Your child's autonomy, a shared responsibility between the family and Coruña British International School

In literal terms, heteronomy is understood as the inevitable submission to an external power. This power can be legal, social, labour, family… However, child psychology also explains that all human beings are born as heteronomous beings. And this simply means that when babies are born they naturally depend on an adult to carry out the most basic and daily tasks such as feeding, dressing or washing themselves.

Traditionally, and for many years, the achievement of a child’s personal autonomy in these three areas (feeding, dressing and hygiene) depended to a large extent on the family context. Specifically, and almost in general, it was the mother who was responsible for teaching children these daily tasks, the achievement of which would give them greater independence.


It was the Brazilian pedagogue and philosopher, Paulo Freire in his book “Pedagogy of Autonomy” who was one of the first to highlight the importance of working on children’s autonomy, not as something related to the family environment, but as one of the fundamental and pedagogical pillars of the school, an issue which we take very seriously at Coruña British International School.

From home to school: children’s autonomy as a shared responsibility

Nowadays it is more than evident that the school is actively involved in this important area of child development. In fact, there are more and more pedagogical trends which insist that autonomy is taught, acquired and consolidated through classroom routines which place the child at the centre of the teaching-learning process. A process that is much more solid if it comes from the school context and not from the family environment.

This is the reason why we see that the development of autonomy, understood as the acquisition of skills that enable us not to be totally dependent on adults, is becoming more and more important in the Early Years stage. Active methodologies related to the creation of routines and the development of thinking skills, problem-based learning (PBL) or cooperative work favour the child as the protagonist of his or her own personal growth process.

In any case, what seems obvious, and paradoxical at the same time, is that in the process of the child’s acquisition of autonomy there is always an adult at the centre of the process. An adult who will gradually have to lose protagonism in favour of the child’s independence. For this reason, it is very important that this adult knows the role that he or she has to assume.

The attitude of the adult in the process

Verónica Rodríguez is a psychopedagogist and systemic therapist. She is also the creator of the project Afectos y Efectos (@afectosyefectos on Instagram). We talked to her about how to work on autonomy with children.

“For me,”says Verónica, “the most important thing when it comes to encouraging autonomy is the attitude of the adult. Whether the child is small and is learning to put on their shoes, or if they are older and you are going to give them the keys to the house, the attitude towards the child must be one of trust. It is important that the message they receive is: “I trust you, I trust that you can do it”.

“In this sense,”continues Rodríguez, “if the child is young, time management is fundamental. Children should not be rushed and should be given the time they need to do things. In so doing, the adult can maintain a positive attitude. On the other hand – she adds – if the child is older, it is advisable to review the parents’ fears regarding this autonomy in order to avoid overprotective attitudes”.

Each at his or her own pace

Coinciding with the idea that time management is essential, as our expert explained, we must also remember that each child will set their own pace when it comes to acquiring their own eating, dressing or hygiene habits, for example. Some will do it earlier and others later, but little by little they will all naturally reach that vital moment when just two words will be enough to formalise a firm declaration of intent: “by myself”. From then on, just one piece of advice: patience.

19 / 04 / 21