Today as we explore autonomy, Dr. Jen shares a few insights into the environment that you’re creating with your parenting style. Most of us tend to parent somewhere between autonomy-supportive and a more controlled environment.
How does your child feel disclosing things happening in their life to you? Your parenting style is likely to influence their feelings and experience of this sharing.
Dr. Jen speaks to how you can indicate to your kids that you support their decisions in life and what influence this has on their wellbeing.
When we look at the data from the classroom, we see that students who perceive a teacher as unfair are more likely to have aggressive bullying-type behaviours.
A child who perceives an unfair situation does not feel in control. They will go out looking for control somewhere else as a result. Behaviours like aggression and bullying can be a response to feeling injustice somewhere else.
Make sure that your child understands why the rules exist, some of the principles behind them, and what you’re trying to accomplish with the rules. This will help to preserve their autonomy and prevent them from seeking out control in a more negative way.
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This week, teach your children to learn about their own brains and what makes them function at their best.
For some, it might be more quiet through the day. For others, they need to move their bodies more to stay focused. In my house, one of my kids is particularly sensitive to low blood sugar and the other needs extra sleep to be in tip-top shape. The more our kids know about their own unique brains, the more they will be able to take charge of their own success.
This means they do not rely on others to create success for them.
It’s easy to expect that our children’s classrooms will be formatted for great learning. Too often, we rely on this to ensure our children are getting what they need from their education. In truth, it is extremely difficult for one teacher to attend to everyone’s unique needs. Autonomy is just the skill needed to help our children take more responsibility for their own learning.
One big source of stress in our kid’s lives is when they feel like they don’t have control over what happens.
For example, in a fight with a friend or a tough subject at school, part of what is distressing about those situations is a feeling of lacking control.
One way we can build autonomy for our children is to help them take a few small actions in response to the challenging situation. This will also help your child to learn how to protect their wellbeing in situations where they feel out of control.
“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
To build autonomy, create a ‘how web’.
Autonomy is about options. There is almost always choice when it comes to how we think about our life and the challenges we face. Completing a ‘how web’ can help us see our problem from different perspectives and understand the different choices we can make in a given situation. To complete a ‘how web’ with your child, help them think through their problem with these different perspectives:
Find similarities – has something similar ever happened? What did you do then? What worked?
Break it down further – can the problem be broken down into smaller steps? What’s the first small action you could take?
Challenge assumptions – is there anything I’m believing about this issue that may not be true?
Ask an expert – who could help me with this?
Beginner’s mind – can I clear my mind of everything I think I know and look at the problem from a beginner’s perspective?
Be honest – what’s really bothering me? Are there feelings I’m not addressing or seeing?
Set small goals – ask ‘what’s the hard part?’ to break what can seem like a big problem into something more manageable.
Autonomy has been researched in over 80 countries across the world. In all these countries, it’s shown to have a positive association to our life satisfaction.
This is because, when we have self-directed goals and can follow our own interests and passions, we’re more likely to be satisfied with our lives.
While autonomy is important for this reason, it’s also important to ensure that your child is surrounded by a strong community. This week, surround your child with others in your community to help them develop a strong voice for themselves in the context of their social connections.