Testing Boundaries

Featured in Pre-schoolers

Testing Boundaries

A pre-schooler refuses to leave the park, or ignores repeated requests that they clean up their toys in their room, or throws a truck down the stairs while knowing they shouldn’t do it – do any of these situations sound familiar? Most parents at one time or another have wondered: Why does my child behave better for everyone else than for me?” The answer is usually quite simple: Children will test their boundaries with their parents because they know their parents will love them no matter what. Pre-schoolers are less dependent on their parents than they were as toddlers but they are still dependent. Testing boundaries is how toddlers assert themselves.

Methods of Discipline

Pre-schoolers have stronger identities than when they were toddlers and these identities are still developing. By asserting themselves, they are learning how to deal with their environments. This does not mean that parents should not take steps to help their pre-schoolers learn boundaries.

1. Establish household rules and repeat them until your pre-schooler can follow them on his or her own. It might even be a good idea to write the important rules down on a piece of posterboard or chalkboard to be able to refer to at any time.

2. Promote your pre-schooler’s independence as much as you can. Resist doing things for your pre-schooler that he or she can do for him or herself. This shows your child that you have faith in him or her and builds his or her self-confidence.

angry girl

3. Try to let your child solve simple problems on their own. When you see your pre-schooler faced with a dilemma he or she might be able to figure out, pause before trying to help. As long as the child is safe, those are the moments that could be considered character-building moments for a child and allows him or her experience success.

4. By assigning chores to your pre-schooler, it may help him or her with testing boundaries. Giving your child a simple task such as emptying the clothes dryer may give him or her the confidence to get dressed by her or himself. By giving your child a predictable chore to do regularly, your child will feel like he or she is contributing to the family as well as building up his or her character.

5. Develop predictable routines when your child is home. At school, children usually co-operate as they know what is expected of them. Try this simple approach at home, as well to provide them with the structure they need. This also helps the parent be consistent. Consistency and routine both can positively influence how co-operative your pre-schooler is.

Helping Your Child Cope

Coping with a pre-schooler who is testing his or her boundaries can be frustrating and downright stressful. By losing your cool, it will only aggravate the situation. Instead, try lightening up. If your child refuses to put on her shoes, turn the task into a game and play shoe store. This may entice your daughter to put on her shoes without fuss. Games and humor are great tools to help deal with little ones who are testing their boundaries. You can also lighten up by playing music. Choose a fun song for your pre-school son when he is to clean up his toys in his room – and sing along with him. By lightening up the situation, you will keep your blood pressure down and stay clear of possible meltdowns.

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Kids love rewards – and they usually work very well for guiding behavior. If you are having trouble potty training her pre-schooler, institute a rewards program – but do it judiciously. Don’t give out rewards for every behavior; reserve dishing out rewards for finite endeavors.

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