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ohnicole March 21st, 2013 01:09 PM

Testing Boundaries
Is your little one currently doing any behaviors to test boundaries with you? How do you usually respond? Does it seem to be working?

Eleanor has really been in a testing phase for the past week. It is so funny to see her looking at me, just thinking about what she can do, and how I will react. Well, it's not funny to see her doing that all day, every day :lol:

One of her new things is to see how she can treat me physically. She will hit me, bite me, pull my hair, or scratch at me just to see if it's okay or not and how I will react. Usually it is when we are sitting quietly, nursing, reading, or singing, and I can just see her pause and then she will do something aggressive. She can usually be redirected to a "nice" behavior like kissing, hugging, or high fiving, and if that doesn't work, she does respond to a firm (but neutral), "That's enough hitting. That hurts mommy."

She also likes to try out different tactics for showing frustration. One of her choices is usually biting... she will often bite her own fingers or bite the furniture. Otherwise she decides to yell, "Move!" and knock everything off of a table or shelf. She will then calmly look at me to watch my reaction, so I think it is part frustration and part testing boundaries. I have been working on quietly waiting until she is calmer and then telling her that I understand that she is mad, that it's frustrating to not be able to do what we want, but that sometimes mommy can't let her do x because it is not safe (or whatever the reason is). Then I try to give her an alternate activity or food that is similar to what she wanted. And of course give hugs if she wants. I think this is going a little bit over her head or else it's just not quite the response she needs so I am thinking about looking up some more creative ways for toddlers to express emotions (like having her stomp or squeeze a balloon or have cards or pictures with different emotions for her to show me (I think it was Lost who had mentioned something like this?).

sareymac March 21st, 2013 01:14 PM

Re: Testing Boundaries
Yes Gary definitely does. . . he will touch something and I will say "Ummm" and he does it again and says Ummmm back and then he will get this little devious grin on his face and RUN haha. Thats it so far haha

shen7 March 21st, 2013 03:38 PM

Testing boundaries ought to be M's middle name. Ha.

After MONTHS she appears to be done with the injury-causing. No more hair pulling or face grabbing. It finally sunk in that it hurts us the same way it hurts her (she started trying it on herself a lot too and seemed surprised that it hurt). But throwing food and spitting her drinks out is still interesting. And she's always finding new things to test out around the house. Turning on faucets and then grabbing the spout so water sprays everywhere... climbing and jumping on the kitchen table... it just goes on. I try to just immediately and unceremoniously physically stop the behavior and then redirect/distract her, but I often have trouble hiding my annoyance, especially with food and drinks on the floor since I hate stooping to clean it up with my big belly.

So yeah, totally normal :) it will take quite a long time but eventually she will stop testing those boundaries and find new ones to test instead :D

alittlelost March 22nd, 2013 08:11 AM

Re: Testing Boundaries
I saw this yesterday but am just responding now. Sorry! I like to respond to posts like these when I have time and am not feeling distracted or needing to unwind (which is in the morning LOL) so here I am!

First, Yes, my kids test boundaries! I won't say there's no kid who doesn't, but I will say I DOUBT there's a kid who doesn't. I at least personally have never heard of a kid who doesn't test boundaries eventually. So, it's normal. I like that get that out of the way first :P

How I respond really depends on the situation, which is true of ANY behavior with me. For example, there is always a consequence for, say, my son throwing something. BUT I will also look at WHY he threw something, and there will be secondary things done to deal with that behavior by giving him (or trying to give him!) the tools to handle the situation better. It also helps the child feel heard, not like you think they are some bad kid who just threw something because they are being bad, but because they are a good kid who handled their emotions wrong. They are in trouble for their behavior, but I believe they are inherently good and can learn to do better next time they are in that situation.

Does it work? Yes, for us. that's not to say we see change overnight or that I don't become frustrated or have moments where I feel like a failure as a parent. It's also not to say that I don't look for new advice and ideas when I've tried something for a long time with little to no progress. But, we do see improvement. Sometimes we just want MORE improvement and need to try new things or add new methods to our "parenting toolbox".

I'd say with the physical thing, I would handle it in a way that would first give my child a better alternative and if that doesn't work, then show them a real life "consequence" for being unkind to someone. Example:
*child hits*
"Use your hands for nice things, like touching soft or tickling."
*child hits again*
*I get up and walk a foot or two away from them* "I don't like being hit. It makes me not want to be next to the person hurting me." Depending on age, walk back after a few seconds of letting that sink in. If it happens a second time, I might stay away for 30 seconds to a minute. If it happens a third time, I might give them a solitary activity to work on without me. When they are older, though I would probably send them to their room to take a break. They are welcome to come out when they are ready to be kind.

I think you handle things great with your daughter, especially her frustration. It just takes time for them to learn. As you well know, I have a 6 year old who still struggles to appropriately express her emotions. I do still like the card idea with the different emotions on it :)

ohnicole March 25th, 2013 10:17 AM

Re: Testing Boundaries
Thanks for the responses :) I don't expect Eleanor's testing to stop any time soon- it just wouldn't be normal! :lol: This morning, she was biting at me, and I had to stop the behavior before we could continue nursing. Nothing out of the ordinary. But then a few minutes later, she gave me a hug and said, "Thank you, mommy." It was so sweet :) I love that she is absorbing my little "lessons" on being nice, even if she's still trying out being mean sometimes.

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