Toddler Talk Metroplus

All by myself

Those tiny everyday tasks  

We’re always late for preschool, my daughter and I. Every single morning. Recently, I’ve been trying to improve our morning routine in preparation for LKG, which looms in the not-so-distant horizon (assuming we actually get admission somewhere, but that’s a whole other story).

Unfortunately, my daughter has her own, contradictory agenda. It’s called the “I can do it all by myself!” or simply, the “All by myself!” plan. She’s growing up, and she’s asserting her independence. She wants to do everything herself — put on and take off her clothes, comb her hair, brush her teeth… all the things I’ve always done for her. And I’m aware that this desire should be encouraged. The child should be empowered to do things by herself. It’s good for building self-confidence, learning life-skills, improving fine motor skills and co-ordination.

What it is not good for, however, is not being on time. For anything. Earlier, getting dressed took forever because she had very definite ideas on what she would, and more importantly, would not wear. Now, added to that daily negotiation is the time it takes her to put on her shirt by herself — put her right arm in the neck instead of the sleeve, pull it out, then promptly put left arm in the neck instead of sleeve, pull it out, get frustrated, throw shirt across the room, refuse to wear shirt, choose another shirt, repeat from step one. Once the arms have eventually entered their respective sleeves and the head has fitted (after a mild struggle and panic) through the neck hole, we start on the pants. The first leg usually makes it through fine, but naturally, the pants are back to front, so begin again. Then the second leg must necessarily be inserted into the same pants leg as the first. This, you would think, is harder than doing it the right way, but somehow, that’s the way a toddler will do it. Then she’ll get frustrated, throw pants across the room, refuse to wear pants, choose new pants… you get the picture.

Everything takes twice the time, and with tasks such as brushing teeth, bathing and combing hair, there’s the added stress of trying to make sure it’s actually done properly, while not curtailing the child’s attempts at independence. Self-confidence is essential, yes, but so are clean teeth, armpits and ears. Enter the (attempted) negotiations:

You: “You brush first, and then I’ll help you do the back teeth, ok?”

T: “No, I can do it all by myself!”


You: “You wash your tummy and arms, and I’ll do the back, ok?”

T: “No! I can do it all by myself!”

Then there are all those tiny everyday tasks — pressing the elevator button, getting in and out of the car, climbing onto or off high stools/chairs — which she simply must do alone. No helping allowed and god help us if I forget and do it for her by mistake.

All of which has done wonders for my pranayama practice. Each time we go through one of these ‘discussions’, I take long, cleansing breaths, and summon another bit of patience from the fast-dwindling store somewhere deep within. It’s oh-so-tempting to grab the shirt/shoe/comb and say, “Just let me do it! We’re late!” (and I do, sometimes). But most of the time, I take two (or four) deep breaths and say, “Okay, go ahead. You do it.”

And it’s worth it to see the look of accomplishment on her face at the end. The triumphant “I did it, amma!” makes me glad I didn’t rush her. I feel pretty good about myself and my kid too.

I feel so good, in fact, that the next time, I give her the shirt/shoe/comb and say, “Ok big girl, do it yourself!”

Then, of course, she scrunches up her face and whines, “No amma, you do it!”

Oh well. Maybe we’ll be on time for once.


* When the toddler gets frustrated, guide her rather than do the task for her.

* If you’re getting impatient, take a breath and step away for a minute. Let her work it out herself.

* When all else fails, there’s always camomile tea. Lots of it.

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2021 7:17:14 AM |

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