We hear a lot about autonomy and how in nurseries as early as toddlerhood, the educational system is implementing this mode. But what exactly does autonomy entail, at what age is it important to start, and how do we achieve it at home?
By the age of 3 right about time when a child is ready for school signals a good start point. They will be integrated in a routine where there are authority figures but at the same time allows him to feel independent and grown up. Being independent is synonymous to being autonomous, it allows determination and individuality, strengthens capabilities and responsibilities.
Achieving autonomy takes a lot of patience, because let’s face it, it’s much easier during busy days and rush hours for parents to help their child to brush their teeth, tie their shoes, wear their coats etc, than to wait a long time for them to accomplish this task. But since patience is key we need to shift our strategy from “get it done quickly by mommy” to “take your time and do it yourself”.
1. Start by building your child’s trust in himself, and in turn show him you trust that he is capable. That is the first step in preparing your child for autonomy, because when he believes that he can, he will. Think about it this way, if you, an adult, were told by someone you can never do this or that, it will be detrimental to your morale and you will start to believe you can’t. However if someone encourages you and provides wind beneath your wings, you will surely strive to get to your goal.
2. Begin by giving your child small tasks that are somewhat easy, for example getting dressed or putting away toys. Once he feels responsible for those simple tasks and objects, it will feel like his territory and will try to make sure he always accomplishes what you set as chores. Later on these tasks will be greater and may even include showering alone or reaching for his snacks from the fridge and choosing a spoon to eat them with!
3. Be alert for the times your child asks you to do something for him. Many times he will either believe he cannot handle the task at hand or perhaps just wants to rely on you momentarily. This is your chance to evaluate whether it can be done on his own or not and intervene accordingly. If you feel that true, he might be overwhelmed then by all means help, but if it is just a sympathy card fight your instincts and let him go through with it.
4. Always use positive reinforcement when you feel that your child is giving up. Throw in phrases like “you are doing great” as often as you can. On occasion your child will feel helpless and turn to you for encouragement, which makes it ideal for you to reassure him that he is a big boy/girl and is totally able.
5. Avoid giving your child solutions but instead allow him time to think how to get the task at hand done. This will build self esteem in their decisions as well as teach them the effect of these choices.