strength of Youth, 31); or “When you are obedient to [the Word of Wisdom], you remain free from harmful addictions and have control over your life” (For the Strength of Youth, 25).  Those sound like pretty great blessings, and there are many more you can find.

“Each of us has the responsibility to choose. You may ask, ‘Are decisions really that important?’ I say to you, decisions determine destiny. You can’t make eternal decisions without eternal consequences.” —President Thomas S. Monson

The Lord said that we “should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [our] own free will,” and He promised that we can “bring to pass much righteousness” when we do (D&C 58:27). So we should not only avoid bad things but also actively seek to do good things.

Sometimes we get so worried about all the things that we are not supposed to do that we forget that obedience also includes doing things we are supposed to do. You can probably understand how choosing to break commandments negatively affects your life, but do you understand how choosing to do good things can posi­tively affect your life and the lives of others?

Live Intentionally

So how can you make sure you are making good choices? First, consider what you want from your life. Do you want eternal life? Do you want to be sealed in the temple? Do you want to serve a full-time mission? Do you want to graduate from college and get a good job? If so, how do you get there? Just like builders need a blueprint to make a skyscraper, you need a plan to build a righteous life.

Write down some of your goals and how you plan to achieve them. Keep that list where you can see it often. Then when you do have to make a choice, you can think about your list to make sure you don’t give up what you want most for something you want now. Setting goals also makes your choices deliberate and intentional instead of being haphazard, random, or based on circumstances.

How does this really work? Let’s say one of your goals is to serve a full-time mission. And every morning you have the choice to get up for early-morning seminary or to sleep in an extra hour. Which of those choices will help you to reach your goal? Or maybe you have a goal to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the school year. Then, when you get home from school or before you go to bed, you have the choice of reading your scriptures or doing another activity, like watching your favorite TV show. Which do you choose? Choices like this are before you every day. Keeping your goals in mind will help you make the decisions that will lead you to the things you really want.

Make Decisions in Advance

“When I was a young woman, I learned that some decisions need to be made only once. I wrote my list of things I would always do and things I would never do in a small tablet. It included things like obeying the Word of Wisdom, praying daily, paying my tithing, and committing to never miss church. I made those decisions once, and then in the moment of decision, I knew exactly what to do because I had decided beforehand. When my high school friends said, ‘Just one drink won’t hurt,’ I laughed and said, ‘I decided when I was 12 not to do that.’ Making decisions in advance will help you be guardians of virtue. I hope each of you will write a list of things you will always do and things you will never do. Then live your list” (Elaine S. Dalton, former Young Women general president, “Guardians of Virtue,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 123).

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Things to Ponder for Sunday

  • What is the role of agency in the plan of salvation?
  • How do your good choices affect your life and the lives of others?
  • How can small decisions help you achieve your larger goals?

Things You Might Do

  • Write a list of goals you want to achieve now and in the future.
  • Look at your list of goals when you have a choice to make.
  • Share your experiences at church, at home, or by clicking on Share your experience below.

This article originally appeared in the February 2014Liahona

Throughout their teenage years, your child will be confronted with many difficult situations where choosing to make a safe and healthy decision may not be the easiest – or most obvious – thing to do.

Peer pressure may factor heavily into the decision making process regarding serious issues such as drinking alcohol at parties, trying drugs, having sexual relationships, joining gangs, etc.

As a parent, being present to protect your teen from situations that could potentially hurt him or her will always be an intense urge that often cannot be realistically fulfilled.

As your child grows older, parenting becomes less about control and more about offering guidance. You can help support your teen in making responsible decisions by providing a solid foundation built upon sharing your time, experience, values, trust, and love.

Quick Facts

  • It is normal for teens to challenge their parents' values, beliefs, and practices as a way to test parents and assert their independence.
  • Teens need support and guidance from their parents to make important decisions about their future.
  • The more controlling parents are, the more rebellious teens are likely to become.

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Tips for Parents

Whenever your teen comes to talk to you regarding a decision he or she is currently facing, make the most out of the opportunity! Your approach to any discussion has a real impact on whether or not you teen feels comfortable coming to talk to you in the future.

The tips we have provided below are designed to help you convey to your teen that you want to help, but won't try to control the situation by taking the decision out of their hands or making the decision for them.

