Decisions, decisions…

Posted by paula on Jul 13, 2009 in Product Recommendation, Sustainable Parenting |

Which pram should I buy? Does baby really need the labour augmentation? Which school should I choose? Motherhood throws up a lot of important decisions. So it’s good to have a few decision-making tools up your sleeve. Don’t know any? Here’s a quick look at the K-T decision analysis tool, research, B-R-A-I-N, and relying on reputations.

Kepner-Tregoe Decision Analysis

You may have been taught the the KT method in school or used it professionally, say in deciding on an important software purchase. This technique is great for breaking down complex decisions, for taking the politics out of group decisions, or choosing between a number of options. The bones of it:

First – decide on your selection criteria.
Second – give relative weightings to each criteria.
Third – score each option you are considering on each criteria.
Finally – apply your weightings to your scores and add up these weighted scores to come up with a single number (final score) for each option.  Then compare final scores for each option — highest score wins.

KT decision analysis is great for large purchasing decisions such as:

  • should I have my next baby in a hospital/birth centre/my lounge room?
  • should we buy a new family home/car/fridge/washing machine/bed?
  • which school/kindergarten/childcare provider should I entrust with my children?

The KT method just makes me feel good. Whenever there is enough energy to have anxiety over a decision, this technique lets me funnel that energy into useful analysis. Sometimes I find myself wanting to use KT for everything, but I’m realistic about the overheads in doing it properly, so I have other techniques for smaller or more time-pressed decisions.


When acquiring baby equipment, there are a lot of items to consider in a very short time, and each item is an important and significant decision. There are usefulness, safety, usability, enjoyability and price issues to consider. Walking into a large reputable baby-stuff shop and saying “I’ll have this, that, that, that and that” might be very enjoyable, but baby-stuff safety is by no means transparent, and there may be items which are just not applicable to your lifestyle. Do some research first.

I took out a three-month online subscription to Choice Magazine while researching and acquiring the bulk of my baby equipment and safety gear. Their older articles are free online, including some excellent “how to evaluate XYZ” guidelines, and an indication of the general safety standards in a particular market.

If you are looking for information and advice on chemical-free living options, you’ll need to go beyond the mainstream sources. This blog is starting to look into some of these. Just quickly, topics you may be interested in include: Biphesenol-A (expressing kit), Nano-tech (washing machines, etc), Phthalates (PVC, etc) and mattress-wrapping.


This was taught to me at an active birthing workshop as a technique for making decisions while labouring in hospital.  Ideally, labour should be undisturbed, intimate, and generally facilitate the oxytocin flow. However, most people end up in hospital, where Doctor is likely to ask if you’d like your membranes ruptured and Nurse will offer pethidine. B-R-A-I-N is an acronym, which stands for:

Benefits – why do you want me to do this?
Risks – what are the side effects and what could go wrong?
Alternatives – are there other ways of doing it? What if I choose to do nothing?
Intuition – what is your intuition telling you?
Need some time to think about it – yes, it’s always reasonable to request 10 minutes of privacy to talk it over with your partner.

Preconceptions, Reputation and Word of Mouth

A recommendation from someone who shares your values can give a starting point when exploring a very large area of information. It’s heavily values-laden and not objective. It’s a short-cut, and not a true analysis technique.

In choosing a pram, for example, people of my demographic tend to love the Phil & Ted’s prams. I didn’t spend enough time on prams to even get around to Phil & Ted’s the first time (four visits to various pram shops had me bamboozled enough, thank you). But half my mother’s group has them, and my second pram is a Phil & Ted’s. I would have benefited from some word of mouth on this topic.

A surprising number of people seem to use ‘reputation’ as a primary tool when choosing a school for their children. This large, important, complex decision, which can be made over a number of years, is perfectly suited to the Keppner-Trego Decision Analysis tool. Reputation shouldn’t be more than a criterion within your K-T analysis.

Think about it this way, “I’ve heard it has a good reputation” is the single easiest thing to say about anything when all you have heard is some other person saying “I’ve heard it has a good reputation.” Without actual information, you can’t know the values on which the original evaluation of “good” was based. For example, did someone who likes to see children nicely presented declare the local school was “good” because they have a school uniform? Even with actual information, you are still only dealing in preconceptions until you read their website, walk through the front door, and/or interview a teacher/principal/student/parent from that school.

Good luck

Modern Mamas have brains (as well as good looks).  We’re more informed, better educated and more professional than any generation before us.  We have skills.  But motherhood itself can be uncharted territory —  something that many of us spent decades turning a blind eye to, for fear of not being taken seriously!  So I’m here with a gentle reminder that all that education, skill and resilience can form part of the rich resource that a Modern Mama can and should be drawing on.  Ultimately, you have to be comfortable and confident with your decisions.  For me, a large part of that comes from engaging the old grey matter.

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