The five moral principals of counseling,  the pillars of the counseling  faith, if you will (too much?),  are Non-Maleficence, Beneficence, Justice, Autonomy, and Fidelity. 


It’s a fun banner to wave. Difficult to live, but nice as a tagline.


Today’s buzzword shall be autonomy.


Today’s example shall be chirrens.


Read on.



As a friend, lover, sister, daughter, I often fail at supporting the autonomy of the other. I tend to be a swooper. The Dancer called me out on it once. “You can’t just do this, you need to back off. You can’t just swoop in and try to fix everything just because YOU see a problem.”

Ouch. Good ouch.


As a group, counselors tend to be those who parentalize. We see a problem and we want to fix it. Usually out of the good, tender parts of our hearts. But to really support the other, most often “fixing” is detrimental.  For unless the other is completely without resource, someone coming in and fixing everything for them is  a crutch, a temporary fix, and worst of all:


it can contribute to the belief that without others to save them, they could not  successfully navigate through whatever is happening.



This is especially true with children. You know the kids who are never allowed to struggle and work through difficult situations because THESE are the kids who face an unknown and break down. They are never given the chance to face a challenge, and are therefore never given the privilege of seeing that they can conquer the challenge.  You see it in adults, later. Those who just BELIEVE they cannot do it. Whatever IT is.


I was this child.


I was NOT this adolescent.


I am NOT this woman now. Around about age 8, my living situation drastically changed so that I was faced with continual challenges that I needed to navigate on my own. Andplusalsotoo, a lot of time I had a 2yr old to accompany me on these misadventures. And you know what it produced in me? The belief that if I want to accomplish a thing, I damn well probably can.


Like the three year old who wants to brush his own teeth, I may get messy doing it. I may miss a few spots. Surely I’ve things left to learn but I’ll figure it out.


Problem-solver, yo. I LOVE IT. I thank my mama and daddy (really, out loud, I do) that I was given life skills really early in life, so that I was able to have grand life adventures before the dismay of “real life” set in and squashed my spirit.


So, my point is, in theory, I really really really support whatever is necessary to help others gain and keep their relative autonomy. (I DON’T mean outside of Jesus, I mean in the sense that when they see a problem, they view it as an opportunity for success.)


TO THAT END, while watching my little dudes last week, I supervised for safety but otherwise let them handle a lot of the tasks that i REALLYREALLYDESPERATELYWANTEDTOTAKEOVERBECAUSEOHMYGOSHYOUMISSEDASPOT  would otherwise have been more actively involved in.


Like washing bodies



BODYWASHAGGEDON. Did you know that soap is surprisingly more difficult than shampoo to rise out of hair? Maybe it was just HOW MUCH he used. :)



Also, picking out and putting on of jammies:


Shirt-as-pants and underpants-as-a-hat to satisfy my requirements of “at least bottoms…WITH UNDERWEAR.” (cause they are vehement protestors of the underpant) Let me say: points for creativity.



Anyway, I get that when you let people struggle through something, it doesn’t always go as smoothly or get done as well or as much as you’d prefer.


But I also get that when you let them, people will usually surprise you. And then you both get to learn.


What have you had to struggle through in order to learn, to master, to grow?


2 thoughts on “Autonomy

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