Let’s face it – toddlers are difficult to deal with.
The time between ages two and three years is challenging. On the one hand, they realize they’re separate beings from your, their parents, and start developing language; on the other, they assert their independence but don’t understand the logic. This is why you often hear your toddlers yelling “ugh!! No oatmeal,” “no diaper,” “want iPad now!” It’s easy to lose your mind and resort to screams, threats or even bribes to get things done.
Don’t worry. All parents have been there.
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While there’s no such thing as perfect parents, you can help your child navigate this complex emotional stage through training and self-discipline. Setting and reinforcing limits on their wants and activities is one form of discipline, and you should know the importance of creating these boundaries for pre-schoolers.
Why Do Children Need Boundaries?
Toddlers are assertive. They want what they want, even if you’ve told them “no” a hundred times. In fact, one of the most challenging things about being a parent is knowing when and how to say ‘stop’ and ‘no’. As much as they may hate it, setting limits on your child’s behaviour can help them learn what’s acceptable and what isn’t, which will help them in later years.
Here are some core benefits of setting limits for your child.
They Feel Secure
It may seem like your children hate you when you tell them “no cookies before dinner,” but you’re helping them assert control over themselves. Since toddlers are impulsive and can’t reason out what’s wrong or dangerous, they need to learn how to be cautious about certain situations. Limits unconsciously help them feel safe, both physically and emotionally.
They Learn to Regulate Their Needs
Discipline doesn’t come easily or quickly to toddlers. While self-regulation doesn’t happen overnight, simple rules and routines can help children learn how to listen to their bodies and react accordingly. For example, a sleepy two-year-old doesn’t know how to regulate her activity level and simply go to bed. But simple things like setting a bedtime routine and sticking to it can help her associate this predictable pattern with going to sleep.
They Learn Important Social Skills
Although many Montessori schools teach social skills and manners, parents are the first and probably the best tutors for their own children. So, it’s your responsibility to act as a role model to teach them to behave in a way that builds positive interactions with others.
Generally, a two-to three-year-old should be able to seek attention from others, look at someone talking, initiate verbal and physical communication and understand to take turns talking. However, introducing the other social graces, like sitting at the dinner table and being polite to guests,is an important part of your job. Over time, this will help them feel more accepted and comfortable in the outside world.
But not all kids need help with the same social skills and your child’s needs could vary depending on their age and any special conditions. For example, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have difficulties with social skills and may do better with a little extra help.
They Build Self-Esteem
When children abide by your limits and meet your expectations, they consciously or unconsciously feel happy and competent.
They also become more confident when they learn how to regulate and express their needs, handle their emotions and acquire social skills. This boosts their self-esteem and helps them grow into better,more successful human beings.
However, expecting too much from toddlers in terms of behavior and skills can lead to unnecessary stress and disappointment – both for you and your kids. Stay rational and take a balanced approach that works in your favour.
Remember, setting limits isn’t easy – neither is having children! – and won’t work overnight. It’s more about trial and error to see what works and what doesn’t. While your children won’t like you being strict and saying no,it’s sometimes what’s best. You can teach, empathize, communicate, redirect, explain or soften your tone but never be afraid to say no to them when you need to. They may even thank you for it later!