Children develop confidence and autonomy when with guidance of a caring adult (e.g., a parent or teacher), are encouraged to actively resolve personal challenges (great or small). Depending on age and maturity, if left to their own devices, children may not have the awareness needed to recognize personally crafted decisions that can negatively affect their safety and well-being. As we engage in open conversations with our children/students, we need to recognize the positive impact of our guidance, and remember that final decisions should always rest with the experienced and responsible caring adult. Even as parents and teachers are encouraged to proactively incorporate their children’s/student’s ideas in solution-building, the adult is ultimately in charge of forecasting the potential outcome of a child’s decision.
When children push back on adult authority as they try to assert their autonomy, remember that as the caring adult, you provide an educated compass to the thoughtful process involved in constructing meaningful decisions. It is okay if children at times express their unhappiness when you need to redirect their thinking with ideas that challenge their own. In these moments, take the time to explain your reasoning. Help your children to think critically on an issue by raising thought provoking questions. Ensure that any final decisions you may have, are positively intentioned and in the child’s best interest. Even if they are not satisfied in the moment, you will have given them the tools to responsibly address any future challenges.