Compassionate Parenting: Needs Explained - Autonomy

Autonomy: Independence or freedom, as of the will or one’s actions. Freedom to determine one’s own actions, behaviour, etc.

Based on this definition, it is a fairly important emotional need that may not even be recognized as a need. The ability and willingness to have and exert personal actions or choices creates the feeling of independence.

A child who is not given any freedoms and is expected to fully conform will have no real understanding of their own ability to make decisions. As the child becomes a teenager, they will be thrust into a world where they must make their own decisions and are expected to be able to make educated choices. If this child has not learned through action how to make educated decisions, and then how to act upon them, how can that child be expected to succeed?

Assisted autonomy in other adults

Allow those around you to make their own decisions and choose their own methods for their actions and behaviours. Trust in them to make decisions, and if that doesn’t end well ensure that the issues that arose are discussed. That way they learn from the experience and will be more capable of making an informed choice the next time it comes up.

By discussing the issues that arise when complications with someone else’s, or your own, decision, you open the door for constructive assistance and avoid judgment. The other person will be more capable of trusting your judgment and will be less afraid to make mistakes knowing that someone will be there to help them.

Assisted autonomy in children

In a child, the ability to have a choice in a matter is of utmost importance. They relish in being able to choose between wearing the red or green shirt, in being able to decide if they want cheese or no cheese in their sandwich, in being able to decide to help mom with the laundry.

They may not make the choice you would have made. Maybe you would have chosen the red shirt, but they want to wear the green one. Regardless of whether or not it clashes with their pants, that shirt is the one they chose. If you take back your word now and tell them they must wear the red shirt, they will feel defeated and helpless. The child may feel that their choice was not good enough, or that they are unworthy of making their own decisions.

Once the child makes their choice, let them follow it through. If it doesn’t end well, don’t be there just to shake your finger and tell them “I told you so” because that will not help them. If it doesn’t end well, be there to tell them that it is okay to make mistakes, and that it is okay to try something different. Because it is okay to make mistakes and try something different. That is how we as humans learn.

Small victories lead to bigger goals

The faith in oneself to make a decision, see it through, and then assess the results will invariably lead to the faith to then make bigger decisions. Bigger decisions that can be goals, either short- or long-term, that are essential to testing ones own limits and deepening the sense of self-confidence and self-trust.

The capability to create realistic goals that bolster and solidify self-confidence comes in having the confidence to make decisions. If a person can not honestly believe in themselves to make smaller decisions that will not affect their current lifestyle or future, how can they be expected to have the confidence to make goals or have dreams that can affect their current lifestyle or future?

Creating goals and having dreams is also essential to developing strong and positive personal and ethical values. Sticking to values if you have no confidence in your own choices and decisions can be virtually impossible, and can destroy the feeling of integrity. It is a downward spiral that can easily be stopped in childhood, and challenging but possible to stop into adulthood.

Peace and serenity,

Simply Me

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