I am finding with my dd, 27 mos, that sometimes she needs me to put limits, even though she may protest. I think she wants to know that I am still there, protecting her, and that I will keep her from hurting herself (most of the time!). Some things I choose to ignore and let her do what she wants, as long as she's not hurting herself or others. But, if all she wants to eat is icecream (and that's a very occasional treat in our house), I'm not going to let her do it. She can have choices - chicken, milk, crackers, peas, etc. but not the junky stuff for dinner. During dinner prep, she really wants to see what's going on at the stove, but if she pulls the stool over to the stove, she could burn herself. So, we have a stool over at the other counter in the kitchen and I set her up with some ingredients so she can feel she is helping and I know she is safe. Sometimes I give her the mortar and pestle to grind spices, other times some milk in a plastic bowl with a whisk, etc. She makes a mess, but that is easy to clean, and she is happy in the meantime. I'll also echo the above post - I only have one child so this is what works for us right now. Don't have any others to compare it to! I do think thought that in general children need some limits, but that you need to choose yoru battles carefully.