Many parents (me included!) have done a simple mistake: we do things for our toddlers instead letting them do it themselves! We find so many justifications why we do this! Some of my own were: my toddler is too little to do it by herself and, very often, it’s easier and faster if mom does it!
In a way, we are our own biggest obstacle in turning our toddler in independent children that will be able to look after themselves in a year or two.
What can a toddler really do by herself / himself? What things should we allow them and encourage them to do by themselves? Let’s try to answer some of these questions and bring up independent and confident kids.
They can do WAY more than we think. As I remind my toddler, “you’ll get the hang of it, it just takes you longer because you haven’t done _____ as many times as I have.” My 4-year-old made his own pizza for dinner the other night. He gets to use a plastic knife in the kitchen, he helps with dishes, setting the table, clearing the table, wiping up spills, and even scrubbing the toilet or emptying the cat litter (those last two are favorites). I allow him to help me, and as I see he is able, encourage him to try and do the task independently. I may have to wait a little longer than desired, or accept a job done not quite up to my standards, but, in the long run, it is worth it!
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Allow them time. It takes them much longer to do things than us so we need to factor that into our routine. For some things, like brushing teeth, I let them have a go and then I finish off. (I warn them I’m going to take over after the count of 5.)
I encourage my 3-year-old daughter to dress herself in the mornings. She is more than capable of taking her pj’s off and then getting into her leggings and pulling her socks on. She then just needs a hand getting her t-shirt over her head. Being the third child, she has had to do things for herself much quicker than the boys. I just don’t have the time to do everything for them all. It surprising what they can do when they have to!
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I encourage my toddler by always allowing her to have a try when she asks (be it within reason). Once they try and if they can’t get it, I teach it to them. From that point on they keep trying until they get it and I try not to rush them.
It’s important to give them the time to try things for themselves (even when it takes 3 times as long to accomplish the task!).
I have always had a baby and a toddler together so more for my sanity than theirs, I had no choice but to let my kids do everything that they wanted to do. There is a stage when toddlers always say ‘me do it’. I found that when I filled their ‘power’ bucket they behaved well so I’ve always let them not just do their stuff but also help me with my chores. Of course, it means my kids have worn a Tom and Jerry costume to the mall and shown up at places wearing three layers of clothes and boots in summer but hey! They wore it themselves. These days we have an almost three-year-old who wears clothes inside out.
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I definitely still struggle with this one. I’m definitely one of those moms that have done too much for my son, but I’m working on it! I heard about a great strategy that you can use when your kids are struggling with doing something independently. You just say something like, “This can be really tricky. Sometimes it helps if you…(then give them a tip).” I find this is helping my son attempt more things on his own.
Simply take a deep breath and let them try. Whenever I let my toddler do something new, I always ask him if he needs ‘help’ doing it. Sometimes, he says yes, and sometimes, he struggles with it before turning to me. But it’s always a good thing to let them have a go and feel independent.
Giving them an opportunity to practice independence is so important! Give them time and space to be self-reliant when you can, and don’t jump in until they ask for help. And be prepared (and ok with) a little mess here and there.
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Let them try and fail. Let them try and fall. They will try again and succeed. But first, you have to stop saying NO! and STOP! so often. It’s hard, I know. It goes against our natural desire to protect them. Be strong, mama! And bite your tongue a lot!
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