Testing the boundaries


It seems our easy-going, gentle, kind, baby boy is morphing into someone different. Terrible twos, I guess: though being only one month into that third year I’m reluctant to just resign myself to that.

It’s been building for a while. His independent streak is getting ever stronger, and though he doesn’t ask the questions I can feel them buzzing around his head.

Why is it ok to hit a drum with sticks but not a person? Why do you praise me when I throw a ball at you, but flinch when I throw a train? Or food for that matter. Or even, as we had this week, a glass bottle – which by some physics-defying miracle didn’t break when it hit the slate floor.Β 

Why is it funny when I splash water in the bath, but not when I soak myself at dinner time? Why do you encourage me to draw on paper, but take the crayons away when I draw on the wall? Β Why do you clap when I jump on to the mats at gym but gasp when I throw myself from the sofa to the wooden floor?

For myself, I’m trying to find ways to explain. To teach him which behaviour is acceptable and which is not. I am not afraid to tell him no, but I want to do it quietly and calmly rather than being the one who shouts. I want to set boundaries, but I don’t want to hammer them into him through naughty steps and time outs. We’ve come so far with our attached and baby-led approach, and I am loathe to throw that all away for quick fixes and easy wins.

But we’ve had a couple of horrid incidents recently, where he has hit and bit and hurt his friends. He hasn’t meant to I don’t think: he hasn’t seemed angry or malicious. When faced with the tears and indignation of his victims he has crumbled himself, afraid and confused. But that doesn’t change the fact it’s happened, that he’s behaved badly and someone else has got hurt.

Right now I’m pretty clear on what I don’t want to do to tackle this, but I’m still scrabbling around for the alternatives.

How do I show my son I respect him, whilst letting him know that some of his behaviours are simply not acceptable? How do I help him develop his curiosity whilst making sure he doesn’t hurt himself or others in the process? How do I hold my nerve and follow the path I believe is right when I can feel myself being judged by my friends and family for not doing what they think I should?

I realise there are a lot of questions here. And it’s not like I’m an amateur in dealing with challenging behaviour: ten years working with teenagers has taught me a lot. But suddenly, now, I feel like I know nothing.

I’d love to hear your thoughts: on what has worked for you, and what has not. On how to gently ease a toddler into a social world without destroying his confidence or individuality.

I guess as much as Arthur’s testing his boundaries I’m discovering my own as well. I hope it won’t be too long before we get this next phase of things figured out.

Our word of the week this week is boundaries.

The Reading Residence

14 thoughts on “Testing the boundaries

  1. redpeffer

    I find talking about an incident after it has happened (but not immediately afterwards) gives space for me and them to talk calmly about what happened and why it isn’t OK. Then if it happens again I can refer back to our ‘talk’ which usually works. Then, if there’s still an issue, I will give warnings that I’m about to get ‘very cross indeed’. I try not to shout unless I have to, and we very rarely use ‘naughty steps’ etc as I’ve found I honestly haven’t needed to. Very very occasionally I’ve had to send my daughter to her room for a few minutes to clam down, but that’s about it. And she’s older so it’s slightly different.

    1. sophieblovett Post author

      Talking things through is definitely the approach I want to take. I always found it very effective with teenagers though I’m pretty sure they would have rather I’d just shut up and give them a detention! Arthur’s language skills are still not quite developed enough to know whether what I’m saying is going in, but we’re getting there πŸ™‚

  2. thereadingresidence

    It’s tough when they start testing the boundaries like this. As you’ve so eloquently put it, though, it is confusing, as they can do certain things, but then not other very similar things. I wish I had the answer for you, as I battle most days with one of mine in some form or another, they are both bright and strong! I sometimes beat myself up over it, but then remember that they spend the majority of their time laughing and happy so I must be doing something right! Hope you find something that works for you x Thanks for sharing with #WotW

    1. sophieblovett Post author

      Thank you. You’re very right that I need to remember the positives – his poor behaviour is very rare so whilst it needs dealing with I’m trying not to get fixated on it! x

  3. Mummy Tries

    I think at two the most important thing is remaining calm and having endless patience, and I know you excel in both departments even if you don’t realise it. Their little worlds are so full of frustration, communicating well but still not being able to properly express their feelings, and naughty steps and time outs (I feel) are more for us than them. They can be wholly necessary to create some distance so we can regain our cool.

    My toddler will be three in a couple of weeks and she only has a short time out if she’s violent with her brother. It’s a new thing, and probably behaviour learnt from her heavy handed sister, but she must know as early as possible that it’s not ok to be violent. Other than that my first reaction is to try and smother her in affection when she’s being naughty and ‘kill it with kindness’ as my dear friend calls it.

    Keep doing what you’re doing lovely, I’d be shocked if this isn’t just a short lived phase for Arthur xxx

    1. sophieblovett Post author

      Thank you for the kind words and encouragement πŸ™‚ I’m definitely all for a ‘killing with kindness’ approach, but as you say it’s the violent outbursts which are most worrying… I’m hoping it is just a phase – and I’ll try to keep that patience going until it passes! xxx

    1. sophieblovett Post author

      I think as his language develops it’ll definitely be easier to talk about it all. I was a nightmare teenager though so I’m not looking forward to that stage!

    1. sophieblovett Post author

      That’s a really useful link, thank you. I can definitely relate to the issues discussed and really like her compassionate way of dealing with them! I have a feeling I may be revisiting that site often… πŸ™‚

  4. Merlinda Little ( @pixiedusk)

    A tricky age. There are so many things that is hard to explain to kids. Mine loves CCTV and I think one of the kids from school told him that its for police to see when people are killed. I dont know how to tell him that this is not always the case. Its tricky =( #wotw

  5. ourlittleescapades

    I wish I had some answers. As our son has autism so discipline which is seen in the ‘correct’ way doesn’t work for us. We have to be very visual and lead by example x

    1. sophieblovett Post author

      I’ve actually learnt loads from working with kids with ‘special needs’ that I hope to be able to use with Arthur – I think leading for example is definitely a key thing to remember for a respectful and holistic approach, but it’s so often forgotten in ‘mainstream’ approaches… x


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