Encouraging autonomy is an important part of children growing up to be self-confident and self-sufficient adults who have a true sense of self worth. However, autonomy has a closer pay off ...middle school. Autonomy is very important when children get to middle school and start facing peer pressures. We want children to be thinkers, problem solvers and most of all comfortable in their own skin so that when they are faced with make making choices they can be confident choosing the healthy, but possibly unpopular decision, to stay safe and have meaningful friendships.
“Habitually doing things for your child that she’s capable of doing herself sends an inadvertent message that you don’t have confidence in her abilities,” which leads to learned helplessness (2017, Guillard).
What builds autonomy in children? Letting children do what they can do is a great step. Obviously, the older the child gets the more they can do, but watching carefully can give clues as to when the child is ready to advance. For example, elementary students can:
When you notice your child doing any of the above activities, then it is a sign they are ready to practice doing it all the time. It takes time and can sometimes be messier than if the adult did it. However, the payoff is worth it! Children between 6-12 years old are developing “real-world skills and a sense of competence” (2017, Burke). Showing children they are strong, capable and worthy are important messages we can send them through our actions.
Burke’s article addresses the various stages of child development with the goal of helping to “identify when to provide your kids with the support to reach new, cognitive heights” (2017). I highly suggest reading Burke’s article linked below for more insight into brain-based research on child development. The article is written for parents and educators to understand and based on solid brain research.
Burke, G. A brief overview of the developing brain: How you can help your kids thrive as they
grow. Feb 13, 2017. Retrieved from:
Gillard, J. Help yourself! 8 tips for teaching kids to be more independent. Sept 29, 2017
Today’s Parent. Retrieved from:
By Justine Wilson, ES Principal, and Mariana Dantas, ES School Counselor
*Merriam-Webster defines resilience as "the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”
There is so much that parents don’t know...what was eaten for lunch, who played with who, what book was read, what happened in math class, etc….This can cause some parents to be uncomfortable as their child grows up. As children grow to become autonomous people, the more children need to learn how to depend on themselves. The school is here to support them. Maureen Healy wrote in Psychology Today, “The process of childhood includes making mistakes. However, the resilient child has somehow learned to pick him or herself up and keep going.” Yes, students make mistakes and have problems at school. There are not more problems amongst our students then at any another school in Brazil, the United States or any other place where children interact. Honestly, I am glad there are problems because problems are learning opportunities depending on how we, the adults, act! Catharine Newman wrote in Parents Magazine that we must teach realist assessment of situations. Most problems are not mountains acting as barriers, but rather that “most problems are clumps of dirt in the road”.
We all have choices when children bring problems to us, the adults:
1. As adults, we can get upset and rush in to save the children and “take care of it” for them.
2. As adults, we can listen, provide ideas, coach the child in coming to a solution and celebrate together.
Each of the above choices has consequences. If we choose number 1 and get upset investing a lot of energy into the problem, the children see that the adult took the problem and made it disappear. Children then become reliant, using the adult as a crutch, and will repeat this behavior because they haven’t learned what to do for themselves.
If we choose number 2 and see the learning opportunity for the child, even if their feelings were hurt, the child becomes resilient building self confidence. We can ask what the child did to solve the problem, say “Wow, that was smart” or ask “Did that work? If not, what can you do differently next time you have a problem?” This empowers children to own their problems, even if something happened to them that was not fair. According to Newman, optimism is also an important factor in building resilience. Recognize the problem and share how others have overcome similar problems. They learn to have a voice, that their voice matter, and that the adults are optimistic that they can solve the problem.
Schools are full of caring, diligent, knowledgeable professionals who want the best for all children. That’s why we all work in education! All the teaching staff help children to solve problems daily. Trust the professionals to notify parents when needed. 1,000s of children have come through our doors...
Teachers teach values which our community has all agreed to. We teach them directly and indirectly. We have recently added the Learner Profile, thanks to the adoption of the PYP, which also gives us a common language. We want children to learn right from wrong, to act with the values and when they don’t to reflect and learn. We work on this daily in every interaction we observe with students. There are many “right” ways to do this as long as the children are owning their problem and learning. Children are learning about respectful caring behavior, different perspectives, being a communicator and reflecting.
Next time your child brings a complaint or concern home, choose one of the following questions:
“What did you do about it?”
“Who did you talk to?”
“How did you express yourself?”
*magic happens here* Then congratulate them for their effort and move on to another subject to talk about. This builds autonomy, resilience and problem solving skills leading children to have a healthy outlook for life with less stress and anxiety.
Maureen Healy. (2014) The Resilient Child. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/2QXmMrX
Newman, Catherine. (2018) 7 Ways to Raise a Resilient Child. Parents Magazine. Retrieved from internet 26/9/2018. https://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/advice/ways-to-raise-a-resilient-child/
*A Parent’s Resource Guide to Social Emotional Learning. Explore a curated list of blogs, articles, and videos for parents about fostering skills like kindness, empathy, gratitude, resilience, perseverance, and focus in children. You can find it here at the link: https://www.edutopia.org/SEL-parents-resources.