Monday, February 22, 2010

Raising our Kids to be Autonomous Agents

I've been doing a lot of blogging over at The Blog of Wellspring Community School lately as my interest has broadened from humane parenting to include humane education in the early childhood classroom. Today's post talks about the idea of giving our children a sense of agency:

This past weekend, the NJEEPRE Roundtable was held at the Kean University Child Care & Development Center in Union, New Jersey. It was such an inviting, relaxing and beautiful space, a really fantastic place to have a roundtable. We read and discussed the chapter on The Emergent Curriculum from the book We Are All Explorers: Learning and Teaching with Reggio Principles in Urban Settings.

It was a rich and interesting chapter, definitely worth reading. One of the main ideas was that the goal of Reggio-inspired educators is to give children a sense of agency - and, ideally, parents and educators should posses a sense of agency as well. Sense of agency was defined as:

Experiencing oneself as an active, self-directed agent who can, individually and in collaboration with others, formulate personally meaningful learning goals, figure out strategies to achieve them, engage the world to pursue them, construct understandings, and communicate the newly developed understandings to others. A sense of agency combines a sense of efficacy and personhood. It means: I stand in relation to others with my own motives and ideas and I have the competence to pursue them.

I think it should go without saying that if it is important for educators to endow their students with a sense of agency, then it is doubly, maybe even triply important for parents to do this for their children. There's even a word for it: Autonomy Supportive Parenting. As described by researchers Deci and Ryan and their colleagues, this parenting style "value[s] and use[s] techniques which encourage independent problem solving, choice, and participation in decisions versus externally dictating outcomes, and motivating achievement through punitive disciplinary techniques, pressure, or controlling rewards." (Grolnick & Ryan, 1989, p. 144) This type of parenting is associated with more pro-social behavior, better school outcomes, and greater self-regulation.

If we are trying to raise our children to be happy, competent, confident adults, then giving them a sense of agency, of autonomy, should be among our highest priorities as parents. If we do that part of our jobs well, then their ability to have respect for themselves, for other people, and for the rest of the Earth and her inhabitants will follow naturally from that.

Reference: Grolnick, W. S. & Ryan, R. M. (1989). Parent styles associated with children’s self-regulation and competence in school. Journal of Educational Psychology, 81, 143-154.

1 comment:

  1. I think it's very important that we start early to try and teach our kids why it is important to respect the Earth and try to reserve our dwindling resources for future generations. As a green mom I am always looking for new ways to allow my children to learn and interact with different mediums to help them learn 'green' values but also to have fun doing it. I recently planted an organic garden to teach the kids how growing your own food is healthy, resourceful and most importantly FUN! I also purchased a rain barrel online so that I could teach them the importance of recycling instead of using valuable water from the tap! They absolutely love the idea.

    If you were interested in purchasing a rain barrel and trying it yourself they had some affordable ones at . They also had some great information on current green trends and issues, for those who are always looking to educate themselves on how they can lessen their carbon foot print! Hope this resource helps!

    God Bless!
    Sabrina Ahmed