I Did It Myself!
The most important psychological task of toddlerhood is achieving a sense of autonomy. After experiencing the near total helplessness of infancy, a child must now learn that he doesn’t have to be completely dependent on others. He can start feeding himself, dressing himself, bathing himself, etc.
Of course, he is not going to be able to do these things perfectly or even acceptably right away. And it is often difficult for parents, particularly if they are on a hectic schedule, to refrain from stepping in and taking over. Unfortunately, this makes the little one doubtful about his emerging abilities. He becomes reluctant to try doing things for himself because he sees that it creates problems and gets his parents upset.
Consequently, at this point in a child’s development, it is critical for mothers and fathers to make time and exercise patience. And it is equally important to respect the process more than the final product. Toddlers are not going to do things competently on their own immediately, but they never will if not given the chance to attempt, practice, and perfect new skills.
So when your two-year-old emerges from his bedroom with his shirt on inside-out and his shoes on the wrong feet, don’t fret so much about the fashion faux-pas. Instead, note the beaming smile on his face as he proudly declares, “I did it myself!”
Michael K. Meyerhoff, Ed.D. (a.k.a. “Dr. Mike”) is a member of the management team at Romp n’ Roll. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University, he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in human development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he also held a position as a researcher with the Harvard Preschool Project. He may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.