Pushing the Boundaries

Pushing the Boundaries

Hands up whose child is in love with breaking the rules.  My hands are most certainly up, as I’m the mother of a beautiful, funny 2-year old who has become fond of testing the boundaries.


As with many stages of early childhood, pushing boundaries is a natural part of development and certainly doesn’t last forever. That said, it is undoubtedly tricky to deal with a child who is determined to repeatedly push the boundaries that you have set – frequently pushing your patience to its limits.


I am rapidly developing an impressive catalogue of anecdotes of my daughter testing my patience with her repetitive (yet surprisingly adorable) defiance.  Indeed, parenting my toddler through this stage has led me to watch numerous episodes of Jo Front’s Supernanny, as well as consulting her book, ‘Confident Toddler Care’.


Jo has taught me that no matter what my toddler is up to, I must remain calm throughout the boundary-pushing episode – regardless of how much my temper is willing me to lose my rag.


You see, your child is unaware that they are ‘misbehaving’.  They perceive their behaviour as exploratory – not naughty – and therefore above board.  So instead of flying off the handle, this is actually the best opportunity to explain why their behaviour is unacceptable and what the consequences are if they continue.  Strike while the iron is hot.


When your child pushes the boundaries, their interactions with you should reinforce that you mean what you say, and that their actions have consequences. 


I’ve been implementing Jo’s techniques with my daughter, Lily.  The consequences get more serious as she repeats the undesirable behaviour.  In the first instance, we suspend the activity and sit down to think about what has happened together.

On subsequent occasions, I will implement a time-out session at a designated area (we have no stairs, hence no ‘naughty step’!).


Of course, it doesn’t always go to plan.  Sometimes your toddler won’t learn after the first couple of times.  It can go on and on for hours, days or weeks.  It is said that consistency on your part is an excellent approach.  However, if you’re having doubts that your approach is working for either of you, take a step back to reassess and try an alternative that you find more effective.


My experiences with Lily has led me to conclude that staying calm is the key to surviving this challenging stage of parenting.  And I know all too well that staying calm can be incredibly difficult to do when you have other aspects of your life pulling at you (work, study, chores) – while your gorgeous toddler is simultaneously hell-bent on wreaking havoc.  Sometimes we both need that time out – Lily needs it to think about what she has done, and I need it to take a deep breath and regain my calm!


So with all this in mind, here are my top tips to tackle those boundary-pushing days:


      • Keep calm.
      • Ensure your child understands your message.
      • Be consistent and always follow through with the consequences you’ve set out.
      • Be stern, but do not shout.
      • Remember that your child’s behaviour is part of their development.  They’re not being ‘naughty’.  They’re looking to you to guide them on what is right and wrong.


So hang in there!  This stage won’t last forever and you will get through it (as I will!).

Creator and writer for the Young Mummy Survival Guide, a blog aimed at helping younger mothers from the view of a younger mother. Currently studying PR, media and marketing in Canterbury, Kent.

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