My independent two-year-old

My beautiful Audra (2)

Audra is a gem.  She delights all of us, every single day.  She is so articulate and says the cutest things.  She is constantly encouraging and complimenting, and is just so sweet and expressive.  The other morning she saw me and said,  "Mommy, I love yours pony tail!" Recently we got a new screen door and almost every time we go outside, she says: "I love our new screen door!" Or "I love those pretty flowers."  She adores her brothers and sisters, and is often doling out hugs and kisses.  She's such a little sweetheart.

She's got this other thing going on, though- where she wants to do everything all by herself, without any help from anyone.  (You'd think after five children I would have remembered this stage, but I had entirely forgotten it, and how frustrating it can be.  These past couple of months I feel like I've been in a training intensive for how to handle this stage.  I'm slowly learning.)  I am all for letting her be independent and try to do things by herself, but the challenge lies in the fact that she wants to do things that she is simply not able to physically do. 

Yesterday the older kids were all heading outside to play, and decided at the last minute to don some coats and jackets (even though it was quite warm) because they were going to be firefighters.  Well, Audra decided that she wanted to go out, too.  Unfortunately, she had noticed everyone bundling up, so she wanted to get a coat on, too.  I knew where this was headed, so I tried to convince her that it was warm and she didn't need a coat, but she would hear nothing of it. 

I was making dinner as she attempted first one sweatshirt, than another, than a coat, then Ella's  sweatshirt, than Adelia's coat, and so on.  I kept watch from the kitchen where I was making dinner.  Each time I looked in on her, she was determinedly trying to force her little arm into the scrunched up and inside-out sleeve, or she had the sweatshirt on but upside down, with the little hood hanging down by her bum, or one arm in but unable to twist her body around to reach the other dangling arm of the sweatshirt or coat.  I offered, casually and from a distance, once or twice: "Honey?  Do you want mama to come and help you?"  To which she stoutly replied, "NO!" 

She was quiet and determined for the first 15-20 minutes, but then she began to get really frustrated because she simply could not do it all by herself, although she desperately wanted to do so.

Then she started crying and throwing sweatshirts on the floor in frustration and so I tried to gingerly approach and offer assistance, again- to which she shouted: "No!  I don't want you to help me!  I want to do it.  I'm doing it."  Mmmhmmm.  I have been learning that if I wait it out, continuing to gently offer help or assistance-- from afar--  and then leave her to herself, she will eventually let me help her.  She may not ASK me to help her, but she will eventually give in and recognize that she needs it.  But for the most part, I try not to intervene but to observe silently and wait for my moment, and then tread carefully.

So... yesterday, finally- after almost 40 minutes of her standing by our front door, sweatshirts and coats of all sizes and colors crumpled around her feet- she had one arm partway into a sweatshirt and was exasperated to the point that she accepted my request for help.  My goal at that moment was to do as little as I could, all the while encouraging her that she was indeed doing it!  So I said things like, "Oh, this is tricky, Audra.  It's inside out!  Mommy is just going to turn these sleeves right-side-out for you and then you can do it.... there you go.  I'm just going to hold it up so that you can get your arm in there by yourself.  Good job!  You did it!... Now, oh- zippers are hard, honey, aren't they?  How about if I hold one side and you can hold the other and I'll show you how you can zip it up?  Good job, honey.  I'm just going to help you get it in there... good!  You did it!  Do you want to zip it all the way up, all by yourself?  Good job!  You did it!" 

And then she goes on her merry way, feeling like she did it all by herself.  That extra patience and understanding on my part goes a long way in avoiding complete meltdowns by one or both of us.  :)   The other- and more important- thing I've been doing is praying for her in this frustrating little season of wanting so much to be grown up and doing all of these grown-up tasks all by herself- but struggling so much to actually accomplish them. 


  1. Sometimes (often) I feel like being a mom works more on my character (patience,etc.) then on theirs. Nice job knowing your daughter!

  2. Raphael, who's now 3 1/2, is by far my most independent child. It's been pretty interesting! What intrigued me is how, from a very young age, he would just do stuff by himself, not asking for help or permission. (Like not long ago, he marched off to use a public bathroom at the park by himself! Ack! Poppy, at 6, would still want me to go with her!) Every child is so different, and it's amazing to watch how they develop. Good job being there and offering assistance in a gentle way.

  3. Love the practical example of how you dealt with the situation. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I'm impressed that she tried for over 40 minutes! That's a lot of determination for a 2 year old! Thank you for the example of patiently providing help in just the right amounts. :)

  5. Oh, this is so sweet! My Melissa was *exactly* like this--both extremely sweet and loving and determined. At age nine she spent an entire day--*all day long*--hammering a small shelf together for her fort. She took it apart, put it back together, didn't like it, took it apart, put it back together, thought it was too crooked, and did this over and over again. When I asked if she'd like help, she gave me a "look" and shook her head no. Okay! I did like that she kept trying, and she did finally get where she thought it was good enough. I told her I loved it, but I had to be very careful how I said it because she wasn't/isn't one to be flattered or patronized. :-) Which I think is great.

    You are a wise momma! :-) I enjoyed reading this.


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