Toddlers Declaration of Independence
Sometime around the 6-15 months mark, your child is going to turn into a toddler and that means increasing independence on an almost daily basis.
Whilst all parents love to see that, it brings with it a set of challenges and downright problems.
First steps to independence
Once our children start playing with their food and putting their gunk-encrusted fingers into their mouths, they’re taking the first steps on the road that will inevitably lead to them one day telling you they don’t care if you approve of their boyfriend/girlfriend or not!
Most people consider this really begins in earnest once your child is a toddler and is able to start moving around a room more or less unaided. Once they can do so, they’ll start to really understand that Mum/Dad is a separate person to them and that they themselves are a bundle of self-motivation and human potential.
This immediately means two things:
- they’re going to want to do more and more themselves. That will increasingly lead to them getting frustrated if they can’t manage it or if you keep trying to do it all for them. Temper tantrums might result;
- their environment is going to become more dangerous for them unless you do something about it.
Top tips for encouraging independence
It’s a sure-fire bet that there will be plenty of clashes of wills between you and your toddler over what they can and cannot do themselves.
Here are a few tips to minimise the potential issues:
- let go. It can be difficult for some parents to start to pull back slightly from the total dependency phase where the relationship with the helpless infant is often at its most intimate. Trying to do everything for your toddler will lead to resentment. So, cooperate and encourage the toddler’s growing DIY inclination;
- identify ideas and encourage your toddler to try. This is channelling their DIY inclinations into safer areas. If you let your child choose, they’ll get into things that just aren’t suitable and you’ll spend all day clearing up after them;
- try to prepare in advance to minimise their chances of failure. Kids can get very frustrated and angry with themselves when they try and fail. If you simply say ‘no’ they’ll direct that at you. Instead, do some of the harder bits of it for them, preferably without them seeing, so they can be more assured of success.
Preparing the environment
As we have said before, once your child becomes a toddler you will start seeing your environment through very different eyes!
Of course, safety is the big issue here but there are others such as practicality.
- anticipate your child wanting to use switches, dials, plugs and knobs they see around the house, just as they see you doing. Make sure they’re entirely safe and child-proof. Get specialist advice on this if you’re unsure;
- remove all breakables and ‘sharps’ from their reach. Remember, if it can be knocked over then a toddler will manage it, so be cautious with all glass or breakable items such as those precious ornaments;
- real fires – toddlers will find them fascinating. You may wish to consider not using them for a period if possible;
- Younger kids will try and put into their mouths just about anything they can get their hands on. Be extra vigilant about leaving things lying around;
- consider plastic covers on the floor at mealtimes. Your DIY toddler will love shovelling food around and the chances are, their delivery accuracy will leave a lot to be desired! Their efforts should be encouraged though and floor (perhaps even wall) coverings will help reduce traumas;
- limit expeditions. A toddler will see you moving freely around the house and will try and do so too. There’s nothing wrong with that if you can accompany them but nobody can make every single room in a house entirely child-safe. Instead, have a designated ‘safe room’ and a child gate for those times when you just can’t watch them. Make sure it’s full of exploratory-type toys to keep their imaginations and DIY inclinations satisfied while you’re loading the washing machine or whatever.