The website PBS Parents stated in a recent article that “the skills and behaviors children develop early in life lay a strong foundation for their adolescence and adulthood.” Part of this strong foundation relates to self-determination. “Self-determination is about being able to express choices, identify preferences and have a sense of independence or autonomy about our own lives.”
We know this does not mean that we allow our children to do as they please – it is about giving them the sense that they have choices and that their decisions regarding those choice have consequences that matter.
Another question - “How do you articulate your philosophy regarding self-determination in your family?” This is an important question. As with much of what research suggests about fostering independence and self-regulation in young children, being explicit about philosophy, expectations, consequences, and rewards is critical for all, and essential to those children who may not be able to intuit this information from the environment.
PBS Parents gives some strategies for fostering self-determination. My top three would be:
Children with learning disabilities and/or ADHD with executive dysfunction often fall into a dangerous trap of constantly being told HOW to do things, as well as WHAT, WHEN and WHERE to do them. While this may appear easier in the moment, it does a serious disservice to the child. We want and need to develop in children the metacognitive skills of thinking about and answering the questions:
The earlier we begin to employ strategies to support successful independence, the easier it will be for children to develop self-determination within themselves and live the lives we want for them.
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