My Way or No Way!

Suddenly he wants to do everything himself from brushing his own teeth to climbing into his carseat and the slightest helping hand from you can result in an all-out tantrum.

If this is the tune your toddler is singing, you’re not alone! She is getting to the age where she craves independence and the only way she can get that independence is to do everything herself. It is best to start picking your battles right now, because this phase will be here for a while in most typically developing toddlers.

This is where it helps a lot to start thinking like a toddler. Imagine spending a year or more pretty much only observing the world and allowing someone to do everything for you and to you…the food that you put in her mouth, the clothes that you put on her body, the clips that you fasten in the stroller, car seat, and high chair. She has spent this time watching, pondering, and wondering and now that she has the dexterity and skills, she wants to try it out herself. Attempting to strap her own strap of her car seat and put on her own shoes builds independence and self-esteem. Even if it takes two or three…or ten times as long, it is great to let her try if she is motivated to do so.

A lot of this quest for independence boils down to control. Your toddler still doesn’t have control over very much, so the few tiny things he can control are very exciting and liberating for him. He is still learning and testing the waters and you probably notice that he ventures away from you in periods of strong independence, but is back in your lap at the drop of a hat sometimes.

These periods of independence, even if accompanied by a strong will are a healthy sign that he is developing his sense of self. Try to be patient. You may even need to build time into your schedule. Perhaps you get her out of bed 15 minutes earlier because you know she will need to put on her own shoes and socks before going to play group. Praise her with the job done and pick your battles. When safety is an issue, it is time for you to take back control.


Klein, T. (2014). How Toddlers Thrive. Touchstone. NY, NY.

Murphy, J. (2004). The Secret Lives of Toddlers; A Parent’s Guide to the Wonderful, Terrible, Fascinating Behavior of Children Ages 1 to 3. Berkley Publishing Group. NY, NY.