Pre-K Responsible Decision-Making Skills

Responsible decision-making is the ability to make sound judgments about your behavior and how it affects others. Responsible decision-making includes all the social and emotional knowledge your child has built so far. 

mom daughter book

During the pre-kindergarten years, children are learning very quickly. While children at this age may have short attention spans, they often learn best by being read to, playing pretend and observing others, especially you. By setting a strong example, you can show your child how to be socially and emotionally intelligent. 

Girls Reading On Grass

At this age, your child should be able to make decisions based on your rules and values, like sharing with others and taking turns. 

Fighting Kids

Your child is also learning how to recognize decisions that hurt others, like yelling at siblings and friends. 

Boy Getting Dressed

Your preschooler should be able to make decisions based on the options you give. For example, “Do you want to wear pants or a skirt today?”

Your child must weigh the impact of their choice on both themself and others. It is through making choices that he or she learns about hurting or helping others, and gains important relationship and problem-solving skills. Will she share a new toy with a friend? Or will he keep it all to himself? Preschool often marks a time when children are transitioning to a formal school setting, and in doing so, they are starting to make decisions based on their own interests.


It is through making choices that kids learn about hurting or helping others, and gain important relationship and problem-solving skills.

breakfast kid

When your child is this age, it is up to you to manage the choices he or she makes while also giving them freedom to make their own choices. For example, “Do you want cereal or eggs for breakfast” is a better way to give small children a choice than an open-ended, “What do you want for breakfast?”

Little Girl Running

Keep in mind that every child develops at his own pace. Maurice Elias, director of the Social-Emotional Learning Lab at Rutgers University, recommends being watchful without overly worrying, as preschoolers are extremely different in their rate of development and your child may even excel in one area and lag in another. The concepts highlighted in this section are based on the five sets of competencies developed by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). If you have concerns about your child’s development, please contact your healthcare provider, his teacher or school counselor, or visit our additional resources page


Social & Emotional Development

Research shows that those with higher social-emotional skills have better attention skills and fewer learning problems, and are generally more successful in academic and workplace settings. Like any math or English skills, these skills can be taught and grow over time.

Explore Social & Emotional Development