The other day I asked my child "Can you give me a napkin?" and she said "o self" which means "you do it yourself"!

At first I was shocked, and ashamed that she has perhaps learned it from me and my wife, where perhaps my wife asks me to give her something, but then I tell her I'm busy and she has to get it herself.

I think that's partially the reason why. Now most of the time, me and my wife now try to respond and do things no matter what so she can learn.

However at other instances she asks me to do something which she has to do herself e.g. she has to clean the soda she just spilled and I tell her you have to do it yourself or you have to walk to the car yourself.

So my question is how can I teach her to clean after her own mess while I also teach her to be polite when others ask? She used to be the kind of person to not want to be carried or want to do everything herself, even cleaning up. Still now she does want to do a lot of things on her own (85%), but she's more selective. I guess you could say this is how they make their own progress!?

PS: She's 2.5 years old and I love to carry and help her, but just think she also needs to take responsibility a bit.

  • "I told myself can you give me" "but then I tell myself I'm busy" Um, what?
    – user20343
    Mar 5, 2018 at 19:28
  • someone suggested an edit...It's clear now. Sorry
    – Honey
    Mar 5, 2018 at 19:36
  • The title is missing the subject “I”, but unfortunately that's too small an edit to suggest.
    – dessert
    Mar 6, 2018 at 6:56

2 Answers 2


I would try modeling the behavior you would like to see in her. I suspect you are correct in your assumption that she learned her current behavior from observing you. Which means you will probably have success by modeling helpful behavior.

So when you ask her to pass you a napkin and she responds with "o self", ask your wife if she will pass you a napkin. When she does, thank her for being so helpful. Show your gratitude and appreciation for the help. Maybe over exaggerate it slightly. Your toddler will pick up on it. Then when she helps you, do the same. Positive reinforcement will help that behavior to stick.

Also remember to explain things when "do it yourself" responses are appropriate. If you are busy, explain that. "I'd love to help you dear, but right now I am busy and can't help. You will have to do it yourself." If it is something you can't (or won't) do for someone, explain that in detail too. "I can't spoon feed you all of your macaroni. I need to eat my own food. And you need to learn how to do it yourself so you can be a big girl."

Kids are smart. They may not pick up on every nuance of the explanation, but they will get enough of it. And they will try it out on you so they can learn those nuances and the reasons for things. Show and explain. Be patient. It will work out. Good luck!

  • And this change of behavior is because she's getting better at reading/following her parents?
    – Honey
    Mar 5, 2018 at 19:05
  • 9
    Partly. Children learn social things by watching others (usually family members). She's at the age where she is testing boundaries and trying to be more independent and control her world. If you haven't seen it yet, you will find that she will love using the word "no" a lot. She's just trying things out. This is just another thing to try. Can she get you to do things "yourself" by insisting on it? Or is that not how that works? She's learning by experimentation. And you are part of that experiment.
    – Becuzz
    Mar 5, 2018 at 20:14
  • 1
    @Becuzz Indeed, "NO!" is the First Word of Power. It's downright magical. Mar 5, 2018 at 21:11

For me, if they ask I'll help but let them do most of the work. Sometime there's some sort of negotiation that happens.
- Carry me
- I don't want to carry you but I can hold your hand

If they really want me to do everything, then I'll stay close and help with my voice. Sometime a task could seem overwhelming (they could be tired, hungry, ...)
- I don't want to clean, you do it.
- hmm... what should we do first?
- Get a towel
- Where's the towel?

When they get older, I just use simple direct word.
- I don't want to clean.
- You spill, you clean.

I often talk to them about the cycle of an activity, there's a beginning, a middle (often fun part) and an end. We have to do all these part every time. Ask about it, "what are the part of making a puzzle?".

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