I’m reading a great book about teaching right now, and the author brought up the difference in the words decide and choose. Intrigued, I went to my favorite online etymology dictionary and researched the two words. Decide has the same root as homocide, genocide, pesticide, and suicide, which means “to cut”, with “de-” meaning “off” and often having a negative connotation as in the word deny. Choose, which is only distantly related to choice, comes from a root which means “to taste, to relish” and shares ancestry with the word gusto.
What an interesting differentiation! Although we use those words interchangeably, they can have such different connotations. Now that I look at the root, when I use decide, I think of options being pruned away until only a few are left. Sometimes I do the pruning, sometimes others do it for me. But if I choose, it’s as if I’m partaking at a banquet table and picking the best things to taste with gusto.
Harry Wong, the author of The First Days of School, uses the example of a person in a restaurant who can’t make up his mind what to order—so he just has what the others are having. He says, “Deciders become victims because they allow other people to make decisions for them.” Those who go along with the crowd are doing the same thing. On the other hand, he says that leaders choose and are responsible for their choices.
We need to let our kids know they can choose good things. They don’t have to let others decide for them. This indecision often comes because of the anxiety that a small choice is a life-altering one. My child often says, “I want both, I can’t choose.” Finally I have to decide for her. If we take a chance and choose something new and unique on the menu and don’t like it, well, there is always another meal, at least for most of us in the U.S. This is a skill we will be working on with our students at JRA. Children don’t want to make bad choices or be powerless, but they need to be directly taught how to choose and take responsibility for those choices.
Decide or choose? It’s up to you!