"No! I can do it!!"
This is my Marvellous Matilda's current Mantra. She is now 2 1/2 and we are feeling every bit of her new found competence. She does not want us to do ANYTHING for her - that is unless she decides she does, and then, she demands that we do EVERYTHING for her. The trouble is, your never quite sure which state of mind she is in!
Matilda is a very articulate little lady and she expresses her needs very well. Being a younger sibling, she unfortunately has to sometimes remind us that she is big enough to do some things for herself. This is why we have the 'mantra' about 4000 times a day.
Being two is all about becoming independent. Most children have developed secure relationships with their primary care givers, have discovered they are autonomous beings and with their new found language, they realise that they can exert power over the world around them. How much power... that is what they need to discover!
They are now physically able to do much more than they could and so they use this new found confidence to build up their repertoire of "Can Do's".
I love that she is so independent, but at times things just need to be done at adult speed not at 2 yr old speed. There are also times when she tries to do things that are not possible or safe for a 2yr old to do. So, how do we balance the increasing skills and independence with the practicalities of life?
These are some strategies we are using in our household:
- Make a list of all the things Matilda "Can Do" and try to leave her to do these for herself (we also throw these back at her when she plays helpless and say "Matilda - YOU can do it")
- Give her REAL and AUTHENTIC opportunities to feel powerful. Which outfit would you like to wear today? Which music should we put on to dance to? Which art materials are you going to use? In these situations it is super important that there is no 'wrong' choice as this instantly strips the power away.
- Set boundaries when needed, without ignoring the need to feel a part of it - I know you want to buckle yourself in like Orlando does, but it is MY job to make sure your buckle is done up properly so that you are safe. How about you pass me the bits.
- We have times for learning skills and times for not - How about we work together to put your shirt on today, I'll put your head in and you do the arms... Vs I know you can do this, but because were in a hurry today I'm going to do it quickly.
- And the one that always gets me is when I have given her the time to do something and she mucks around instead of doing it. In this situation I am trying to remember to say - I said that you could do it, but you choose to play with the 'babushka dolls' so now I am going to do it.
Yes this all takes time, but I see it as an investment. The time I spend now, assisting Matilda to become independent (which she clearly wants to be) the more time I will have later to spend giving her joyful engaged attention.
The more skills they have, the less you have to spend precious time with the routines. This allows time for real playing, singing, creating and just being in each others company.
Some of Matilda's Can Do's
Get into the bath
Get out of the bath
Wrap her own towel
Get herself dry
Dress her bottom half
Clear her dishes from the table
Put her clothes in the washing basket
Take her nappy off
Put her nappies in the bin
Empty her potty
Wash her own hands
Set the table
Climb onto and off the change table
Tidy her toys
Find her shoes
Put her shoes on (some pairs)
Carry her own nappies and changes of clothes in her 'school bag'
Put on her own bike helmet
Climb in and out of the car by herself
What Can Do's are we missing? What else can I assist her to do for herself?
Looking at this list I'm feeling gleefully useless!