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Does your toddler's independence drive you crazy?



Everyone wants their independence, especially a toddler. Sometimes this is a great character trait, and sometimes, especially when you're running late, their independence can be a big pain in the neck!


Developing independence is extremely important for building self esteem and self confidence in a child. Along with this comes lots of frustration as a parent and caregiver.

We all know that when your toddler wants to put on their coat or shoes by themselves, you won't be leaving the house quickly!


If you want to build more patience in yourself while you foster independence for your child, here are some tips to help you:


Create consistent routines:

While this might sound obvious, establishing a consistent routine for daily tasks helps create independence. When your child can anticipate the next step of their day, whether it's getting dressed, cleaning up before dinner, or getting ready for bath and bed, being able to anticipate these steps helps them become more responsible. If your daily routine is consistent, then your child starts to anticipate what steps come next, and will start to take on more responsibilities with less help from you.


For example, at bath time, ask your child to choose their pajamas. After a few days of doing the same task, they will learn that it is their responsibility, and will choose them without your prompting them at bath time. You are also showing your child that you trust them and know that they are capable of performing these tasks.


Give your child choices:

Giving your child choices fosters a sense of control over a their life. Toddlers and children are accustomed to hearing commands, such as "clean up your toys" or "it's bath time". These commands often results in outbursts, not listening, or tantrums.


If you give your child a chance to make decisions, you are building independence and control. At bedtime, ask them to choose 2 books to read. You are setting a boundary (2 books) while allowing them to make an independent choice (which books).


Another way to avoid tantrums while allowing your child to make choices is to let them choose what clothes they will wear to school. You can lay out 2 outfits before bath time, ask them to choose which outfit they want to wear to school the following day. You are again, promoting decision making, and possibly avoiding a power struggle in the morning, since the decision of what to wear has been made the night before.


Be sure to give your child lots of positive reinforcement and praise when they make choices and decisions on their own. They will be proud of themselves and will feel empowered, and you will find they are having fewer tantrums and outbursts.


Let your child help:

Toddlers and children love to help. This will build their independence, confidence, and gives them a sense of control over their environment. Allowing them to assist you in daily tasks will alleviate tantrums, and give you the ability to redirect behaviors to promote a more positive outcome.


Simple tasks like picking up toys helps maintain structure throughout their day. You can even make cleanup time into a game. For example, ask your toddler to find all the green legos and put them away. Then move onto a different color until everything is cleaned up.


By breaking cleanup into steps, it isn't as overwhelming for your child, and they will be more excited to participate. And now you are helping them learn their colors and how to sort, while getting the playroom cleaned up!


A lot of research supports giving children tasks and chores as a way of building a sense of responsibility and self-reliance. This also helps develop their executive function skills and teaches them about teamwork and empathy.


Tell your child how proud you are:

It's so important for your child to know that the hard work they do is noticed and appreciated by you. You can consistently give positive attention to the qualities that you want to encourage in your child, so you can help make sure these behaviors continue to happen again and again, until they become routine.


These skills are called the P-R-I-D-E skills* and help increase positive behaviors in children:

  • PRAISE: Praise your child’s appropriate behavior. This helps increase the specific behavior that you are addressing and contributes to a warm interaction with your child. For example, “Great job lining up those blocks!”

  • REFLECT: Reflect appropriate speech. This helps demonstrate to your child that you are listening and understanding. For example, your child says, “I made a tower.” And then you say, “You made a tower!”

  • IMITATE appropriate behavior and play. This gives positive attention (the most powerful reward) to good behavior and promotes cooperation. For instance, when your child builds a tower, you begin to stack blocks too.

  • DESCRIBE your child’s appropriate behavior. This reinforces your child’s positive play and draws their attention to it. You might say, “We are building a tower together.”

  • Be ENTHUSIASTIC! This makes your interactions feel warmer and keeps your child interested. For example, you can use a playful voice, exaggerate your emotions when you’re talking, and smile often.

*Child Mind Institute


Building confidence and independence during the day will spill over into other areas of your toddler's life, including independent sleep and healthy sleep habits and routines.


If you have questions about your baby or toddler's sleep and/or behavior challenges, reach out at any time.

Sweet Dreams! 😴👶

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