Virtue of “Autonomy” as a Stepping Stone to Building Character in Your Child

Children of the current generation face the challenge of the need to be independent as compared to earlier generations. As a child grows, they carve their own pathway through the silver lining of their ancestors. 

In early childhood, the urge to have autonomy and a sense of control comes naturally to become self-resilient, independent, and secure adults. Thus the role of caregivers is vital as their guidance and support garnishes this ingredient in the child. 

Continue reading to find out the importance of learning independence through the lens of an expert and how a parent can help their child achieve it.

The process to build the virtue of independence

Firstly, let’s understand from an expert’s perspective why developing independence in a child is crucial during early childhood. According to Erik Erikson, the optimal time for a child to gain some independence and a sense of control is between one to three years of age. Further, he believed that gaining some control over the choice of food, toys, bodily functions (specifically toilet training) helps develop autonomy in the child. A caregiver supports the child to achieve personal independence, confidence in their abilities, nurturing them to feel secure and strong. 

Secondly, let’s explore the dynamics of why and what happens if the virtue of independence is not developed. The feelings of shame and doubt would be the dominant feeling towards self and others if there is a history of negative, abusive parenting. Furthermore, if the mistakes done by the child are seen through the lens of failure it would build insecurity, self-doubt, dependence on others as they perceive themselves as incapable to complete a task.

We are born into the dynamic structure of family, society, community, and Homosapien species, thus we are correlated, connected to people around us. Despite this need for connection and codependence for survival as a human race, why is it important to teach the skill of independence to a child? Let’s try and understand this concept further below.

The ingredient of autonomy vs. shame and doubt is crucial in developing a child’s ‘will,’ i.e., the ability to act with confidence with reason and limits. The development of independence in childhood is a foundational base to future success in acquiring skills (academic, social, and other) and carrying out tasks. 

If a child doesn’t develop the virtue of autonomy, they face a constant dilemma of “Can I do things myself or am I reliant on others?”. 

A child’s abilities flourish when the caregiver provides support, faith and expresses reassurance overtime. The most important aspect is that it helps children develop confidence in themselves and a feeling of security. As a result, children grow into more robust and resilient individuals, better prepared to face the challenges that they face in their respective journey of life.