  • Allow your teen to describe the problem or situation in their own words.
    1. Ask how he or she feels about the problem.
    2. Ask questions that avoid "yes" or "no" responses. These questions usually begin with "how," "why," or "what."
    3. Really listen to what your teen is saying instead of thinking about your responses.
    4. Try to put yourself in your teen's shoes to understand his or her thoughts.
  • Talk with your teen about choices.
    1. Teens sometimes believe they don't have any choice in the outcome of difficult situations. Help your teen to see alternatives that may be smarter, more responsible options.
    2. Define what constitutes a safe or smart choice. Help your teen understand that their health is often the most important factor involved in decision-making.
  • Help your teen to identify and compare the possible consequences of all of the available choices.
    1. How will the results affect your teen's goals? For example, how would smoking affect playing on the soccer team?
    2. Explain (without lecturing) the consequences of different choices.
  • Allow your teen to make a decision and carry it out.
    1. Ask if your teen has a plan.
    2. Remember, your teen may make different choices than you would prefer.
  • Later, ask your teen how things worked out.
    1. What did he or she learn from the decision?
    2. Allow your teen to live and learn from mistakes.
    3. Praise your teen when he or she makes a good choice.

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Respecting Your Teen

Teenagers with high self-esteem and self-respect are more likely to make responsible health choices. Help your teen build these characteristics by:

  • Allowing him or her to voice their personal opinions
  • Involving him or her in decisions that may affect the entire family
  • Listening to his or her opinions and feelings
  • Helping him or her set realistic goals
  • Showing faith in his or her ability to reach those goals
  • Giving him or her unconditional love and showing it (make your teen aware of your unconditional love for him or her)
  • Being supportive, even when he or she makes mistakes
  • Being open and understanding whenever your teen needs to talk to someone

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Facing Peer Pressure

How will your teen handle peer pressure to drink, smoke, have sex, or get in a fight? Talk with your teen about ways to handle risky situations to prepare him or her to make safer choices. To feel comfortable talking openly with you, your teen needs to know that you will not punish him or her for being honest.

© 2001, American Medical Association
Used by permission

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Additional Resources

Caring for Your Adolescent. American Academy of Pediatrics. New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1991.

All That She Can Be: Helping Your Daughter Maintain Her Self-Esteem. Carol Eagle. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1994.

The Hurried Child: Growing Up Too Fast Too Soon, 3rd Edition. David Elkind, Ph.D. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing, 2001.

How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk. Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. New York, NY: Avon Books, 1980.

Adolescence. Elizabeth Fenwick and Tony Smith. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam Inc., 1998.

Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World: Seven Building Blocks for Developing Capable Young People. H. Stephen Glenn and Jane Ed.D. Nelsen. Roseville, CA: Prima Publishing, 2000.

Beyond the Big Talk: Every Parent's Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Teens - From Middle School to High School and Beyond. Debra W. Haffner. New York, NY: New Market Press, 2001.

How to Talk With Teens About Love, Relationships, and S-E-X: A Guide for Parents. Amy G. Miron and Charles D. Miron. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing Inc., 2002.

Teen Tips: A Practical Survival Guide for Parents With Kids 11 to 19. Tom McMahon. New York, NY: Pocket Books, 1996.

A Parent's Guide to the Teen Years: Raising Your 11- to 14-Year-Old in the Age of Chat Rooms and Navel Rings. Susan Panzarine. New York, NY.: Checkmark Books, 2000.

Your Adolescent: Emotional, Behavioral, and Cognitive Development From Early Adolescence Through the Teen Years. David Pruitt. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2000.

Raising Teens: A Synthesis of Research and a Foundation for Action. A. Rae. Simpson. Boston, MA: Center for Health Communications, Harvard School of Public Health, 2001.

You and Your Adolescent: A Parent's Guide for Ages 10-20. L. Steinberg and A. Levine. Dunmore, PA: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 1997.

The Difficult Child: Expanded and Revised Edition. Stanley Turecki. New York, NY: Bantam Books, 2000.

Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, and Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence. Rosalind Wiserman. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 2003.

It's not fair, Jeremy Spencer's parents let him stay up all night!: A Guide to the Tougher Parts of Parenting. Anthony E. Wolf. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1996.

Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall: A Parent's Guide to the New Teenager. Anthony E. Wolf. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2002.

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Reviewed By:Adolescent Interest Group
Last Reviewed: August 2013

Below are links PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.

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For more information regarding your teen and healthy decision-making, you may wish to also consult:

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