A Healthy Mind Comes from Autonomy and a Sense of Control

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A new book authors William Stixrud and Ned Johnson describe a healthy way to raise children is to let me e themselves. In the book, The Self-Driven Child, they argue that children – and adults – benefit from a sense of control over their lives. Indeed, stress and anxiety increase when one feels that they cannot alter their surroundings or course of action. For a healthy child and a healthy adult life give yourself some slack to have control over things.

From a neurological perspective, when we experience a healthy sense of control, our prefrontal cortex (the executive functioning part of our brain) regulates the amygdala (a part of the brain’s threat detection system that initiates the fight or flight response). When the prefrontal cortex is in charge, we are in our right minds. We feel in control and not anxious. So, the fact that kids are feeling more anxiety, by definition, suggests that their amygdalas are more active, which indicates that they are more likely to feel overwhelmed, stuck, or helpless.

Research on motivation has suggested that a strong sense of autonomy is the key to developing the healthy self-motivation that allows children and teens to pursue their goals with passion and to enjoy their achievements.

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