I Can Do It All Myself!
The two most common phrases to come out of the mouths of three-year-olds are “Why?” and “I can do it myself.” Questioning authority and making your own decisions are hallmarks of adulthood. But it tends to rattle us when the “young adult” is only three feet tall and stands with her hands on her hips and her lower lip pushed out and, once in a while, stomps her feet. Not always getting your way is another grown-up experience. Learning to deal with disappointment in an appropriate and healthy way is what makes a grown-up truly worth knowing. Tell that to the mom in the checkout line with a toddler writhing on the grimy linoleum and you just may get slapped!
Our children are well on their way to becoming contributing and productive adults who can care for others even by the age of three. They will test the boundaries, question the status quo, and find ways to step out on their own—as they should. They make plans, carry out those plans, and don’t always run their choices by us first. Even Jesus of Nazareth stepped out on his own before his parents were ready (see Luke 2:41-52). I suspect they were surprised more by his independent streak than his detour into the temple. After all, Mary and Joseph probably raised a compliant child who respected his parents and followed the rules.
When our kids step out like that, our first reaction might be to feel disregarded, disrespected, or even rejected. Although rules are meant to be followed and expectations are meant to be met, it’s important to double-check whether those rules help our kids grow or squash their development. Without opportunities to pull themselves up, they won’t know how to stand and how to walk—without holding our hands. Remember making sure there was a table within reach of your toddlers when they began cruising? At some point they let go and walked into that big empty space of your living room, on their own, with that goofy grin on their faces.
And we all prefer that when our kids let go, they do it with a silly smile and not a look of terror.