It started with a single word: “No.”

My 16-month-old daughter, with her wispy blonde hair that’s just starting to turn into ringlets, hasn’t had a lot to say in her short life. It took her more than a year to say “Mama” and for months she refused to acknowledge anything verbally other than “dog.” But, in the last few weeks, it’s like a verbal floodgate has opened, and she’s now relishing in making her wants and needs known. Her favorite way: By saying “No.”

“Ready for a bath?” I’ll ask her as her daddy gets the bathtub ready. She shakes her head and toddles off in the opposite direction with a high-pitched “No!”

“It’s night-night time,” I’ll tell her as I offer her the pacifier. “No!” she pleads while running toward the couch.

“Time for a diaper change” I’ll say, as she’s still shaking her head “No.”

My angelic 1-year-old, the child who will dance to any music, the baby who loves to climb and challenge herself physically, is quickly morphing into a toddler.

Even a simple task has become a challenge for independence. I recently put her sandals on, but she wanted them off. So I conceded, took them off her chubby baby feet and offered her some different shoes instead. But she didn’t want other shoes. She just wanted to put the sandals on by herself.

In a family of independent, strong-minded women, I’m not completely surprised at our youngest child’s determined, independent streak. Her older sister seemed that way since birth. As the youngest of three kids, it seems only natural for our baby to want to do things like her older siblings. But I never expected for it to happen while she’s so young, or to apply to so many things: Brushing hair and teeth, even picking out clothes and putting on hair bows. From eating to playing, our 1-year-old seems to have hit the toddler years full stride.

It’s all a normal part of development, according to Healthychildren.org, a website of the American Academy of Pediatrics. It’s normal for toddlers to break out and test their limits and want to do things on their own, all while — at times — needing to be emotionally close to mom or dad. It’s important that families allow the young child to test their limits on the road to their new independence.

According to Parents.com, there are some simple strategies for parents:
Control the environment. Put toys or objects that the toddler can play with in reach. Close off doors for spaces that are off-limits, and put breakables or other items out of reach that shouldn’t be messed with. Reduce opportunities for injury by making the home a safe play environment.

Let the child make some decisions on her own, or compromise with them. Letting a toddler or young preschooler help choose their outfits or what they want to eat can allow the child a sense of independence and confidence. Give them choices.

Allow some independence. Some simple things even young toddlers can do include feeding themselves with utensils, brushing their teeth (with help), brushing their hair, washing hands and simple household chores, like cleaning up toys or helping with the laundry.

— Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Reach her at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com.