It’s normal for kids to push the envelope. In fact, they will push it again and again in different ways and the key is how you respond. If you are interested in raising children of strong character while maintaining your own sanity, this is for you.
We are all familiar with… “the look.”
The look your child gives with their head slightly cocked, their eyebrows raised, and a slight-sort-of-but-not-really smile that says “I know I shouldn’t be doing this, but can I anyway?”
Or maybe it’s the look you have on your face when your child does the exact same naughty thing for the 2,356 time. That day…
The look that says, “I would pull my own hair out if it didn’t hurt so bad...”
Children will push the boundaries day in and day out. This is normal and to be expected. One important rule of thumb according to Janet Lansbury, not to be confused with Angela Lansbury, is to not take envelope-pushing information personally.
They aren’t trying to drive you crazy, they are just learning how life works.
Here are some reasons why children push the envelope
This doesn’t cover every situation with every child, but these are some basic reasons children will push and pull boundaries day in and day out.
They want to see if you’re consistent
Consistency and predictability matters to children. Adults may find it boring, but children do not. There is safety, stability, and security in knowing what to expect. They push the envelope to be sure One More Time what exactly the rules are. What they can and cannot do. Remember, they aren’t born knowing what you expect of them.
They want to know you’re paying attention
This is a big one. Life happens and we can’t be present parents 24/7. There are things to be done. And yet, if we aren’t regularly connecting with our children, as a family and individually, they will start to feel the lack. My 2-year-old son is in the middle. If he hasn’t had connection time consistently, he’ll start acting out in a lot of ways just to be sure I haven’t forgotten about him.
They want to see how you’ll react
Kids will be kids. They want to know how you’ll react. See what you’ll do. Find out if you really will dole out a punishment or if you didn’t even notice. Children are intensely curious, and they are very interested about how you, their mother, factors into everything.
Sometimes, when something frustrating or out of the ordinary happens, all of my children will look to me immediately wild-eyed as if to say… “What will mommy do now?”
They want to understand their boundaries
This starts young. You say to stand on the blanket so they go to the edge. Then they put one toe over, then one foot over, then everything but one toe off the blanket. Is that okay? Did I go too far? You might be thinking, “These kids are testing me!” and you are 100% right. Not because they are trying to make you nuts, but because they want to know exactly where they stand.
They are… well… kids
Kids will do all manner of things that seem inconvenient. Like wear, diapers, cry, throw tantrums, grow out of shoes too quickly, and need frequent trips to the dentist. They are going to push the boundaries because it’s part of development. It’s how they were made.
Kids know when they are doing something that isn’t allowed. But sometimes they just want you to acknowledge their feelings. To agree that it’s hard or it sucks or there might be something more fun.
They are kids.
They will push the boundaries.
Our job is just to hold them.
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