“Me do it!” What to do when your toddler insists on doing everything themselves

Many houses across Australia regularly ring out with the screaming of a toddler who wants to do everything by themselves — and gets incredibly shirty when denied this often slow/messy pleasure.

“Me do it myself!”

The good news is that this is perfectly normal and shows that the child in question is growing and developing.

The less good news? Well. It can be Meltdown City when your child’s navigating this phase.

That said there are lots of things parents can do to make living with a very independent toddler less stressful on everyone.

Here’s five excellent places to start:

1. Allow extra time

Sometimes simply adding in a 5 minute buffer when you need to get out and about or get something done can help to take the pressure off.

That doesn’t mean that things will go swimmingly, but you might feel a little less stressed if you know you’re not racing the clock quite so hard.

2. Create decoy activities

If you need to carry out an activity that you know your child will insist on helping with, distract them with a more achievable but still very interesting toddler-friendly job.

Yes, this requires a bit of thinking ahead, but it’s worth it and may even become second nature and ensure your independent toddler still feels helpful and a little bit grown-up.

3. Let them do half

Some tasks can be shared between you and your child. For example, you could ask them to choose a cup and you get to pour their drink. Perhaps you can put half a sock on and they can pull it up. When it makes sense, let teamwork make the dream work, even if it can take a little longer.

4. Provide choices

If you’re a clever cookie, chances are that you already know providing your child with options can head conflict off at the pass.

Think “Would you like the green cup or the blue one?” or “Would you like baked beans or egg on your toast today?” Giving your child choices can help them feel more in control and less frustrated with the challenges being small can bring.

5. Prepare to be confused

Sure your toddler wants to be treated like a big kid right now, but that doesn’t mean she won’t be a baby at bedtime! Be flexible, compassionate and forgiving (of yourself and your kiddo) as you navigate this ever-changing period of childhood.

And look, if none of these tips cut it with your very helpful toddler, know this: it won’t always be like this AND your toddler’s need to do things at a wobbly or snail’s pace is a sure sign they’re learning and growing.

Yes, it can be hard work at times, but before you know it, your child will be more adept at doing Big Kid stuff and much less resistant to being given a hand when it’s needed. And you will have gotten through this important phase … together!

“No matter how frustrating, these challenging moments are not only developmentally normal, they are really important in the growth of a child’s sense of self and individuality,” parenting expert Maggie Dent reminds us.

“When things get tough, remember you are not a lousy parent and things will get better. You will lose your cool – yes, you will have moments when you want to act like a toddler and throw a tantrum too and you will need to apologise from time to time – this is also normal!”

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