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
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…
WHAT LIES BEHIND THIS PHASE
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