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Thank you for signing up to hear about the “How to Talk so Kids will Listen” workshops. To get you started, if you haven’t already, please listen to this series of podcasts discussing the autonomy supportive parenting style that you will learn through the workshops.


Show Notes: Autonomy Supportive Parenting Style Part 1

3 key components of successful parenting are parental involvement and age-appropriate structure, provided in an autonomy-supportive way. These are central components of the authoritative parenting style, and also satisfy the basic needs for human motivation and flourishing as defined by the Self Determination Theory. Through this series of 4 podcast episodes Genevieve Mageau helps us to translate this theory of autonomy supportive parenting style into concrete skills that we can practice.

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Optimal Parenting Components

To flourish, to feel motivated, and self directed, people primarily need three conditions:

1. Relatedness (Also belonging, acceptance. warmth, connection)

Relatedness refers to our need for belonging. Parental involvement in their children’s lives in a caring and accepting way, with love and warmth, fosters positive connection, and satisfies children’s need to belong.

2. Structure (A means of developing competence)

Structure refers to clear rules and limits that parents are willing and able to enforce, high but realistic expectations, providing optimal challenges (which often involves providing support, or simplifying tasks for young children), and providing an environment that children have a reasonable degree of control over.

3. Autonomy

Autonomy refers to the way in which we are involved, and provide structure in our children’s lives. It is a position that respects the child’s unique character, feelings, preferences, interests, and perspective. Autonomy support grants children agency and ownership over their own behaviour, and allows them to be themselves. It is the opposite of attempting to control our children, being intrusive, or trying to make them be a certain person. It is not the same as permissive. We talk a lot about autonomy supportive limit setting, and enforcing those limits. It is also not the same as independence, more about the development of healthy interdependence.

How to have an Autonomy-Supportive Parenting Style.

Key components are:

  1. Be empathetic, genuinely try to understand your child’s perspective and feelings, truely listen and explore his point of view. Welcome all feelings, while setting limits on behaviour. (Anger is allowed, hitting is not).
  2. Be descriptive and informational in your comments, not evaluative.
    1. Focus your comments on the problem, rather than placing blame. E.g. “There are shoes all over the floor”.
    2. Provide rationales. E.g. “We can trip on shoes and it can really hurt us.”
  3. Support active participation.
    1. Actively listen to your children.
    2. Involve children in decisions and problem solving,
    3. Provide capacity-appropriate choices.

Autonomy support for pre-verbal children

Even with babies we can make controlling or autonomy supportive actions. Controlling behaviour is putting a toy right in the babies face such that she has to look at it, an autonomy supportive approach would be to play with the toy in view but just to the side, so that the baby can choose to look at it. Similarly you can force a toy into a young baby’s hand or offer it to him. In addition you can…

  • Provide age appropriate choices (not do you want to brush your teeth, but teeth first? Or bath first?)
  • Allow your child their own way of doing things (often this is the slow way).
  • Empathise (allow, and accept all feelings).
  • Respect toddlers preferences (within reason).
  • Give reasons for your requests and actions.
  • Establish routine – the ability to predict events provides a sense of control.
  • State rules and expectations without judgement.
  • Provide alternatives.
  • Model good behaviours.
  • Support exploration rather than trying to dictate play.
  • Show toddlers how to be helpful – involve them in your work, rather than trying to send them away.

Autonomy Supportive Limit-Setting

Structure, including reasonable limits, help children to feel competent and safe in their environment.

Autonomy supportive limit setting involves:

  1. Showing empathy for the child’s feelings in the situation, and about the limit.
  2. Acknowledging their perspective.
  3. The goal is to work together towards better harmony NOT punishment.

Before enforcing limits you need to create a climate of co-operation by learning to really listen to your child.

How to talk so kids will listen and how to listen so kids will talk

This book and parenting course starts with a week where you practice listening to your children with your full attention, without giving advice.


This series

This is the first episode in a great four-part series on Autonomy-Supportive Parenting Style. (Only Parts 1  to 3 are published so far).

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