Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hart and Hodson: Autonomy

"One of the actions you can choose to ensure more co-operation than conflict in your home is to encourage your kids to make their own choices whenever possible.  Their choices and the lessons they learn from them will be the best teachers they have in their lives.  Parents overlooks needs for choice at great peril -- their own and their children's."

"Choice is at the core of human experience at any age.  This deep longing to choose our own purpose, beliefs, and actions, no matter what age we are, is fought for and defended in every home, particularly by children whose parents overlook their vital need for autonomy.  Opportunities to make choices typically increase with age and experience.  The total dependence of infants gives way, day by day and with increasing momentum, to a desire to make choices for themselves -- choices about what and when they want to eat, explore, and express themselves.  The maturing process is about growing the ability to make choices for oneself, and it is crucial for their development that kids at early ages have many opportunities to make choices and to learn from them."

"To appreciate what a child experiences when choices are absent, just notice your own responses when someone says to you, _You can't!  You must!  You have to! Do it because I said so! and  If you don't do it, you'll be sorry!_  Do you want to co-operate?  You can bet that your kids have the same reaction to these messages that you do, and probably twice as strong because they haven't had dozens of years to get accustomed to them."

"There are several reasons parents think and do for kids rather than give kids choices about how to think and do for themselves.   One reason is that they want to see things done in a certain way -- neatly, efficiently and precisely.  Another reason is that it takes more time and patience to let kids do things for themselves.  Rushed and harried the way most parents are these days, they find it easier and quicker to just take responsibility and do whatever need to be done."

"All this thinking and doing for kids limits their opportunists to make choices and to get things done using their own brain and muscles power and creates resistance and conflict.  Without these opportunities, it is difficult for them to see themselves as capable and competent in their world."

"One mother we know remember sharing opinions with her parents and hearing back, _Oh, you don't believe that! You shouldn't think that!_  At an early age she learned to keep her opinions to herself, and even as a grown woman she still doubts that anyone will appreciate them.. Such limitation on a child's way of seeing the world can have severe consequences in adult life."

"Help your kids become aware of the range of choices they have and convey your confidence that they can handle more choice about their lives.  To further exercise their choicemaking muscles and to learn what words and what doesn't, invite them to participate in making rules, agreements and plans that affect them. Let your kids know that they can rely on you to help them make adjustments when needed and that you are willing to learn along with them as they go."

"When you talk with your children about choice, be aware that many young people, especially adolescents, feel confused, irritated, or angry when they hear adults talk about making choices.  Most kids know that parents, teachers, and other adults make most of the important decisions for them, and their choices often seem limited to just two -- to comply with the decision that com down or to rebel against them.  Most kids' experience is of living in the midst of a seemingly endless number of rules and expectations that often don't make sense to them and don't honor their desire and ability to make choices for themselves.  They might not believe that they have any control over meeting their own needs.  They may need a great deal of empathy for the gap between the autonomy they would like to have and the limited number of choices they have been offered by adults in the past."

~Sura Hart and Victoria Kindle Hodson
Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids

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