Toddlers and limit-testing

Thinking & Learning   |   Age: 1 year 7 months

Toddlers and limit-testing

By now, you’re probably pretty familiar with this one: your toddler is moving around, exploring, seeing the world, when all of the sudden, she sees something she wants to explore, and knows you won’t let her get into. There’s a look at the place she wants to explore, a glance at you, then back to her goal. Then there’s a reach, a step, or a gesture… she is testing you.

These tests can come in many forms. Common ways your toddler may test the limits of your or other caregivers’ authority include doing something they’ve already been told “no” about, engaging in dangerous behavior, looking directly towards you as they attempt something, asking or demanding for something completely unreasonable, having a total meltdown, or playing “boss” to other children, or even you. Only you know where these limits lie, what you’re comfortable with, and how far you’re comfortable letting her push.

Healthy limit-pushing

Testing the limits of her world is an important part of your toddler’s development as she grows. Frequent “tests” from your toddler don’t mean that she’ll be fighting you all the way through childhood - it just means that she is seeing more and more of the world around her, and wants to carve out a place for herself in it. Limit-testing is a sign of her growing drive for independence as she makes her way through the world!

Responding to limit-pushing

As you’re working out where the limits it’s important for you to enforce are, during this stage of your baby’s life, when she is always pushing, it’s important to make sure your baby’s other caregivers are on the same page with you. Limits surrounding safety are going to be the most important, and also the most important to be consistent with, no matter whose care your baby is under, but there may be other limits that you, or your baby’s other caregivers, feel are especially important.

Once you’ve worked out which limits your family is going to be working extra hard to enforce, there are a few strategies that can be helpful to use when you’re communicating them.

Dealing with a toddler who seems to delight in pushing your buttons can start to get frustrating, but she is only this age for a little while - and when she grows up, she will come up with new and different ways to test your boundaries!

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