Find resources / Articles / Growing independence

The child will want to do more and more. Whānau can encourage this growing independence without seeming to control it.

At this stage, a young child will want to do more and more. ‘I do it … I do it’ is a common statement heard from children in this age group. Even if they don’t yet say the words, their behaviour will tell parents what they are thinking.

'I do it'

Ask the whānau:

  • What have you noticed your child wanting to do without your help?
  • Does your tamaiti say ‘I do it’?
  • What was the situation?

On page 6 of the Whakatipu booklet 'Te Kōhuri 2', Whānau say: ‘Pēpi is showing signs of her own mana motuhake. She wants to make little decisions and to do things for herself. She’ll let us know if she wants help, and we praise her when she tries hard.’

Children of this age can manage some things themselves and will struggle with others. The challenge is to work out ways to help without it resulting in a meltdown.

  • Have you had times when you’ve tried to help them with something and they’ve ‘spat the dummy’ as a result?
  • How did you respond? The trick can be to let a child feel they have lots of control while you actually have most of it.
  • What about others in the whānau – how are they managing these signs of independence?
  • Can you think of ways you can help your tamaiti to do more things on their own?
  • What can you do to help them learn to dress on their own?

Doing things around the house

Practising putting on ‘dress ups’ can help, especially if the clothes are a little too big so they can be put on or taken off easily.

  • What little ‘jobs’ could they help with around the house?

Sorting or putting washing away, putting groceries away, setting the table and washing vegetables are all things they can manage with only a little support.

  • What happens at mealtimes? Do they always feed themselves? What do they use? Hands, spoons or forks?

Closely related to children saying ‘I do it’ is ‘Mine’.

On page 8 of 'Tips for under-fives', it says: ‘Between the ages of two and three, children are developing their own separate identities. They’ll start to use words like “mine” and insist on doing things for themselves.’

Learning to play with others

Even though they may want to play with other children, they still have to learn the necessary social skills to share and play together successfully. This takes practice and support from their whānau.

Discuss the ideas on page 9 of 'Tips for under-fives' with the parents.

During this stage of growing independence, a child understands that they’re a separate being from their parents and will want to make decisions for themselves. They have limited understanding or regard for danger, so they still need the adults around them to supervise and intervene where necessary, even though they may not always appreciate this.

When parents understand this is a normal developmental stage, it can help them cope with their child’s behaviours. Gentle support for this emerging independence will help the child learn to manage their emotions and reinforce their developing sense of confidence and competence.

Kia kaha whānau!

How does this relate to Tākai resources?

Baby wall frieze – Kōrero mai, e aroha ana koe ki ahau – tell me you love me

Six things children need – Te aroha me te mahana – love and warmth

Helpful resources for whānau