Teaching kids personal autonomy

Have you ever seen one of those Facebook posts where people brag about their childhood? You know, the ones that brag about how the streetlights were the curfew, garden hose the water fountain, how bikes were ridden without helmets and how dirty the childhoods of yore were?

When I see those posts I remember my childhood fondly. Then I get tad bit sad. And I wonder if all of these people who brag about their childhood are giving the same childhood to the next generation.

Childhood these days is so wrapped up in control, busyness and being germ free it seems all but impossible to give our children the same experience we had. In some ways, maybe we’ve improved. In other ways we’ve set them up for failure.

Personal autonomy is the capacity to decide for oneself and pursue a course of action in one’s life.

When we bubble our kids in so many rules, activities and safeguards, they aren’t able to exercise their own decision making skills. That’s a bummer because they’re going to need those skills a lot as adults. They need the space away from our grasp to make their own decisions and grow their own character.

When they don’t have those skills, they end up back home. When they don’t have those skills, they end up rethinking or overthinking every decision they do make as adults. They end up with low confidence. With anxiety.

A little independence goes a long way. A little room to grow into a confident adult will pay dividends.

I know you’re thinking about all the ways you try to reinforce personal autonomy in the lives of your kiddos. Or maybe you’re thinking about the ways your parents did the same for you. Put those in the comments below, let’s share ideas and help each other out!

I know my parents “let” me walk to school and the bus stop, even in elementary school. And they were blocks away. I am trying to balance the joy of going to the bus stop with my kids with this idea.

I know my parents had “fend for yourself” dinners. And weekend lunches. A lot. Sometimes I let my older kids make their own dinner. They also meal prep their lunches and get to pick whatever they want (to my nutrition shame) at school lunch on Fridays.

The other day I wanted to let my daughter buy the envelopes she needed to send a book she made for her grandmas. It was part of a whole lesson on entrepreneurship. The lady was so shocked a kid would do such a thing, I guess, and she wouldn’t even let her check out! It was interesting. She was my generation. At the post office we had a different experience. That lady was on it, totally played into the lesson. She was from my Nana’s generation.

Those are just a small few, but I think it’s great to be intentional about this. Tell me your ideas!

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