Monday, November 05, 2012

Fostering Autonomy

I think a lot about decisions -- how people make them, what factors influence them, and how they learn the ability to reason in the first place.  That last one is particularly interesting to me, especially in regard to parenting.  How, I wonder, do parents teach their children to be autonomous?

So I look at my own parents because let's face it: my siblings and I are nothing if not autonomous.  Sure, I get indecisive sometimes, but I usually know my own mind.  My brother Brooks definitely does, too, and it's wonderful.  He is such a powerful speaker, and I think it's because he knows himself well and he knows how to make decisions.

But back to my parents . . .  I think at the heart of making decisions is having a strong sense of identity, and my parents knew how to foster a strong sense of identity and consequently, autonomy.  They let us make decisions about all kinds of things when we were young.  They let us cut and dye our hair any way we wanted; they let us paint our rooms bright purple or green or any other color we had in mind; and they let us choose our own Halloween costumes.  They didn't help us with homework or school projects (nor did I really want them to; their "help" once got me a 54 on a math assignment), and if we were about to fail at something, they usually let us fail (again with the 54 in math).

Sometimes I wish they had been more involved in my decisions, especially when I was getting ready to go to college, but all in all, I think that in letting us decide how we spent our free time or how we personalized our bedrooms, for example, they let us create the people we wanted to become.  I know plenty of people who don't know themselves or who aren't confident in the identities they've formed, and they are constantly paralyzed by indecision.

I'm so glad to have the parents I do.  They are not perfect and I don't idealize them as such, but they did some things really well.  Fostering autonomy was one of them.

Thanks, mom and dad.  You're both pretty great.

Thing I'm thankful for: altocumulus clouds.  They really are the best.


Blogger Unknown said...

Really enjoyed your blog!

9:03 PM  

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