Show Notes: Autonomy Supportive Parenting Style Part 4

This is the fourth and final part of the interview with Professor Genevieve Mageau. We talk about beliefs behind autonomy support, what hinders autonomy support, transitioning from a controlling to an autonomy supportive style, and the book and workshop series “How to Talk so Kids will Listen, and How to Listen so Kids will Talk”.

Listen to Autonomy Supportive Parenting Style Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 first.

Sign up for Downloadable Tip SheetsI intend to start running a workshop series on How to Talk so Kids will Listen, and How to Listen so Kids will talk. If you are interested, sign up for the downloadable tip sheets in the meantime via the link above, and I will let you know when workshops start.


Beliefs behind Autonomy Support

  1. Organismic Trust makes it easier to take the child’s perspective and take a supportive rather than coercive role.
    1. Trust that children will develop at their own pace.
    2. Trust that children want to co-operate.
    3. Trust that children want to learn.
  2. Think in terms of long term goals (“I want my child to learn to take responsibility for her things”, rather than “I want this room clean NOW!”)
    1. Inform of expectations.
    2. Give a chance to do better next time.
  3. Focus more on learning than performance. (Mistakes become learning opportunities, not failures.)
  4. Taking a child’s perspective is key.
    1. Give relevant choices.
    2. Empathise.
    3. Consider preferences.

Barriers to Autonomy Support

  • High stress level.
  • Worries for child’s future.
  • Daily hassles.
  • Controlling behaviour can be rewarding. Authority figure. Taking action. Can reduce stress.
  • Hinging our self-esteem on our children’s success.

Everyone has more controlling, and more autonomy supportive days. We can feel guilty for our bad days. We need to show ourselves the same compassion that we want to show our children.

Changing towards an autonomy supportive parenting style

Children with more difficulty learning/ behaving, are often the ones who most benefit from Autonomy Support. However, a sudden transition is unlikely to be successful. Children who are used to controlling parenting/teaching need more structure initially. Reflecting their feelings, showing that you get them, is especially important to develop the atmosphere of co-operation.

Autonomy support helps children to develop values, rather than looking to the leader for direction. This becomes particularly important when, as adolescents they start looking more to their peers than their parents for guidance.

How to Talk so Kids will Listen and How to Listen so Kids will Talk

A book and workshop series that helps incorporate autonomy support into all areas of parenting. Including when children are distressed, or don’t want to co-operate. It teaches 30 skills, 27 of which can be implemented from a very young age.

The book was written by two parents, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, in 1980. It was inspired by a parent workshop on empathic limit setting run by Psychologist Haim Ginott, author of Between Parent and Child, and the researcher who inspired today’s definition of autonomy support.

How to Talk so Kids will Listen and How to Listen so Kids will Talk is still the second most popular parenting book (affiliate link – thank you). It includes involvement and structure in an autonomy supportive way. There is also How to Talk so Teens will Listen and How to Listen so Teens will Talk, but the principles are essentially the same with different examples.

About the workshops

  • 7-week program of 2 hours per week workshop time.
  • Workshops are very closely linked to the book.
  • Each chapter and session:
    • Starts with a perspective taking exercise.
    • Skills are presented using comic strips.
    • Practice skills in the workbook.
    • Practice skills with other parents.
    • Homework – practice with family.

Are they effective?

  • Geneviève Mageau and Mireille Joussemet are currently evaluating the workshops. So far they are seeming to be very effective.
  • Parents report improved parenting experiences, better child behaviour, and better mental health pre-post. All variables improved after the program and improvements remained 6 months and 1 year later.
  • A randomised controlled trial is in progress.


This series

This is the final episode in a great four-part series on Autonomy-Supportive Parenting Style.

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