Why your kid always wants you to "do it for them" and how to get them to be independent.

Gavin Mann, 4, of Vernon, BC, is a competent little guy. Problem is, he doesn't act it. "He won't put on his shirt, pick up his toys or even go pee by himself!" says his mom, Kim.

A kid who acts helpless might be afraid of making a mistake, or want more attention. Or he may just be used to a lot of hand-holding. Whatever the reason, he'll be better off if you can help him be more independent, says Becky Bailey Ph.D., author of Easy to Love. Difficult to Discipline. Try these ideas:

Go fifty-fifty at first
Say for example, "You put this shoe on and then I'll put the other one on for you." Then be his cheerleader: "Wow! You did it all by yourself!"

Challenge him little
At a calm moment, ask your child to tell you three things he can do by himself. Then have him demonstrate one. If he hesitates in the middle ("What if I spill?"), encourage him to keep going ("We all spill sometimes, but you're doing great!").

Make time for fun
Your child wants your attention, which his demands guarantee. But if you play trucks with him every evening, having you get him in his pj's might not matter so much.