Toddler Fun Thursday: Mommy Rant- Episode 1 Independence

Toddler Fun Tuesday- Mommy Rant Edition
Fostering Independence

I apologize in advance to anyone I might offend with the following post. Everyone has their own opinions and parenting styles and this is just mine. Feel free to skip past this one.
I was always a very independent kid. My mom loves telling the story of my first day of kindergarten when she dropped me off and instead of clinging to her leg, I just took off with barely a “bye, mom!” So naturally, I always thought it was weird when I saw other kids screaming and clinging to their mommies. As an adult, I get a so annoyed when I see parents doing things for their kids that they can do themselves.   I’m the first one to shake my head and think “THIS is exactly why we have adults that think everything should be handed to them” or “THIS is why every time I’m at Walmart some entitled asshole is screaming at the top of her lungs that the line isn’t moving fast enough, and when she gets to the cashier, she’s paying with Ziploc bags full of change.” Because the world absolutely REVOLVES around these people who think the world owes them something.

Learning independence starts when they’re little, and when I say little, I mean as young as a few months.  Little ones are so proud of themselves when they learn a new skill. That’s why they’ll do it over and over again until they master it. When they learn how to roll, or crawl, or stand, they do it whenever they get the chance.  Whenever our little one learns a new word, that’s the only thing you’ll hear ALL FREAKING DAY (my mother-in-law was playing a game on FaceBook and made the mistake of teaching her the word “bubble.” That’s the only word my in-laws heard the whole time we were there).  A little praise never hurt either when they learn something new or accomplish a task you want them to complete. I’m not saying buy the kid an iPad because he cleaned his room, but an ice cream on the way home from school when he worked really hard and got an A on that project is reasonable.
Sometimes it’s best to have your child let you know when they’re ready, regardless of how little they are. Once they start showing an interest, FOR GOODNESS SAKE, let them try. For example, if your 6 month old tries to grab the spoon out of your hand at dinner, LET HIM TRY TO FEED HIMSELF.  Ours is 16 months and is fascinated by the toilet. She’ll even point at it and say “pee-pee,” so we know that soon we’ll have to get a potty.

Discipline: Responsibilities and Consequences

It’s also not too soon to teach responsibility and consequences. Now, there’s a huge debate on whether or not timeout is effective or even hurts the child’s development. Every child is different, and some progress more quickly than others.
Please don’t think the following represents typical behavior for a 16 month old, because it doesn’t.
I have been teaching little A to clean up her own toys for as long as she learned how to leave them all over the entire apartment. By now, if you ask her to put away a specific toy, she knows exactly what to get and where to put it. Now, she’s definitely getting to be a toddler, and with that comes temper tantrums and pushing mommy’s buttons while trying to exert her independence.  Most times when mommy asks her to put her toys away, she obliges (with the occasional cuddle to delay the process. She’s a 6 year old in a toddler’s body, I swear…). But when she’s grumpy, she will wave her hands at me and growl. Yep, my kid growls at me when she’s pissed.  I warn her that she’ll have to sit in the “sad girl chair.” Yes, my toddler already has a timeout chair. If she doesn’t clean up the first time, I go and get it out of the closet and face it toward the wall. Usually that’s enough to scare her into cleaning. If she continues to growl or, heaven forbid, hits, her butt goes right in that chair. I then shut the door and leave the room and let her sit there for a minute or two (acceptable timeouts are one minute for each year). I then ask her “are you ready to put your toys away now?” I then give her a hug and she’ll help me finish up.  It’s not a miracle, but it works for now. And when she’s done I always say “great job putting your toys away!” and give her another hug and a high five.
OMG. I know! I sit my 16 MONTH OLD in timeout. Like I mentioned earlier children all develop in their own time. If I didn’t know that she was able to complete the task of cleaning, I wouldn’t expect her to do it, and therefore obviously would not sit her when she didn’t.  Kids that age SHOULD NOT be expected to be able to do that. But since mine is capable, I’m using the timeout to teach her that good habit now.

Don’t Do it All For Them
 In my Intro to Early Childhood Education class we learned about the concept of scaffolding.  It means that you only give them AS LITTLE HELP AS THEY NEED to learn or do something.  That could something as simple as a verbal prompt (“that toy belongs HERE”) or something a little more time consuming, like making photo labels for their toys so they know where to put them. Take for instance, a child getting ready to go and needs to put her shoes on. She knows how to put her shoes on but can’t tie them. For the love of all things holy, PLEASE do not just throw her shoes on and tie them for her. Let HER put them on and YOU tie them.  It’s all about knowing your child and what they can and can’t do (and what they’re just too lazy to do).
A couple years ago, I found an amazing woman and mother on YouTube. Her name is Kristina Kuzmic AKA Truth Bomb Mom. If you want an even sassier answer to your parenting questions, I’ll refer you to her channel, and this video in particular. I love her. She’s my mommy crush.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “But Lauren, they’re not going to be babies forever,” “she’s too young for that,” BLAH, BLAH, BLAH. Listen, every kid is different. You know yours and I know mine. But isn’t it a little selfish to want to keep our kids dependent when all they want is to learn to do something they’re proud that they learned?

Every little one wants to be a “big kid.” Think about it from her perspective next time your toddler is grabbing the spoon but you want to feed her so she doesn’t make a mess.  Just grab some wipes and some 409. When your little one wants to dress himself, LET HIM. The world will not end if he puts his orange gym pants on with boots and his neon green Paw Patrol sweatshirt.  Teach them independence when they’re little. You’ll thank me when they’re not living in your basement at 40.