Agentic oriented children are children who are aware of the possibilities of their actions and take responsibility for what they do. Research suggests that through learning, these children are more aware of the world around them and how they can impact it through their actions.
Here, learning is viewed as a means to encourage children to grow into adults who are agents of change. This sense of agency however, requires children to have a strong sense of self, be a keen observer and have a strong belief that their opinion is valid and will be heard. Learning becomes self-driven for these children as they can see that by reading and exploring the world around them, they can improve their perspective and their knowledge and will be motivated to work hard to achieve their goals.
The role of parents
When we have younger children, it is much simpler and faster to do things for them. Being a parent myself, I understand how long it might take for a child to do something on their own, yet as a therapist I have also met teens and adults who struggle to make decisions, and blindly follow their peers. As adults, these individuals have self-esteem issues and often give up on projects as soon as they meet obstacles.
When you listen to your child it automatically fosters communication. When a child is respected and appreciated, it is more likely that they will act with respect and appreciation in return. This is a clear sign that you might be taking your parenting to the next level. By showing your children they are important, it helps them develop self esteem as they learn how good it feels to feel listened to and this teaches them how to behave with others. Finally, children have a unique perspective of the world and are good observers which often helps them come up with fresh ideas that adults might have not considered.
How is this done?
- Let them choose
Giving children the opportunity to choose from a small number of options helps children be more collaborative. In a time frame where there are too many options that can be confusing, it will help your child if you organise the choices before them and then let them choose in order to foster a feeling of self-worth and agency.
- Embrace mistakes
It feels good to see your agentic oriented children breezing through a task, however failing can be an important learning experience. Setbacks followed by conversations where parent and child can discuss their frustration and disappointment can foster exploring new ways to improve. A hard-earned success after a disappointment can make the children more resilient and learn not to give up in the face of adversity.
- Give them responsibilities
One of the most important learning tools proposed by educators such as Maria Montessori, is to give children responsibilities and age-appropriate chores. By taking ownership and contributing to the wellbeing of their families, children learn autonomy and confidence in their abilities.
- Hear them out
When setting objectives, especially if they concern them, involve your children by hearing their opinion and discussing with them before a decision is taken. New experiences can be scary for children, and by giving them the possibility to explore their fears and what would help them feel safe, children develop a sense that they are heard and that their perspective is considered by the adults around them.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Sonya Galea is a family therapist with Willingness Team. She works with families and couples experiencing couple relationship issues and parenting struggles.
Burnett, C. (2014) Why you should really listen to your child. Retrieved from: https://childhood101.com/8-reasons-to-listen-to-your-child/
Hilppö J. (2016) Children’s Sense of Agency: A Co-Participatory Investigation. Retrieved from: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/33740233.pdf
Ruscoe, A., Barblett, L., Barratt-Pugh, C. (2018). Sharing Power with Children: Repositioning Children as Agentic Learners. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood. 43. 63-71. 10.23965/AJEC.43.3.07.Retrieved from : https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328141796_Sharing_Power_with_Children_Repositioning_Children_as_Agentic_Learners