I want to do it my­self

You’re only just cop­ing with the tem­per tantrums when there’s a new chal­lenge: your tod­dler’s un­re­lent­ing pur­suit of independence. Take some deep breaths, says Ni­cola Davies-laub­scher

Your Baby & Toddler - - Baby Files -

READER’S DILEMMA: My daugh­ter is al­most two and a half and wants to do ev­ery­thing her­self, from brush­ing teeth to wash­ing hair and get­ting dressed. I want to give her the op­por­tu­nity to be more in­de­pen­dent, but at the same time she can’t mas­ter all th­ese new things on her own, so she be­comes ex­tremely frus­trated. I try not to be­come an­gry but I don’t al­ways have the time (or en­ergy) to wait for her to suc­ceed by her­self. It feels like ev­ery­thing ends in a fight nowa­days. Get­ting dressed takes half an hour be­cause she wants to do it her­self. Her din­ner gets cold while she in­sists on bathing her­self…


Your child is in the “I want to do it my­self” phase, which usu­ally emerges be­tween twenty and thirty months of age. It’s an im­por­tant de­vel­op­men­tal mile­stone, as your lit­tle one now starts re­gard­ing her­self as a sep­a­rate be­ing from oth­ers and no longer as an in­sep­a­ra­ble part of you.

It’s a mile­stone just like the phys­i­cal ones: sit­ting, crawl­ing and walk­ing. And just as you wouldn’t sup­press any of her phys­i­cal mile­stones, you should also al­low her to start do­ing things by her­self.

For many par­ents it’s a very frus­trat­ing phase, and if you feel like you’re rush­ing ev­ery­one around you all the time, you’ll have to make peace with a slower pace. Time is the big­gest en­emy when it comes to small chil­dren: as soon as you feel rushed, things start go­ing wrong.

Live at her pace. A two-year-old has no con­cept of time, traf­fic jams or be­ing late for an ap­point­ment. It will lead to un­nec­es­sary con­flict if you want to turn your child, who moves at the speed of a VW Beetle, into a Fer­rari.

This does not, how­ever, mean that you should just leave your tod­dler be with­out any goal or di­rec­tion. Re­mem­ber, you’re still the parent and thus in con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion.

But don’t try to make your child feel that her at­tempts are not as good as yours, be­cause this will just lead to doubt and fur­ther frus­tra­tion. If she puts her shoes on the wrong way around, ig­nore it for a few min­utes. Then you might say some­thing like, “My shoes feel a lit­tle un­com­fort­able. I won­der if I have the right shoe on the right foot. Let’s have a look at yours.” Cor­rect the wrongs to­gether.

One of the first things she’ll start do­ing by her­self is get­ting dressed. As soon as she’s mas­tered this skill, she’ll want to prac­tise all the time. So be pre­pared for a whole host of dif­fer­ent out­fits dur­ing the course of the day. It’s not a stage when one should in­sist on ev­ery­thing be­ing cor­rect and in its place. You’ll prob­a­bly be forced to drop your stan­dards of neat­ness to suit your child’s grow­ing independence.

En­cour­age her and be pre­pared to stand back some­times to al­low her to make mis­takes. YB

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