Teaching Your Child Autonomy (When And How To Say No)

Every day it seems our children learn something new. Their growing independence is exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time and often requires a little guidance.

Teaching our children autonomy, which is the power to make their own decisions on their own terms, is trial and error as they come to grips with making judgments, having opinions, and making many mistakes along the way.

Here are some tips on how you can aid them along their journey.

Accept Mistakes

The frustration our children feel as they learn about what they can and can’t do can sometimes cause them to revert and avoid making those decisions. Teaching our children to accept that making mistakes is all part of learning and how to move on from a mistake, will help them to continue on the path to autonomy.

Don’t Step in

When mistakes happen, it is only natural for us to want to step in and guide them to the right decision or help them. In the long term, this won’t benefit them as they fall back on us to make decisions or do something for them. To support their developing autonomy, avoid interrupting, allow mistakes, and know that if they need our support they will ask.

Gaining Independence

The more we support our children in making
their own decisions and practicing skills themselves, the stronger their
independence grows. Give them opportunities such as allowing them to make
choices about themselves including the clothes they wear, the food they eat,
the way they wear their hair, and how they want to spend their time. Provide
them with chores to complete and allow them to make decisions.

Let Go of Control

We can often feel like taking over when our child does something which may not be up to our standard. If we give them the task of making their bed but they end up doing it different to us, we may feel an urge to undo their efforts and start again. By doing this, we are telling them they were wrong, and their attempts were not up to scratch. When supporting autonomy we need to let go of all control over a situation.

Saying Yes or No

An important lesson for children when it comes to autonomy is teaching and understanding the importance of saying yes or no. As a child, we often fall back to our parents when it comes to whether we should or shouldn’t do something. As we get older, learning to say yes or no is a valuable lesson in being heard. Empowering our children with the understanding that when they say no, it means no, will ensure they are fully respected in their decisions.

Geraldine Walsh

Mum of two Geraldine Walsh happily works from home as a freelance writer chatting about parenting, wellness and mental health.

Read more by Geraldine
{{ post.excerpt }}
{{ post.content.formatted }}

What is Family Friendly HQ?

Family Friendly HQ is Ireland’s trusted parenting community, dedicated to mums and dads, and families of all shapes and sizes.

Read more about us