Sometimes you won’t be able to let your child do a task for himself. One family was about to go home after seeing a circus when their two-year-old insisted on tying his own shoe. As his parents tried to help him and hurry him along, he became angry and frustrated, and nearby families stopped to watch the struggle. The parents finally solved the problem by telling their son he could carry his shoe out and tie it himself in the car, but often these conflicts are not easily resolved.
Despite your best intentions, you may find yourself in an embarrassing situation, carrying away your screaming, angry child who wants to stay put until he’s finished a task. Such times are definitely hard, especially if you feel judged by others and frustrated by your child’s actions. Yet your young child truly doesn’t understand your feelings and will often focus only on his own needs and interests: “I want to do it myself!”
Sometimes you may not want your child to do a job for himself, because you know he can’t really do it, because you don’t want to deal with the mess that will result, or because you’re in a hurry. But when you say, “Let me do that for you,” you may be in for arguments, struggles, or temper tantrums.
To minimize such resistance, the best approach is distraction. “Why don’t you look at this book while I put your shoes on?” As you button his shirt, talk about animals in the zoo. And while you’re fastening his seatbelt tell him a story or start the DVD player you have in the car.
If a task your child wants to try is too difficult or messy, break it into steps, and let him try a small part of the job. If he can’t yet brush his teeth, let him hold the toothbrush while you put the toothpaste on, and let him hold your hand as you brush. He’ll feel pleased to participate, and in time, step-by-step, he’ll take over the job for himself.
Being patient with children at this stage is difficult, because patience, distraction, and preparation don’t always work, your child will angrily demand to do something for himself when you don’t want him to or when he’s incapable of doing the job. Still, the more he’s allowed to try on his own, the less likely he is to argue when you have to take over a task. And as you see how pleased your child is with his accomplishments (“I did it!”) and how good he feels about his abilities, you’ll understand why it’s important to let your child do many things for himself.