There are five main qualities that self-directed children possess:
- Self-directed children have a high level of self-worth or self-confidence. Because these children have been raised in an environment rich in unconditional love and approval, they are able to rationally assess themselves in a way which allows for self growth rather than tearing them down. This allows them to feel good about themselves.
- Failure is not viewed as something bad but as a learning experience. Having been raised in an environment where they are encouraged to attempt new ventures and explore their abilities without fear of ridicule, criticism, or shame in the event that they fail, these children are more willing to take risks and explore their intellectual and physical limitations. They become aware of their own potential and increase their competence.
- Self-directed children are independent, relying on thir ability to form internally derived decisions. Using their own reasoning, they become independent thinkers and problem solvers, which helps them to resist external influences when making choices.
- Self-directed children are free to make choices for the right reasons – ones that have nothing to do with others’ expectations or approval. They develop high moral character, making choices which honor their own moral principles. Making choices which agree wit htheir moral principles and values results in high levels of self-control, self-discipline, and integrity, further strengthening their sense of self and resulting in high self-worth.
- Self-directed individuals are an asset within a group. Human beings tend to be social creatures and are motivated to find their niche within a group. While extrinsically motivated children desire the groups’ approval, sacrificing their own identities in order to become more acceptable, intrinsically motivated children find their own role within the group by contributing in a manner which is meaningful to them. While the extrinsically motivated individuals are easier for parents to manage, other influences, such as cohorts and media hold similar influences. Intrinsically motivated individuals feel no need to blindly obey, conform , or withdraw to be a member of a group. They have developed their own position based on their individual beliefs.
I wish my oldest was self-directed, but sometimes, as I have learned in this parenting gig, one’s child does not always turn out the way you want or try to make them be. Sometimes children are just who they are. This is a great post but brings up some sadness for me around my daughter’s lack of self-directedness. She is not confident or independent and she always seeks out approval from others, as much as I tell her she is wonderful and what she does is wonderful no matter how it turns out. Sigh.
Perhaps rather than telling her that she (and whatever she does) is wonderful, you could just describe what you see. While children like to be noticed and appreciated, they don’t like to be judged. Praise, even with good intentions, issues a judgement. Instead of deciding for themselves, they begin to seek approval from others. Compounding this is when they hear that everything they do is wonderful. While they don’t trust their own judgement, they are intelligent and know when something isn’t that great. If the person they turn to says it is wonderful anyway, they begin to question that person’s judgement, which leads the child to seek further exrenal verification.
I have to say my kids are rad on all counts. But… there’s a ticket cost to this, I think. I’ve allowed them freedoms and responsibilities that many in my peer group do NOT allow their kids. I sometimes feel pressure to parent in that more “helicopter” way (doing things for them, insisting on high degrees of supervision, coaching their “manners” and socialization heavily, etc), that is to prevent them from mounting challenges that they know they want to try and I am willing to let them try. I surround myself with supporters who help us keep on keeping on. Sometimes it’s not easy to do so in this country.