What Does It Mean To Have A Sense Of Agency?  And Why Is It Important For My Child?

Agency is the ability to express personal will power, control and autonomy in our lives. It’s knowing that your actions, thoughts, and behavior influence your life.

For our children, having a sense of agency means that they feel they have control over things that happen in their lives. With the best of intentions, parents often interfere in every aspect of a child’s life from waking up in the morning, to eating, to getting ready, to how they organize their school life, and more. This can interfere with a child’s belief in their capacity to influence their own life. It’s vital that children have a strong sense of agency, and we can help them cultivate it. 

What happens when we express Agency? 

  1.  We feel an inner strength and a sense of ownership in small and big ways that accumulate over time. 
  2. Our sense of will power, control and autonomy feeds our intrinsic motivation, often propelling us towards our goals. 
  3. We feel connected to those around us and feel a deeper sense of personal accomplishment when we use our innate personal drive in things that matter to us. 

Examples of how we use Agency: 

  1. Autonomy in choosing your own style 
  • clothes 
  • personal expression 
  • hair 

      2. Choice in activities

  • sports
  • recreational
  • extra-curricular

      3. Full creative expression 

  • art 
  • music 
  • dance 

      4. Executing tasks from beginning to end 

  • cooking
  • personal organization (e.g. school work) 
  • bedtime routines 

Tools to cultivate Agency

  1. Allow your child to engage in activities from beginning to end without interference. For example, let your child prepare a meal (appropriate for their age level) from start to finish without any interference. Of course, provide them help if they need it, but do not interrupt their process to make sure the kitchen is clean, things are done in a certain order, or for any other reason than support. 
  2. Take a 48 hour “inventory” where you step back and really observe your child’s patterns, like a scientist collecting facts. Think about how they are uniquely wired and notice where they tend to want to take Agency. What sorts of things do they naturally gravitate towards? For example, do you notice that you have a child who likes to have control over their schedule each day? 
  3. Guide your children through asking important questions that help them cultivate their own inner awareness about Agency. 
  • What matters most to you? 
  • If you had an hour all to yourself, what would you choose to do? 

Agency requires patience and tapping into your own inner resources of present moment awareness so that you can truly allow the bandwidth for your child to experiment with this skill.