If you are a parent of a toddler you will understand the tantrums, the stubbornness and your child’s desperate need to “be a big kid” and do everything themselves! It can be adorable yet exhausting. There is the feeling of wanting to raise a self sufficient independent child who grows up to be an independent adult and then there are conflicting feelings of fear about them growing up too fast.
The key is to foster your child’s need for independence in a healthy, safe way. Here are a few tips on how to do so:
1. Don’t hold them back
It is very easy to stop your child from doing something because it is inconvenient or annoying for you. However, if it is an opportunity for your child to learn something, then don’t hold them back. If your child wants to put their own shoes on, let them, no matter how infuriating it is for you to watch! Children learn from trying and lots of practice. You can avoid the power struggles by accommodating their new interests into the daily schedule. If you know they are going to kick off if you don’t let them put their shoes on on their own but you know it will take forever, then make sure you are ready for nursery earlier so you have time. If you cater for such little demands, you are giving them that independence they are craving for.
2. Show, do together, monitor and then let them do it alone
If your child wants to do something but its pretty frightening for you to watch, or its going to be messy the trick is to follow these steps so they manage to complete the task with your support.
If your child wants to make a sandwich for example:
• Show them – Demonstrate how to make the sandwich. Explain each step slowly so they understand the process.
• Do it together – The next stage is to make the sandwich together. That way, if they struggle with anything, you are there to help.
• Monitor – This is where you let your child make their sandwich on their own but you are there in the background watching to make sure that everything goes ok and you are there if they need you.
• Let them do it alone – Here is the big step! If they have mastered making the sandwich with you there, now it is time to let them do it alone. This is the ultimate independence gift you can give your child. You have taught them the task and now its time for them to do the task on their own.
You can follow these steps with every new activity/task your child wants to do on their own.
3. Let your child do it their way
This can again be pretty infuriating to watch but it is important you let your child do things the way they want. Although they are small, they don’t appreciate being micromanaged so refrain from this when possible. You must try to embrace your child’s desire for independence and their unique way of which they do it. Every person is different, therefore you must let them do it the way they want rather than get them to conform to what you want.
4. Let them struggle
As I mentioned, children learn from trying and practice. They won’t always get it right the first time and therefore there may be frustration, anger and tears when they fail. Thats OK. Let them keep trying and don’t step in. If you step in and complete the task for them (which would be easier for everyone), you are showing your child that you don’t think they capable of doing such tasks. Your child will also not learn about effort and perseverance if you keep interfering when things get tough. Allow your child to struggle so they see that they have to overcome obstacles in order to become that independent big boy/girl.
Having your toddler insisting on doing things on their own or alongside you can be time consuming and you may often lose your patience. But try your best to accommodate their need for independence whenever you can. If they want to help in the kitchen and end up making a terrible mess, it is not the end of the world. You are giving them what they want and they are learning new lessons the whole time. If you are scared about them cutting themselves with the scissors they are adamant on using, go through the steps with them. Have patience to teach them so there are no unnecessary accidents. If your child is willing and able to explore, take it as a good thing. They will grow to be a self sufficient, competent child because of it.