When adult expectations are realistic and in tune with a child’s developmental drivers it is easy for the child to experience success and enjoy a sense of achievement. It’s also likely they’ll be more cooperative and easier to get along with.
No matter how carefully or how many times you explain it, a young child cannot understand adult values, adult problems or time scales, they can’t, they really really can’t.
Very often this mismatch of expectations and capabilities causes tension and unhappiness for both adult and child.
It doesn't matter to a young child that their parent will be late for work as they’re taking too long to put on their shoes or that spilling juice will ‘ruin’ the carpet or that their brand new top is stained by paint.
The child is intensely driven by a completely different motive, the quest for independence. The young child really does need to put their shoes on themselves and to pour their own drink, feed themselves.
It’s the job of the adult to understand the needs of the child and to work out how the needs of the parent and the child can both be met, most of the time.
From birth the child is powered by their internal timetable, each step along the way is a step toward the goal of independence and self direction.
Children are absolutely desperate to do things for themselves almost as soon as they grasp the idea of what it is that needs doing.
As adults it's our job to create an environment where the child can, wherever possible, succeed in their ever-growing quest for independence and understanding of the world around them.
Practical ideas to support independence:
"Help me to do it myself" is often used as a short-hand way to describe the Montessori approach to meeting the child’s developmental needs, it’s a practical approach which can be used at home to create pathways toward independence.
As the toddler starts to want to do things for themselves here are some simple things you can do:
Open shelves at child height with activities categorised and organised with all components needed. These activities are age and interest specific, put away everything that does not fit that criteria.
A child sized table and chair or a Tripp Trapp chair (google it, they're fantastic) so the child can use the dining table.
A step to allow access to the hand-basin / toilet. A hand-towel at the right height.
A learning tower in the kitchen to provide safe access to kitchen benches for easy involvement in the preparation of food.
Child safe kitchen utensils and a child sized chopping board, plus a place to work.
Organising practical storage so the child can access appropriate clothing and shoes.
Purchasing clothing and shoes which make it easy for the child to dress themselves and go to the toilet.
Walk at a pace that allows the young child to explore their surroundings.
Time - allow enough time for the child to be successful and enough time and space for you to observe and really understand what your child is ‘telling’ you.
The more activities the young child can do by themselves for themselves the happier and more content the child will be and so too the parent as life will be much less of a battle.
Children are most content when their developmental needs are met.
What the child cannot do is understand or appreciate adult priorities and time frames, and it’s not their job. Their job is to strive for independence and ever increasing control, and when adults help them to do that everyone is happier.
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