Reducing Parental Frustration When Toddlers Are Becoming Independent

**This is a guest post from Ariadne Brill of Positive Parenting Connection**

“I do it ME self!”
“I wanted to do it!”
“Me. Me. Go Way. ME DO IT!”
“I starting again, to do it MY way mama.”

There is a phase in the toddler years where children are intensely interested in doing things for themselves, in a specific way and on
their own time table, it’s an incredibly wonderful time for children,
sometimes frustrating, but full of learning. Often this phase can be
incredibly frustrating for parents and caregivers as well. The desire to jump in and show the “right way” or to just “get things done” and move along can inadvertently create a whole lot of disconnect and power struggles between parents and children.

So how do we find a balance between welcoming independence, encouraging the curious and determined toddler and meeting the needs of the whole family?


Having three children and schedules to keep for instance in my family, has led me to be very aware of how much balance it takes to both meet the need for independence in my youngest daughter and meet the needs of the rest of the family – my own needs included. Through trial and error I have found the following things help reduce frustration during that time of budding independence and the years beyond:

Foster cooperation: The more I welcome my daughter to work along side
me, the more she is willing to accept a helping hand if we are in a
hurry or if it’s not safe for her do to something on her own. I find the
same is true for my older children too!

Make time for play: Children can practice so many skills as they play. I
try to offer time for my daughter to play independently every day, this
way she can work on whatever skills she feels like mastering, sorting,
stacking, arranging, pretend play…whatever her heart desires as long as
she is safe. I also try to make plenty of time for playing together so
we can practice taking turns, waiting for each other, working as a team
and so on. All that is practice not just for her, but for flexing my own
patience skills as well. I confess it’s not always easy to wait a whole
minute for her to finish shaking and finally rolling the dice, but I
know that time is important for her.

Facilitate Independence: I’ve made a few changes around the house that
make it more possible for my children to do things on their own with
little frustration and no help, for example placing hooks on the wall
for their coats they can reach alone, placing a stool on the first floor
they can move around from room to room when needed. These small changes means they can work on their own, mostly at their own speed too and I don’t have to worry about being called for help just to be told two
seconds later to “go away – I do myself!”

Plan ahead: Knowing which parts of the daily routine are things my
daughter really would like to do alone and how much time she truly needs
to get it done makes a big difference in keeping frustration at bay. It
is on the days I don’t plan well, and have to rush that we both end up
frustrated or I realize that I am overwhelmed with the clock ticking
away and not respecting my children’s needs to work at their own pace.
Planning keeps me focused and gives us all a sense of harmony, oh and
it’s safe to say that whatever time I thought was needed initially I now
know that it’s best to double that and just feel grateful when we have
time left over.

Self-care: Frustration in all things parenting often comes down to not
taking enough time to meet our own needs. When I consciously make the
time to take care of my own needs like enjoying a chocolate treat,
reading a book, doing some yoga or meditation and re-center I am much
more relaxed and able to handle the “ME-Myself” and other challenging
moments as they come along.

Toddlers love to do things for themselves, it gives them a tremendous
sense of belonging, significance and capability. On the other hand, when
we feel rushed and out of synch it can be easy to forget that toddlers
are still learning, need time to try and make mistakes in order to learn
and that they need some safe spaces to explore their skills. Naturally
there will be instances when clear boundaries or limitations will be
needed to keep everyone safe, but as your toddler becomes more and more independent try to focus on the amazing discoveries that are taking
place – it’s worth it!

***************************************

Do you have a child that is exploring her independence? How is it
working out for you both?

Peace & Be Well,

Ariadne

Ariadne is a happy and busy mama to three children. She practices
peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all
things parenting and chocolate. Ariadne has a B.S. in Communication, is
a certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator, and has completed
several graduate courses in Psychology and Family Counseling. To avoid
doing laundry Ariadne created the Positive Parenting Connection, a website dedicated to collecting and sharing resources, ideas, tips and helpful information with other parents that are striving to have connected, peaceful relationships with their children. Ariadne and her family currently live in Switzerland on top of a beautiful mountain with their loyal dog Murph and one blue fish.

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