Those who know me, and surely in some article I have said the same, I always say that our task as parents, teachers, professionals, educators in general, is to raise emotionally strong children. That is to say, children who are capable of facing adversity, of accepting that there are things that hurt and they can cry to get back up, of accepting that there are immensely good things and laughing out loud to be contagious, of fighting with effort and determination to achieve something…
Well, for all this it is essential to build self-esteem strong and a good self-concept. And part of achieving that – only part, already in another article if you want we can talk about self-esteem and self-concept – it is the development of autonomy.
But let’s see what this means that we professionals insist so much on.
According to the dictionary, autonomy is the “Condition of someone who, for certain things, does not depend on anyone.” That is, it implies the ability to do things for oneself. And that includes initiative.
If we promote autonomy in children, gradually and according to the development of each one, we will be promoting growth with responsibility and self-confidence.
And here you stay with the idea of gradual and in accordance with development. We cannot suddenly give a child complete autonomy. We would be sinking him because there would be many things for which he is not yet prepared. Hence the importance of observing, guiding and accompanying.
And accompanying is not as easy as it seems. And it implies being present, but without “casting a shadow” as I say. That is, the little ones know that we will be there for whatever they need, but that they are the ones who will do the homework. It is the right measure, the “just challenge”, that allows us to provide support and support.
Thus, some of the conditions that we must take into account as adults to create that space of safe autonomy and responsibility will be:
– Establish clear rules and limits: in addition to being the basis of all coexistence, it provides security
– Leave space for leisure: letting children decide what and who to play with encourages decision-making
– Provide options whenever possible: what to wear, do an activity before or after snack…
– Accompany them in failure: overprotection does not prepare them for failure or effort. Letting them make mistakes in a controlled way (we don’t want anyone to get hurt) is important so that they learn from mistakes.
– Establish responsibilities according to age: pick up toys, set/clear up the table, do homework…
– Be available to support them when necessary: knowing that they can always count on an adult or a safe space will make them explore with greater confidence and expose themselves to more learning situations
– Value their efforts, even when they don’t want to do something: knowing that everything requires effort is an important lesson for life. Encouraging and praising them for their effort and work well done makes them value their effort and motivates them to continue.
– Demand gradually: over-demanding only leads to demotivation and frustration. It is better to go little by little. Let it cost but be able to get there with your own effort.
– Do not judge them: we would all do things differently and we all have different abilities, but what we want to encourage is autonomy, effort and responsibility.
– Giving labels does not help: labels, positive and not so positive, do not help the child discover their abilities and inabilities.
– Be an example: in the end children learn more from what they see than from what we tell them.
And finally, let me tell you that autonomy is encouraged from a very young age. Contrary to what many people think that there are certain learning that occur in adolescence, everything is created and generated from a young age. It is, perhaps, in adolescence or adulthood where the results of this learning can be seen more clearly. But it is always gradual and throughout life. Those who start in adolescence are already years late and, of course, will cost much more.
I leave you here a Montessori board that is very useful and visual of the responsibilities that you can give to the little ones depending on their age. What a calendar, put it on the refrigerator door to remind yourself every day that you have the duty to raise strong children. And if you are a teacher, put it next to the blackboard because you also have the duty to educate responsible and emotionally strong people.
And I already know that one sees them as soooooooooooooo tiny. But they are little people and we have the rewarding and difficult task of accompanying and preparing them. It is a task that requires our maximum responsibility and balance.