Healthy Boundaries for Toddler

When my son started showing interest in writing, I gave him a pencil and a piece of paper explaining the use to him. He looked at me then he got up taking the pencil with him and started to write on the wall.

I calmly stopped him and explained again that he should write on the paper and not on the wall but he just kept taking the pencil and continued writing on the wall.

I was getting frustrated and angry. Why is he not listening? I tried repeatedly to make him listen until I noticed that every time he would disobey me, he would look at me with a devilish smile and proceed to disobey me again.

I stared at him in shock. I realized that he understood perfectly what I wanted him to do but he wanted to see if he could get away with disobeying me. He was pushing my limits to see what I would do. The little rascal was testing me.

I mentioned the incident to his pediatrician during our next visit and he said that it is normal behavior for toddlers his age to try pushing my limits.

Children are very sensitive and emotional. They do not have the maturity to control their impulses. They have a different way of expressing themselves and their emotions are extreme. His actions are impulsive in nature and not deliberate and I should handle it in a careful manner.

I observed my son’s behavior after that and I noticed a certain pattern whenever he misbehaves. He acted disobedient because he was trying to tell me something.

Here are few examples of what I observed from my son when he wants to get my attention.

  • Mommy I am tired. I notice that my son would start throwing things to get my attention when he is tired. Sometimes I get busy in the house that I tend to

forget naptime. I give him toys so he can play while I do household chores. Throwing his toys is his way of calling me and telling me that he is tired and wants to sleep.

  • Mommy I am hungry. My son loves sounds. He would often bang his toys together to make a sound as part of his playtime. One time, I was on the phone and the banging started. It was not so loud at first but I noticed that the sound was getting louder. I told my son to stop it because Mommy is on the phone but he just kept on banging. The more I told him to stop, the louder the banging gets.
  • Finally, I got off the phone and faced him. I was about to reprimand him but I noticed that he stopped the banging. He was looking at me as if he was telling me, “Hah! Finally got your attention.” As I was about to scoop him up, I noticed the clock on the mantel and saw that it was way past his feeding time. I fed him and he went to sleep afterwards.
  • Who is the boss? My son loves pushing my limits to test if he could get away doing what he wants. Every night I would put him to bed early and every night he would try to find ways to stay up late. His reasons vary every night.
  • He needs to go to the bathroom (even if he just came out of the bathroom), he forgot his favorite toy (even if his favorite toy is in bed with him), he wants to drink more milk or water (even after I just gave him a glass of milk), and on and on. The routine is the same every night and my answer is always no.
  • Finally, one night I asked, “Why do you keep asking me if you could stay up late when you know I will not let you?” His reply, “You might change your mind.” I was astounded with his answer. It was then I realized that I needed to make it clear to him that there are house rules and that he should follow those house rules. My husband and I made a list of house rules and together we explained the house rules to my son.