Wanting your toddler to be independent should be the ultimate goal for every parent,” says Valerie Outram, from Parentline Plus. “But unfortunately as your toddler grows she’ll come across things you don’t like and you’ll feel like you want to protect her from anything that’s unsuitable,” adds Valerie.
“It’s important to accept that you can’t shield your toddler from everything, no matter how hard you try. Instead help prepare her by encouraging independence and resilience and as she gets older help her to think for herself.”
It can be an ongoing battle for parents who want their children to grow up but not too fast, especially when they’re showing signs of wanting greater independence. So here’s what to do when your little one wants to…
… pick her own (unsuitable) clothes
It’s the middle of winter but your little girl is adamant she wants to dress herself. She roots through her clothes and settles on her favourite pair of (deeply unsuitable) summer shorts. Do you give in? Or do you insist she wears the long trousers you know are more suitable?
“This is something you don’t need to have a battle over. It’s very easy for mothers to get into negative parenting where all you find yourself saying every day is ‘no, no, no’,” says Rachel Waddilove, childcare expert and author of The Toddler Book . “So if your little one really wants to wear shorts rather than long trousers, then you’ve just got to be sensible,” she says. If she’s not going to freeze, let her express herself.
… put a TV in her room
If you have a nightmare getting your toddler to bed then putting on an episode of her favourite DVD before lights out may seem like a good idea. But experts are universally agreed that TVs in bedrooms are no good.
“Having a TV in your child’s bedroom makes it hard to keep an eye on what she’s watching and it might even prevent her from getting all the sleep she needs,” says Valerie. “And it winds children up, whereas reading a story winds them down,” adds Rachel.
… buy an expensive treat from the shop
Your toddler has always asked for sweets when you’ve hit the supermarket, but now, as she’s learning more about what her friends have, her demands are becoming more expensive. How do you react?
“You have to decide how often she’s going to have a treat,” says Rachel. And if today’s not that day? “Just say ‘No we’re not having anything today,” she adds. “If your toddler has a meltdown you just pay for what you’ve got, then tell her ‘we’re going home’.” If your little one brings up the fact that her friend so and so has that, you just say… ‘That’s up to her mummy and daddy,’” says Rachel.
“Parents are frightened their children won’t love them anymore if they say no,” she adds. “But that’s not going to happen if you have a steady and stable family life. When children are under the age of 5 and you say ‘no’ to them, they soon forget and go off and do something else.”
… wear make-up
She comes home from a play date smothered in shiny pink lip-gloss. You’re horrified. So how do you react?
“Wearing make-up is fun for little girls,” says Valerie. “But if you do feel a bit uncomfortable about it make sure you set up some guidelines from the start, such as telling her that painting nails is only for play time or when you’re at home.”
“Alternatively, try playing dressing up,” adds Valerie Outram. “This is not as drastic as putting on make-up but your toddler is still getting the chance to copy her mum and she’ll learn from it too.”
“I let my 4 year old wear make-up for special occasions. She’s been hassling me to let her since she was 2! She loves watching me put make-up on and has her own make-up bag next to mine. I wouldn’t allow her to wear it on her face every day but for parties I see no harm in a bit of glitter, nail polish and lip-gloss. She’s a real girly girl and I just see it as her way of expressing herself and getting a bit of an identity of her own,” said Lisa Archibald, 32, from Midlothian, mum to Carys, 4, and Esme, 6 months.
… kidnap your mobile phone
Little hands find mobile phones fascinating. So should you give in when your tot is screaming for yours? “Childhood passes so quickly, it’s a shame to rob them of it,” says Rachel Waddilove. Thankfully there is a balance as manufacturers have come up with plenty of toy versions.
“Toddlers love to copy their parents,” says David Lubliner, head of marketing for Leapfrog, which has invented a smart phone-style Text & Learn toy phone.
“The Text & Learn lets toddlers mimic and role play like mum and dad, with the added benefit of teaching preschool skills along the way.” Everybody’s happy!
“I don’t like my son playing with my mobile phone. He presses the wrong buttons and I’m worried he may break it, call someone or go online running up a massive bill. I don’t think mobile phones are for children and should only be considered once they hit their teens. I think toy phones are good as they help children learn, and will prepare them for one when they’re older,” said Holly Fowler, 20, from Liverpool, mum to Louis, 22 months, and Isaac, 1 month.
4 steps to coping if your tot’s clingy
1.Think… is it you? Are you still carrying her when she’s too big or giving her a bottle for too long?” asks Valerie Outram. If you answer yes to these questions, it could be that you’re holding your little one back without realising it.
2. If it is, try and let go. It can be incredibly hard to, but remember it’s really important to try as it will increase your toddler’s confidence and self esteem.
3. If it’s not you, think what else it could be. Have you recently had another child? “Some children will hold onto ‘babyness’ when there’s a new arrival in the family,” says Valerie.
4. Encourage your child. Try to gently encourage more independence by giving your toddler lots of praise. Your toddler may be resistant at first but perseverance is key.