Empowering Parents: The importance of Autonomy Support in Children

Parenting behaviour has significant consequences for children’s behaviour and psychological adjustment. According to Joussemet et. al. (2008), parents encounter with a basic but mostly difficult task such as teaching the children values and regulations that helps them function efficiently in the society and in the meantime educating their drive to explain themselves and to chase their interests and abilities. In the process of children’s development and learning, parents’ support in autonomy is critical (Feng et. al., 2019). This autonomy support is an effective support for the child’s abilities to be autonomous (Ryan, et al., 2006). “Listen to the desires of your children. Encourage them and then give them the autonomy to make their own decision”, advices Eureka school teacher Merve Vinckus.

Autonomy support is characterised as providing reasons and explanations for the behavioural demands, identifying the feelings and viewpoints of the child, encouraging children’s attempts and diminishing the use of controlling techniques (Joussemet et. al., 2008). Koestner and colleagues demonstrated that it is possible to encourage children to follow the behavioural boundaries without influencing children’s inner motivation in negative way, as long as, the limits are ensured in informational way (Koestner et al., 1984).

Studies on the parental autonomy support by Gonida & Cortina (2014) proved that parents with autonomy-supportive behaviours support children’s motivational development in the form of proficiency goals and skill acquiring resulting in better performance. For instance, one finding showed that autonomy-supportive parental involvement in the home learning or homework is linked with increase in children’s mastery and skill acquisition resulting in better performance, including increase in the child’s math skills (Gonida & Cortina, 2014; Baker, 2015).

How to practice Autonomy supportive parenting:

  • Parental warmth.

Parental warmth is the most basic and important feature of parenting for the development of confidence (Saavedra, 1980). It is referred to as an expression of affection, love, appreciation and regard. Children need to be treated in a calm and non-judgmental way even if they misbehave so that child will know that they are always accepted. Children, who thinks that they will be loved even though they make mistakes, are less likely to be afraid of failing, says Dr. Tali Shenfield. Therefore, this will encourage them to take risks, explore and gain strong social skills.

  • Trust in your child’s development.

Children constantly discover their surroundings, seek for their interest, deal with challenges and activities which helps them develop their skills, at the same time accept the behaviours, values and manners of their social environment as their own. The ages at which each individual child achieve developmental milestones vary enormously (Landry et al., 20008). So, trust in children’s development leads to relaxed expectations and goals for the developmental milestones of their child, respect the pace of their child’s development, feelings of less responsibility for their child reaching these goals, a decrease in the parental stress, and an encouragement of parenting behaviours that allow the child’s own processes to play a central role in their development (Landry et al., 2008).

  • Allow your child make choices regarding to their age.

The need for autonomy is fulfilled when a child feels like their actions are their own (Deci et al., 1994). Giving them opportunity to make age-appropriate choices leads children to feel like they are the initiator of their actions. For instance, asking a toddler’s preferences on the colour of pencil will encourage the one to think that they can independently act in their environment. In this process, it is important to consider that the choices don’t contradict with their maturity level and don’t have negative impact on their well-being. Additionally, parents should support their child’s desire to explore. While child engages in an interesting activity, all the parents needs to do is to refrain from the controlling strategies and allow the process of inner motivation develop (Joussemet et. al., 2008).

In short, previous studies demonstrated that parental behaviour has long lasting effects on children’s behavioural and psychological adjustments. “Besides, from my observations through teaching experiences and my psychologist colleagues’, a child, who is blamed for their mistakes, is not encouraged to attempt to or supported in an activity which they engaged in, and did learned conditional love through the parents’ controlling behaviours, is highly susceptible to develop a sense of guilt and low self-esteem so the one is most likely to be afraid of exploration in new settings, avoid attempts to new experiences, and show high level of anxiety and low level of inner motivation”- says teacher Merve. Therefore, to provide parental warmth, develop the sense of being accepted within children, trust in their developmental process and allow them make age-appropriate decisions is very vital for the fulfilment of the need for autonomy of child.