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Wants to "Do it Myself"

What to do:

Self-Talk. Say to yourself, "Although I'm frustrated when it takes longer for my child to do things on her own, I'm glad that my child wants to be self-reliant and do things herself. I can be patient while she learns how."

Empathy. Tell yourself, "I always want to try to do things on my own. I know how my child feels! We all want to feel independent and in control, and my child is no different. She also likes to try to do what I do, so I know she'll love it if I let her.

Teach. Tell yourself, "I can show or explain to my child how to do things for herself and to accept help when she can't."

Be Calm and Patient. If your child wants to do everything himself, he's asserting his independence, not just being difficult, so let him try.

Encourage Independence. Make it fun for your child to try new challenges, by smiling and cheering him. Say, "I know you can do it!" to encourage him to keep trying.

Praise Independence. If he says, "Me open the door," let him do it. He knows you can do things faster and with less effort, but he wants and needs to develop his skills. Appreciate his efforts to do things on his own. Say, "I am so glad that you helped me unpack the groceries and put things where they belonged all by yourself. I knew that you could do it."

Ask Your Child to Do Things. To make your young child more likely to ask nicely to do things himself, show him how to make requests politely. Say, "When you ask me nicely, you may do it yourself." Then explain what you mean by nicely. For example, teach your child to say, "Please, may I get a fork for me?" when he wants a fork.

Use Grandma's Rule. Say, "When you bring me your backpack, then we can go to Grandma's. I can help you find it if you want me to."

Play Beat-the-Clock. Set your phone timer for the number of minutes you want to allow for the task and say, for example, "Let's see if you can get dressed before the timer sounds. Then, I'll help." This also helps your child learn a sense of being on time, and reduces the power struggle between you and your child. You're not telling him when time is up-the timer is. This also taps into his competitive spirit.

Suggest Cooperation and Sharing. Suggest sharing the job by having him do what he can, while you do the rest. For example, say, "Why don't you hold the cereal bowl, while I pour the milk?" Whenever possible, let your child do some part of the task.

Make Effort Count. Say, for example, "I like the way you put on your T-shirt. That was a great try. Now, I'll help you turn it around so the picture's in the front."

What not to do:

Don't Punish Your Child's Mistakes. There are bound to be a few mishaps along the way, so be patient. If your child tries to pour the milk himself and accidentally spills it, help him do it more carefully the next time. Don't get mad and expect success right away.

Don't Criticize Your Child's Effort. Avoid pointing out your child's mistakes. If he puts his sock on inside out, simply say, "Let's put the smooth side of the sock inside, next to your foot. I think it will feel better." Both you and he wants him to be teaching him how to do things is a means to that end!

Don't Feel Rejected. Don't get your feelings hurt because your child doesn't appreciate your help. He's trying to do things on his own and sees your help as getting in the way of his reaching his goal!

The authors and Raised with Love and Limits Foundation disclaim responsibility for any harmful consequences, loss, injury or damage associated with the use and application of information or advice contained in these prescriptions and on this website. These protocols are clinical guidelines that must be used in conjunction with critical thinking and critical judgment.