Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More on personal autonomy

In the last post I was talking about personal autonomy and children being forced to share.

Discovering personal autonomy is such an important part of being an individual. Obviously, being required to follow rules is a limitation on one's autonomy.

I think sometimes adults can harm children by imposing on them all kinds of rules that do not necessarilly serve a purpose. But some rules are necessary. Being part of a community or family involves one in a set of relationships that must have boundaries.

In my opinion, a no-shoes rule is a perfectly good rule that serves a useful purpose. That said, a child who is asked to follow that rule may not necessarilly have chosen to be under that obligation. The reasons for the rule may have been very patientlty explained, but she may still prefer not to be subject to it. Of course, if the child has grown up with that rule it is less likely to seem a burden. However, it may be that her parents decide to adopt it when she is older or a teenager. I read a discussion forum about a step-mother who's new step-daughter hated having to follow the rule in her new home.

Ultimately in life, there are some boundaries that you have to accept and stick to, and in that situation, the child is going to have to get used to the rule. However, there are two possible ways that the child's autonomy can be preserved.

First, the child can be given a choice when it comes to indoor footwear. She can opt for socks, bare feet or be offered a range of styles of slippers. She can designate a pair of flip flops as indoor footwear. The parent might allow the child the option of designating a pair of outdoor shoes as indoor footwear; however, dark soles cna mark flooring and heels will cause wear. The parent might also be concerned that visitors might be confused.

Secondly, you could allow the child the option of wearing shoes in her room. Her room is her own personal space in which she can express herself. Of course, it is your house and you paid for the carpet in your son or daugheter's room. However, if you are giving the child responsibility over her own room. you could give her that freedom. That would give her a stronger sense of autonomy.


richyrich said...

I read a discussion forum about a step-mother who's new step-daughter hated having to follow the rule in her new home.

Did the forum say how the issue was eventually resolved? Did the step-daughter come round to the no shoes rule in the end?

Celestial Fundie said...

No idea what the eventual outcome was.

Some comments were sympathetic to the girl and thought the step-mother should drop the rule.

However, the majority of comments suggested that the step-mother needed to stand her ground, as the girl was 'testing the limits' and if she gave in on this, she would lose her step-daughter's respect.

There was some feeling among the comments that the step-mother needed the co-operation of the girl's father on this issue.

I am sure these step-parent/ child relationships must be very difficult and at times painful.

God Bless


Pittsburgh Midwife said...

"The parent might also be concerned that visitors might be confused."

This where myself & many parents differ. Our child's happiness and the happiness of anyone living in our house, is much more important than what a guest might think.

If confused guest asks, we just explain (if we feel guest deserves an explanation) that cleanliness is our principle that we base the 'shoes-off-rule' on. While, yes, Jane does have shoes on in the house, they are shoes that she only wears in the house...she prefers to have sturdy (or 'real') shoes on most of the time.

It doesn't have to be a win/lose situation. If one is going to offer options/choices, then they have to be able to accept that every once in a while, the answer will just be a plain 'no...none of those will work for me'. Otherwise, you really are not offering any real choices...only those that suite *your* case.

Autonomy is not something we 'allow', it's something that is always there and will be expressed whether we like it or not. The choice is ours as to whether or not we want to honor another person's being, work with them and find a win/win solution. If we choose not to function like this, then we choose to deal with tantrums, fits, aggression, violence, lying and so forth -- these are all desperate attempts at asserting one's autonomy when s/he feels oppressed.

Celestial Fundie said...

Michele, thanks for offering your thoughts on this one.