Fostering a sense of autonomy and mastery is key in helping our children to navigate this developmental period. Mastery refers to the feeling of competence and control over one’s abilities, skills and/or environment (Guay, 2022). A sense of mastery occurs when we practice an activity and improve our skill in this area, and contributes to the development of purpose and fulfilment.

Autonomy refers to the ability to make one's own decisions consistent with self-beliefs – that is, having choice about a decision or activity (Deci & Ryan, 2017). For our teenagers, this often involves having the freedom and independence to explore new activities and experiences.

A term that is often used in developmental psychology is ‘scaffolding’. Just like the construction of a building, scaffolding in parenting-terms refers to supporting our children to reach new heights – forming the framework and supporting your child to grow, develop, and learn.

Autonomy and mastery are also important when we think of motivation. When we feel that we have control over our environment and can pursue activities that we are passionate about, we are more likely to experience a sense of satisfaction and engagement (Guay, 2022).

Try this!
  • Encourage your child in their decision-making. This can help them to develop a sense of control over their life and increase their confidence and self-efficacy in their decision-making abilities.

  • Set clear, consistent, and appropriate rules at home (for older adolescents, you may consider involving them in the process of setting boundaries). Encourage your child to take responsibility for their actions.

  • Support your child to set specific and challenging goals that are aligned with their interests and strengths. This can help to motivate them towards achieving these goals and provide a sense of accomplishment.

  • Provide various opportunities for skill-building. Encourage your child to engage in healthy and prosocial activities that allow them to build, develop and practice new skills.

  • Encourage and support effort and persistence, even in the face of challenge or set-back.

  • Create an environment where your child feels comfortable taking risks and making mistakes.