I was in the middle of the “Me do It!” stage before I knew it. Danielle, age 3, was trying more and more things when I was busy with her sisters. I just thought it was because I was busy. No, it was because she was a toddler and wanted to do it herself. Yikes, I could barely get 3 little girls ready! Now I needed to have patience to let her do it herself! YIKES!
I remember picking up these hints from my parenting books:
Toddlers will attempt to do more than they physically can and will get frustrated with their failure.
When you help them, they get mad because you took it away from them and they experience a feeling of failure.
The key, was to try to let them finish tasks, so their last attempt was successful. The example the book gave was to start a zipper for them, but let them finish the zip. Then you could say, ‘You did it,’ and congratulate them.
The next day I started to focus on the end of every task I did for Danielle. When she was getting dressed, I pulled her pants up to her knees and let her finish them. I put her shirt on and she pulled it on the rest of the way. Each time I would smile and say, “You did it!”
Each time, she beamed with excitement! When we were getting ready to leave the house, I heard Danielle yelling. She was in the closet, mad that she couldn’t reach her coat. I pulled it down for her and off she ran, saying, “Me do it!”
Busy with getting the coats on the other two and trying to get us all out the door, I didn’t pay any attention to Danielle. Soon she was crying and screaming, "I can’t do it. I can’t do it!”
When I finally got to her, she had her coat on upside down! I had to bite the inside of my cheeks not to laugh because it looked so funny. Her frustration level was so high and she was so mad, because she couldn’t zip her coat! I didn’t want to make her feel like a failure, but she had her coat on upside down! I tried to get her to come to me, but she refused; she was too mad. Ashley started to point out her coat was wrong and I knew that would really send Danielle into a tailspin, so I intervened and said, “Is that coat of yours giving you trouble?”
Danielle gave me the strangest look. I went on to blame the coat for giving her trouble. I told her to take off her coat and give it a time-out for being bad. She continued to look at me with this strange look, but she let me grab her and take off the coat. As I finished taking off the coat, I talked to it. I called it a bad coat for giving Danielle trouble. I asked the coat if it was ready to behave this time. Danielle was still wondering what I was doing and let me guide her arms into the sleeves as I talked to her coat. Finally, I started the zipper and let her finish zipping it up. I gave her a big hug and said, “See, if your coat is good, you can do it!”
She smiled as I wiped her tears away. The book was right; the end was the most important thing! As the day continued, I realized I had missed all the signs of this new stage. Danielle was trying to do so many things on her own. I kept hearing, “Me do it!”
I realized that day, that sometimes I would just need a crazy idea to get through a situation. It didn’t always need to make sense. I would end up blaming things so many times through the years. It helped me not over react to a situation, like spilled milk at the dinner table. ‘It was the cups fault!’ Other times it helped the girls with their frustrations, especially when learning to tie their shoes. We had a lot of ‘bad shoes.’
I know calling the shoes bad, was not the best. But it was the only thing I could think of in that split second. And I was more concerned about her self-confidence fading. Remember, sometimes you just need a crazy idea to get through a situation. It doesn’t always need to make sense.