helping families thrive. . .
Do children 'test boundaries'?
One of the most common comments about children not following the rules like perfect little robots is 'they're just testing your boundaries.'
What ARE they doing, when it looks like they're testing boundaries?
Trying to figure out this incredibly complex and confusing world.
'Testing you' is an inaccurate accusation
It's also an adult view on a child's behaviour.
From a child's point of view, the rules are contradictory, overlap, have huge gaps, pop up out of nowhere, and make little to no sense.
One little girl I knew long ago was told, by her mom, to 'behave.'
Her response was fast, loud and, I think, of the most clarifying things I've ever heard a child under 3 say:
"I am being haive!"
What does 'behave' even mean? It's a different meaning in a movie theatre than a playground, that's for sure...
Sensible Rules and Directions
To avoid almost all of the things people say children are doing to 'test your boundaries' do this instead:
Connect before correction
Make eye contact, get down on their level, see what they were trying to accomplish before telling them what to do, or what they did wrong.
Check for unmet needs
Like wild tigers and adults, when children are depleted they act differently from when their cups are filled. Fill first, then see.
Calm yourself first
Very often, our own irritation (depletion or burnout) is really at the root of what we see as 'testing' behaviour. When we're more calm and stable, we're less reactive.
Before your survival brain takes over, pause, take a breath, step back. What is really going on, and is it the emergency / intentional irritant that your hindbrain is telling you?
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