What is Autonomy?

At You’re the Mom, we’re here to help moms raise happy, healthy eaters. Like you, we want kids to feel good in their bodies and minds. We also know that it’s a lot of work! That’s why we want to give you the tools to make it easier, and so you can be the best mom you can be, in your own unique and special way. One thing you’ll hear us mention when talking about ways to help your child grow to have a healthy diet and sense of self is autonomy. Today, we want to talk a little bit about what autonomy is, why it’s important, and ways you can help your child gain autonomy when it comes to food and health.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

So, what exactly is autonomy?

When talking about child development, autonomy is the idea that children learn to have control over themselves, their bodies, and their choices. Autonomy is about teaching children how to make good choices for themselves and it encourages positive social behavior. When it comes to food and diet, autonomy give kids the confidence to make good choices for themselves regarding what they eat, when they eat, and how much they eat.


Why is autonomy important?

Autonomy around food and diet is important for kids because it encourages them, with the help of the parent, to become more independent in their food choices. Independence around food helps your kids to feed themselves when they are young and, as they get older, learn how to make positive choices for themselves for the purpose of health. For example, a child might enjoy eating chips, but because they have gained autonomy with food, they understand that chips aren’t very good for their bodies, so they might choose an apple instead because they know it’s a more healthful snack. And when it comes to health, we know that food swaps like these can make a big difference!


How can we encourage autonomy?

There are tons of great ways to help your child to gain autonomy with food and their diet, and we’ll be talking more about how to encourage autonomy in future blogs and social media posts.


In the meantime, here are a few good examples of ways to encourage your kid’s autonomy:

  • Give kids a guided choice when they are picking out a meal or snack. A guided choice is when the parent picks the options, and the child gets to choose from the offered options of what they’d like. For example, you might ask, “Would you like apple slices, oranges, or strawberries for a snack?” or, “We’re going to have green beans, broccoli, or roasted carrots with dinner. Which one do you want?” And then your child can pick which one they feel like having
  • Trying out new and different types of food with your child, and trying it more than once, even if they don’t really like it the first time.
  • Setting boundaries for the time of day when meals and snacks are eaten or setting limits on the amount of food offered.
  • Explaining to kids why it might not be a good idea to have a certain food at that time and directing them to a better choice. For example, if a child wants sweets before bed, you might say, “I know sweets sound good, but eating that now will make it harder for you to get good sleep- and sleep is important for growing big and strong! Why don’t we try some carrots and hummus if you’re still hungry?”


Autonomy is a big part of raising your kid and helping them to create life-long healthy eating habits. What else do you want to know about autonomy? Have you tried any of these tricks?