Autonomy and Power

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed
by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.
So throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.~~Mark Twain

Children often feel helpless because they are small and inexperienced in a complex, big, and fast world--so many machines they can't touch, big people and animals they may fear, places they can't go to on their own, heights they cannot reach, things they need help with, events they find scary, and speeds they cannot grasp. Many of their upsets result from feeling helpless.

Unlike me, my children are not ready to give up on what they want in the present for the sake of the future. They know I take their immediate choices seriously. As with other emotional deprivations, I don't want their struggling with a sense of helplessness or deprived of feeling that they are in control of their lives may become angry, aggressive, or depressed.

Though I cannot eliminate their sense of helplessness, I can dramatically improve their chance of experiencing themselves as autonomous and powerful. I am their power extension into whatever is beyond their reach. They can affect their environment through me. Sometimes that entails doing things for them; but more often, it means getting out of the way and making their path safe and nurturing. By making the physical and social environments safe and healthy, I can eliminate the need to restrict or direct them. They can choose and direct their own activities, foods, timetable, and interests within the safe environment I've created.

Their sense of autonomy and power is not a function of being able to access everything that is available in our society, but rather of a day-to-day freedom in our home and social environment. Don't take my children to a candy store and then forbid them from eating candy--they will feel resentful and helpless. If I don't go to the candy store and provide healthy treats at home, they will feel autonomous and content. I provide leadership in terms of the direction of the family life so my children have freedom to trust themselves. As they grow older, they will be exposed to more and more of what is available; feeling secure in themselves. They will make choices based not on social pressures but on their authentic preferences and values.

My relationship with my children is out of trust not control. They take my wisdom and guidance seriously because they know I am on their sides. This trust will be handy when they become engaged with the community and society at large. Instead of resenting my ideas because of seeing me as the one controlling and negating them, they will hopefully seek my advice as their loving ally. My children will not take advantage of me just because they are not controlled. They are not living in fear that their power will be taken away, that they will be controlled, coerced, or directed. They have no need to take advantage of anyone. Their desires are only to take care of themselves and when respected they thrive. A thriving one is too busy and happy to bother with negative strategies.

By not depriving my children of their power, I do not mean that I give them license to do whatever they want. Like me, children live in a world that sets its own physical and social boundaries. I just need to be authentic with my children so they live a real life and not a fantasy life in which all their wishes are promptly fulfilled. Natural frustrations not imposed by anyone are a healthy part of growing up; I need only to validate my children's feelings and listen.

A child who feels powerful has no need to resort to destruction or to bullying; yet a child who feels incompetent or helpless very well might, especially if he has no safe means of expressing himself. Respecting their individual needs and inclinations can go a long way toward preventing a sense of helplessness and its resulting defiance.

(Sculpture taken at the Fair) Life with children flows when I simply follow their lead and respect their choices, rather than whack my brain for what I think is right for them.

Encourage, inspire, laugh...Go GREEN!

1 encouragements:

Kaylynn's Mommy said...

Thanks for sharing!Great pictures! Your children are beautiful!

True learning-learning that is permanent and useful,that leads to intelligent action and further learning, can arise only out of the experience, interest, and concerns of the learner.
John Holt
Real heroes are men who fall, fail and are flawed, but win out in the end because they stayed true to their ideals, beliefs and commitments.
Actor Kevin Costner

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