Have you ever wondered how to inspire your child to want to do their own homework, to learn their own lessons and to want to forge their own positive outcomes in life? Do you often wonder whether the battles at home will ever cease – where the uphill struggle that you face day in day out will end? Well as we all know there are no simple answers, but I think we will all agree that the old adage of the “carrot and stick” approach, whilst founded on proven principals often falls short of utopia and in the long term, with teenagers, in particular, the carrot can sometimes be very expensive and the stick can sometimes simply break and cause bigger problems in its wake! Autonomy, however, is one solution that paves a way forward for positive outcomes that bridges both creative centres in your teen that will last a life time and what more it costs you nothing apart from an investment of time and praise.
In the 60’s there was a chap called Milgram who carried out studies into obedience and the relationship to levels of obedience in terms of proximity to authority figures. He found, in very simplisitic terms, that the closer someone was to an authority figure then the more likely they were to obey that person. He also found that the more respected that authority figure was the higher the level of obedience and the clearer the perceived authority was the greater the level of obedience.
Translated that can be very relevant to parenting particularly as children move into adolescence and essentially where splits in family life happen such as in the case of divorce for instance between parents. The reason for this is simply that if parents split there can be confusion between the two lines of supposed authority in a childs life! This confusion can then lead to a weakening of the child’s perception of who they see as their authority figure and thus their respect for authority is depleted and so their obedience lessens in line with their behaviour leading to less positive outcomes.
Consider then, if you have encouraged them, in their teenage years to become their own authority, to be responsible and to start to be autonomous and responsible to themselves; to know good from bad, to respect themselves and be confident in themselves and their own abilities. Effectively they slowly edge towards becoming their own authority figure as an adult; having their own autonomy. If they respect themselves they will obey what they know to be right; they will do as they see fit, because they know right from wrong this will be because they are set on the right course.
For instance, in the case of homework, they may want to do the work because they are motivated to do it, the authority within tells them they need to do it reasoning the whys and wherefores for this. The self that then wants to obey this authority does so because it is motivated to do so. This increased motivator is pleased to obey and feels good. The feel good factor is the reward for doing so along with the plethora of other reward for doing so (the fact that the work is done, the sense of achievement for doing it, the external rewards that come from other people for doing this work and possibly the grades that they know are the best they could achieve) and so the body rewards the child with the release of neurotransmitters that say well done too and so the overall feeling is one of wellbeing and balance!
This is where there is a situation of win:win! The authority within your child which comes from their own autonomy (the centre of responsibility that you have nurtured within them) gives them the power to be able to make the choice to make the decision to set their own goals and the hurdle of homework is no longer your hurdle to leap!