According to UNESCO, child autonomy is the compilation of the 4 pillars of education: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, and learning to be. The aim is to influence child development in a healthy way and teach little ones to think and act on their own. In this post, you can understand the importance of children’s autonomy and how to stimulate it in a healthy way.

What is childhood autonomy?

Childhood autonomy is the encouragement of improved cognition and motor coordination. Contrary to what you might think, it is not related to childhood adultization, which is basically the urge to make children mature too soon. These are daily actions that children can take through parental encouragement to develop their independence and freedom!

Autonomy is the ability of a person to act on their own free will. When a child has autonomy, even in small ways, it helps build his confidence, self-esteem, and independence. Autonomy is a critical part of learning for all children.

What are the benefits of child autonomy?

Giving your child opportunities to practice independence and experience autonomy helps them create a sense of mastery over their body, their mind, and their environment. This supports independent and critical thinking, encourages intrinsic motivation, and inspires confidence. Want to know why we as parents should ensure our children develop independence? Check it out:

Increases self-esteem

Autonomy increases the self-esteem of the little ones since the child is able to carry out several activities without needing the help of other people. In this way, they feel happy and well with themselves. It is at this moment that the little ones learn that they are capable of eating alone and putting away their own toys, for instance. This is a characteristic that becomes much more proportionate with time and that is essential in adult life.

Improves social communication

Social communication is one of the cognitive skills that children develop most in early childhood – so much so that children’s language goes through numerous changes until it fully matures. With autonomy developed, the little ones can more easily ask, tell and express their wishes to their parents in an assertive way.

In other words, the crying and tantrum phase – which happens due to the child’s incapacity to clearly communicate its wishes – will be much shorter. Extra tip: don’t invade their story (completing words or correcting) while they are telling it, let them try to find the right words.

Teach frustration management

A child’s first frustration is imagining a really good idea and not being able to put it into the real world. This happens, for example, when trying to make drawings, clay sculptures, and challenging games.

These situations teach the child to deal with unavoidable disappointments in a healthy way. Look at the “problem”, accept it, and look for ways to improve next time. Autonomy teaches that we should take responsibility for our performance and not succumb in cases of failure.

Encourages decision making through experiences

The neocortex is the brain region responsible for decision-making. Its maturation begins at birth and ends after the age of 21. The problem is that until it reaches full development, children are impulsive and tend to be indecisive.

Therefore, encourage them to think empirically through autonomy. This means understanding that experiences (good and bad) are essential for learning and making better choices in the future.

Increases self-confidence

The act of conquering one’s own desires increases self-confidence. Raising little ones who feel able to solve problems is the beginning of well-resolved adults. Therefore, encourage your child to stand up for their wishes, argue about them and not be afraid to take a stand.

Enhances creativity

Child creativity is one of the greatest benefits of autonomy. After all, the little ones learn that there are no limits to imagination and discover their own tastes. From this, they even develop the fine motor coordination necessary to create new things and play with delicate things.

Giving your child opportunities to practice independence and experience autonomy helps them create a sense of mastery over their body, their mind, and their environment. This supports independent and critical thinking, encourages intrinsic motivation, and inspires confidence.
CREDIT: WILLIAM FORTUNATO / PEXELS

How to stimulate children’s autonomy?

Encourage children’s independence through small, everyday attitudes. For example, ask your child to eat his meals alone, tidy his room and brush his teeth. Understand better the next topics:

Let the child eat its meals alone

Hand the plate with the chopped meal to your child to pick up with a fork or spoon and put it in her mouth. Let her practice the movement and finish eating alone. When she is older, teach her how to clean her mouth and take the dirty plate to the kitchen sink.

Teach how to organize toys

Are you familiar with Montessori furniture, pieces made especially for the size of little ones? With them, children can organize their toys by themselves in wardrobes, niches, organizers, and drawers. Thus, she has the freedom to take whatever she wants to play with and already knows where to store it. Create a children’s room made for the little ones, this is accessible and an incentive to independence.

Cover teeth brushing

Brushing the teeth is essential to prevent bottle decay and other oral diseases. Have a proper toothbrush for the little ones, with soft bristles, U-shaped or to fit in the fingers.

Encourage bedtime tidying upon waking

According to William H. McRaven, a former U.S. Navy admiral, “If you want to change the world, start by making your bed. From this small daily challenge, children condition their body and mind to go after new achievements. Therefore, encourage children to conquer the small challenges and thus aspire to the bigger ones.

Teach children to bathe themselves

Children should be helped to bathe during their first 2 years of age. From that age, they are capable of participating in their own hygiene (but in small steps!). They will be able to bathe independently when they are 5 years old. Until that time, explain how they should clean themselves, what the order of products is and how to use them.

Ask for help with domestic chores

Asking the little ones to clean the house, put the dishes away and hang out the laundry is a great way to encourage autonomy! These activities are so important that they are among the main domestic chores that children can do.

Ask them to do the chores together with you, so that they learn the correct way to clean, put away and organize the household goods. Even turn this moment into a moment of relaxation between mother/father and children. In time, make it entirely their responsibility.

Pack the school bag

Packing the school bag is the greatest act of responsibility a child can have. After all, if they forget a notebook at home, they will suffer the consequences at school. In the beginning, pack together. After about 3 weeks of repeating this habit, let her tidy up by herself and check later. Finally, after another 3 weeks, trust in the child’s organization.

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