Going places with my 20-month-old has started being much more of a process. She is choosing her own clothes and shoes, and she knows what she wants–even if it’s to wear white dress shoes to the park. Before we can leave, she needs to choose a book and stuffie to bring with her in the car. And last Friday, she decided that she needed to put her second sock on all by herself. Except, she hasn’t quite figured out how to do that yet. So, we were late to a coffee date with her auntie and cousins as she battled to put on her last sock.

Then, of course, by the time we got to that coffee date, she’d taken off her shoes and socks and strewn them across the back seat of the car.

I have accepted these updates to our schedule fairly easily because of two magic words: developmentally appropriate.

Ah, the applications of these two words!

I’ve been using those words to sooth myself and counter others since she was a teeny babe. When friends would comment that I should keep her hands out of her mouth, I’d respond, “Oh, no, that’s developmentally appropriate.”

When people would tell me to make sure that her hand sucking didn’t turn into thumb sucking–because that’s so hard to break–I’d respond, “Oh, no, that’s developmentally appropriate.”

When she started having separation anxiety, I’d tell myself and others, “It’s ok, that’s developmentally appropriate.”

When she started throwing all of her food on the floor, I’d try to laugh and say, “Well, that’s developmentally appropriate. Thank goodness we have a dog!”

Well, here I am now with a toddler. She’s learning independence and wants to be dressing herself. And I bet she’s going to figure it out really soon, because this girl is determined! As her grandpa pointed out this weekend, not only is she determined, but she is persistent. And stubborn. And doesn’t want help. She will “do by self.” Hmmm…I wonder where she got all these qualities? Couldn’t be from me or her dad. Nope, it’s just “developmentally appropriate.”

I plan to use these magic words throughout her childhood. When she throws a tantrum in the grocery store? Well, that’s developmentally appropriate.

When she tells me she hates me? Well, that’s developmentally appropriate.

When she stays out past curfew? Well, that’s developmentally appropriate.

These magic words have so many applications. You can use them on yourself and others. They are especially effective when you feel like you’re being criticized or given unwanted advice. Stop those comments right in their tracks and make the person wonder if they’re not up on all the latest research on what’s developmentally appropriate! Wins all around!

Be confident!

Be confident when you use those magic words. Believe them, because they are true about 99% of the time (I have to confess that that is not a scientifically researched stat). And make the adjustments you need to in your life to accommodate them. It will lower stress all around when you embrace these developmentally appropriate behaviors instead of fighting them.

In our house right now, that means we’re giving ourselves an extra 20-30 minutes to get dressed and out of the house each time we leave. I also try to give us some wiggle room at arrival to put socks and shoes back on, as well as allowing for the inevitable “do by self” session that will occur and necessary negotiation about what books and toys will be brought wherever we are going.

And sometimes, I get really lucky, like I did this morning. I added enough wiggle room that we could get coffee and a snack before our appointment. Take the wins when you can, my friends!