I am very happy to have Dana Rosenbloom from Dana’s Kids guest post today! Dana has a master’s degree in Infant and Parent Development and Early Intervention and has been working with children and families for over 10 years. Dana’s Kids provides parent education, play therapy, special education services, parent workshops and support groups, and professional development.  To learn more about Dana and Dana’s Kids please visit www.DanasKids.com.

Coming in a close second after “mine!” on the list of most frequently used toddler phrases is “by myself!” It’s truly exciting when your baby starts exerting her independence, using language, and more actively exploring the world around her. But the world of toddlers and 2s brings with it a new batch of challenges. How do you support your child’s desire to be independent and foster her feelings of competence and self-esteem, while also keeping her safe and setting appropriate limits? I considered focusing this post on dealing with tantrums, because they can be so prevalent during this time in early childhood, but I decided to approach the topic from a more proactive angle…

What can a parent do before their child tantrums? My initial answer to this question is always the same: “fight the battles worth winning.” This is a concept that will follow you as your children grow. Is it worth getting into it over striped leggings or solid ones for school? Probably not. Does it matter who buckles her in to the stroller? Not really, as long as she ends up buckled.

I generally recommend that parents of toddlers and young 2s use brief sentences when talking to their children. Repeatedly using these “catch phrases” will help your child understand them and begin to incorporate them into their own vocabulary. For example, when taking your child out of a high chair you might say “all done.” Going forward, your child may start using these words to let you know that they are finished. When your child wants a toy that a friend is using rather than saying “share,” which really doesn’t mean much to a child at this age, try “my turn” and “your turn.” When a young child is able to express themselves and make their needs known, they are less likely to have a tantrum.

Phrases like “my choice” and “your choice,” or “my pick” and “your pick,” set up an environment where young children feel that they have some control. This can be very helpful when you have a toddler or young 2 with a persistent case of “by myself-itis.” Studies show that “by myself-itis” is a leading cause of tantrums. (Okay, I made that up. But I’d bet that most parents of toddlers would agree!) Pick times to let your child choose, and highlight it for them. You can say “Pasta or rice, your choice.” Then later on, when you feel strongly that they should be wearing a jacket in the snow you can say, “Jacket on, my choice.”

Every child is different, and children have tantrums for a variety of reasons. Reflecting on what sets your child off, can help you before they reach the point of tantrum. If you are having a hard time seeing a pattern, get in touch. That’s what I’m here for. Embrace your toddlers’ and 2 year olds’ natural curiosity, and use of phrases like “mine” and “by myself.” Celebrate their independence, and use language and limit setting to help them manage the world around. You can do it!

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I think I’m better at dealing with this -itis as a 2nd time mom, but the interesting twist is the 2nd kid wants to do things “all by myself” way younger simply because she’s littler and sees her big sis doing all sorts of things.


There seems to be times with my three year old when he wants ‘yes’ and ‘no’ at the same time. Example, Question: do you want the dog in? Answer, yes. I then let the dog in to immediate angry outburst of No I don’t want the dog in. I put the dog out to immediate crys of let the dog in. The dog is now in therapy. Just kidding.
This kind of thing is typical after naps or if my son is cranky. Have concluded that some sort of control issue is going on as well as testing whether or not I am going to lose my temper. When time is not an issue I let the scenario play out. It is when time is an issue that things can be upsetting.


Hi Jim
Given your comment about this happening after a nap (maybe your son is still sleepy?) or when your child is cranky, I might suggest taking this choice out of it hands. It seems like your son is having a hard time making a choice and you might be better served calling this a my/daddy choice. Perhaps your son can help make the choice about the dog at another time. Eliminating the situation by choosing yourself and using the my choice/your choice language will help with control issues (typical for this age) and your son’s need to test you. At three years old, your child can begin to empathize with how the dog might be feeling being let in the house one minute and shut out the next. “That’s confusing!” 😉 But even the brightest child has a hard time with empathy and logical thinking when they are tired or cranky. Come to think of it, adults don’t have much clarity when they are tired and cranky either.

Hope that helps. If you’d like to discuss this further please email me.

Be well


I absolutely agree about picking your battles. Some are just not worth fighting, and I LOVE the idea of using your choice, my choice. That’s fantastic!


I second blueviolet with loving “your choice” and “my choice”. i will be certain to use that one soon! and i’ve been letting our little one choose everything she wears. I pick out two pants then she chooses one; pick out two shirts, she chooses one; two pairs of socks, she chooses one. it takes longer, but i know it will be a much smoother morning for ALL of us.


Hi Dana! Great tips! Seems like you and I will get along as this is all right up my alley.


My little guy is not quite two yet, so I know all about, “mine,” and “no.” But I am looking forward to him saying, “by myself” and experiencing his independence. I do agree with Dana about picking your battles. Some things are just not worth it. She gave great advice. Thank you!


I’m so glad you found this post helpful. You can find more tips on behavior, discipline, activities, developmental issues, making milestones, etc on my website and facebook page.

Be well,

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