Parenting Resources

Teaching Toddlers and Preschoolers to Take Initiative


Toddlers and preschoolers are developing character traits that will affect them for the rest of their lives.

Take time now to consider what qualities you want to instill in your children to help them become self-sufficient, capable adults.  We are hoping you will want to instill the ability to take initiative as one of those traits.

One study showed parental actions when children were 14 – 38 months of age actually predicted their children’s later behavior in school when they were 7 – 8 years old.

Praising the children’s efforts rather than the results of their work was more effective than the praise of the children’s abilities.

Try incorporating these techniques into your parenting day:

  1. Praise your child’s efforts – not the result. “I know you worked hard to put the napkins on the table. Thank you.” “It took a lot of time to put all your toys away.”
  2. When your child asks a question, if appropriate, respond with a question. “What do you think?” 
  3. When your child says, “I can’t do it,” instead of immediately helping, suggest other options depending upon the task. “Can you try doing it a different way?” “I am sure you can do it if you try a little harder.” “Tell me what you need to make it work.”
  4. Allow your child to make decisions so he becomes comfortable doing so. Even a toddler can choose which clothes to wear when given options or between a cheese or turkey sandwich. (This helps decrease frustration, too.)
  5. Allow a little extra time in your schedule so your child can do things herself – like putting on her shoes, picking out a book to read in the car before you leave the house.
  6. Provide opportunities for your child to have creative play – playing outdoors, playing with groups of other children in structured time, using crayons,
  7. Avoid screen time! Time spent watching movies, playing video games decreases the need to be creative and take initiative.