Dealing With Your Child’s Increasing Independence

It seems to happen overnight. Your baby has become an opinionated and busy toddler.  Getting into everything and chatting away.  It has officially begun, your child is learning how to be independent.  As a parent it can be challenging to foster a healthy learning environment all while maintaining your sanity.  Here are some helpful tips and strategies to help cultivate a healthy learning environment for your little one while they explore their great big world of independence.

Remember the Goal

The role of parenting is to set your kids up to become independent. From learning how to tie their shoes, eat with silverware, to properly greeting friends and family.  It can be easy to lose sight of the “big picture” when you are caught up in the stress of day to day living.  You may have a toddler determined to tie their shoe, but you know it will take 20 minutes. That is when it is tough. Step back. Take a deep breath and think of the big picture.

Plan Ahead

If you are exhausted from constantly telling your child “no” for getting into everything in your home. Take a look around and see what you can move that will prevent them from danger and then just let them play.  Sure the couch cushions may get thrown off the sofa or a mess is made but this will allow your child to explore and hopefully preserve some of your sanity.  If you know your toddler will want to put on their shoes and buckle their own car seat, perhaps you plan to leave 20 minutes early to allow for more patience as a parent to let your child “practice” their new skills.

It is messy. It will always be messy.

There is nothing tidy about a child learning how to feed themselves, or make their own breakfast.  Accept the mess, as opposed to trying to fight it. Yelling and frustration over spilt milk and corn flakes on the floor may send the signal to your child that they are doing something wrong, when essentially they are still practicing their skills to pour or eat.  Just accept that meal time is going to be messy, it will save you the anxiety of trying to assist your toddler with every move and add frustration to their growing desire to do it themselves.

Celebrate the Success!

That’s right. Your kiddo just tied their shoes, on their own, for the first time. Celebrate! Make it a big deal! Encourage that independence. (After all, you taught them that!) You both deserve a celebration! Once a child has mastered a skill independently try to allow them to continue to do this skill. In other words, never do something for your child they can do for themselves.

Encourage Exploration, within reason.

Give your child some space to explore. Sure they have never climbed that slide before, but if you don’t let them try, then they never will. Stand nearby and allow them to struggle. They will develop a confidence within themselves when they accomplish new things independently and know that they have a safe place nearby when they fail. You will have to determine what is reasonably safe for your child, but allow your children space to make mistakes, even stumble along the way.

Boundaries will be tested.

When you are in situations where rules and boundaries need to be established, stay firm. It is natural at this age to test the limits. If climbing up the stairs is a “No” one day and not the next then your child will be unsure of the limits. Don’t get offended if the “No’s” are tested again and again and most likely followed by a temper tantrum. Remember that limits and rules allow your child to feel safe, especially when they may be overwhelmed by their big new world.

Forgive Yourself.

Parenting can push you to your limits. Sometimes we start off the day with the best of intentions and things seem to fall apart. Understand that you will make mistakes as a parent or fall short of expectations you may have set for yourself. Apologise to your child when appropriate, and model this behaviour yourself. Take time to care for yourself. Set a date night away or an evening out with friends. If you feel overwhelmed by parenting and are unsure of how to get back on track, book in a time to speak to a psychologist for support. You can call us on (02) 6262 6157 or book an appointment online.

Related reading:

Consistency and Consequences: Parenting Strategies for Setting Boundaries
Guidelines for Setting Effective Rules
Modern Ways to Raise a Happy Family

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