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Toddlers want to make their own choices, which often requires compromise. Parents need to balance safety with freedom. Good support networks can provide help.

Pēpi will now want to make their own choices more often about what they want to eat, play with and even wear. This stage of growing independence and self-discovery can sometimes end in tears.

Compromise and negotiation are the key words for this time.

Balancing safety and freedom

See page 20 of the Whakatipu booklet Te Kōhuri 1.

Parents can find it difficult to ‘let go’, allowing their tamaiti the freedom to explore independently. This shows they understand the risks to their child’s safety during this developmental stage, but it can also be restrictive and limiting. The goal for parents is to find the balance between safety and freedom. On page 17 of the booklet, whānau say:

‘It can be scary letting her try things out on her own, but we know she learns best by “doing”, so we let her go to it but stay close by to keep her safe. It’s also important that the whole whānau understands what’s best for pēpi at this stage. We talk a lot about “te hauora a pēpi” and how we all have a role to nurture and awhi her.’

Good support networks

Supervision of tamariki at this stage is so important. But it can sometimes be difficult in busy homes with lots of children and lots going on. Older children are often in kaitiaki roles for younger siblings. Tuakana/teina relationships can play an important role in keeping tamariki safe.

On pages 13–16 of the booklet Aroha in Action, whānau are reminded of their role in ensuring the safety of mokopuna.

‘Parents with good support networks are more likely to feel positive about their children and ask for help when they need it.’

Children test everything

Tā ngā tamariki ana mahi wāwāhi tahā

It is the job of the children to smash the calabash

The calabash or gourd held precious liquids and was valued. The gourd is a metaphor for rules, methods or beliefs. So children have to test everything. That is their job. Adults have to accept that.

Look on the Mana Ririki(external link) web page to learn more about Māori ancestors’ beliefs about tamariki.

Other resources

Video: Growing Independence (1–2 year olds) – Part 1 (YouTube) | Sport NZ(external link)

Te Kāhui Mana Ririki | Traditional Māori parenting – An historical review of literature of traditional Māori child rearing practices in pre-European times(external link)

Helpful resources for whānau