“No, me do it!”

A bazillion times a day, my determined two-year-old squeals at me, “No! Me do it! Me do it!” Usually followed by him aggressively shoving away my hand. Hurriedly reaching for an object. Or flailing his arms in a panic. His world. Is. Ending.

I let out the dogs, forgetting that’s Jack’s task and he dramatically throws himself to the floor. Tantruming for fifteen minutes.  Is this just my severely independent son? Or do all toddlers go through the “I can do everything myself” stage?

Whatever the answer, Jack’s philosophy that he can do everything resembles a teenager who knows everything. So how do I tell a bull-headed toddler that he literally can’t turn on the stove, open the pickle jar or get the mail?

I don’t.

What I’ve realized is that the more you tell Jack he can’t, the more he wants to do. Instead, I let him try. When he realizes he can’t squeeze the toothpaste out, he looks up. “It’s too hard,” he begrudgingly notes. “Need help.” Dissatisfaction in his tone.

And when he wants to unload the groceries? Why not? So he carries one bag of bread. Then the crackers. Then one cheese. Drops the juice. Then finds the popsicles and asks for one. He’s helping. And sure proud. It's colored all over his face.

The tricky part comes when his legs are in the air, back on the floor and I’m cleaning a particularly gooey mess from his bottom. “Me wipe it! Me wipe it!” Big sigh here. Instead of letting him get poo hands I respond, “How about I finish what I’m doing, then you can wipe it when you stand up and throw it in the toilet!” Notice the explanation point. Seems anytime I talk with enthusiasm it does the trick.

So, a few things I’ve learned when coping with the I’m-very-independent stage:

1. If it’s possible, let them try.
2. When they let you help, get in and get out. Minimal assistance needed here.
3. Give them their own chores. For example, Jack now helps Dad feed the dogs, puts the bowls away and lets them outside in the morning and evenings.
4. Always let them help, even if it takes all day.
5. Get creative. If they can’t do it themselves, think of something they can and challenge them to it.
6. Distract. When I’m about to breastfeed Ella, which he thinks he can do (seriously, lifts up his shirt and says, “No, me feed Ella”), I’ll ask him to get some books and read to us. Or we’ll read together. Totally forgets he thought he could lactate.
7. Realize they may actually be able to do it. It’s hard, but sometimes they may surprise you.
8. And finally, praise. Nothing shouts your love more than hugs and kisses following a independent, completed task.

Jack cutting, decorating and baking Christmas cookies with Nonnie S.

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