Creating Healthy Habits In Young Children: Building Autonomy & Self-Esteem
Have you ever been around a 4-year-old while folding clothes or working outside in the yard? If so, you will notice that they always want to help. At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, our child therapists suggest that parents create experiences of autonomy and learning in daily activities to help foster autonomy, resiliency, and set a foundation for creating healthy habits.
Sometimes parents become worried about getting tasks done perfectly that they inadvertently discourage their child, and do not allow their children to experience work in a playful and casual environment, ideally, parents should allow their children try new things, especially if learning can take place from the experience. By not allowing small children to help, parents risk teaching them that they are incapable, they are not needed, or that they can’t do it. This can lead to feelings of rejection, low self-esteem, and inadequacy.
All children need to be taught how to do new things, certainly small children don’t know how to fold clothes or plant a garden, but it is wonderful that they want to try, and it should be encouraged.
It’s important to consider the imitative nature of young children, because it is universal in everything they do, including talking, walking, and doing tasks just like Mommy or Daddy, or even older siblings. Imitation reveals itself in the child’s gestures, expressions, and play. Parents often see themselves in the things their children say or do. The obvious effect this imitative nature has on parenting is profound, and we encourage parents to provide ample opportunities for children to take part in meaningful, positive imitation. Young children have a short attention span, and they will likely only focus long enough to feel a sense of accomplishment before they abandon the task, they may even do a poor job, all this is fine, as this is a learning experience that will increase personal work ethic, responsibility, and self-esteem. Their participation along with your instruction and encouragement will help develop confidence and experience; this builds self-esteem, confidence and autonomy. They don’t have to finish or master the task in order to benefit from it. Daily chores and tasks are an ideal way for parents to implement daily learning activities and provide children with experiences of autonomy and completion. Visit a list of age-appripraite chores here
At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, we often work with families seeking to instill resiliency, autonomy, and self-esteem in their young children. Through family support, parent consultation, and child therapy, we help families establish healthy expectations and experiences for learning and growth.
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