Toddlers have a lot going on as they try to navigate the world. Creating boundaries is important to help teach them self-discipline, keep them safe and healthy, and can help with coping.
In regards to sleep, boundaries are important to get your kids to bed without it being stressful for the household. It allows them to get the sleep they need. It also allows the parents to get the rest and alone time they need.
Yeah, it is easy to indulge our little tyrants, and sometimes bedtime can go smoother if you did. However, once you start allowing them to make the rules, they will continue to push them until someone (you) snaps.
Five Tips for Enforcing Toddler Boundaries
Set clear, realistic expectations
First, remember that they are still just kids. They need to know what is expected of them. They need it clearly stated and demonstrated to them so there is no misconception about what needs to occur. These expectations also need to be realistic. If you think that every night is going to go nice and smooth with no push back, with the child taking lead, you will be sadly mistaken.
When I talk about anything revolving around our kids, consistency comes up. You and other caregivers need to follow the same boundaries/rules/expectations all the time. It’s okay if the bedtime routine is a little different with Dad, who read 3 books, where Mom reads only 1 but sings a song. Overall, the rules are the same. The routine is similar, the child goes to bed, they do not argue that bedtime should be later, they don’t return to the potty for a 5th or 6th time. Kids need consistency.
Choices and Consequences
Having set boundaries is super important to help guide your child, but letting them make some choices is helpful and also important for their development. But if they cannot make a choice, or they cannot follow the rules there should be consequences (not “punishment”) that follows. For example, “Would you like to wear the outer space PJs or the bunny PJs?” Or, “Would you like to use the potty now or use the potty after a book?” If the child then pushes back and will not make a choice, you can present the consequences. For example, “If you don’t use the potty, you will wet the bed” or “If you don’t use the potty, you will have to wear a pull-up/diaper.”
It is so important to make sure they know that they are doing a good job and that they did the right things or did it well. “Yay! You put your PJ’s on all by yourself.” Or, “Great job staying in bed ALL night, here is a sticker for your chart!”
Remain (or appear to be) calm
This is one of the most important tips, but even the best of us can struggle with this one from time to time. Kids are way more perceptive than we give them credit and they are paying attention to all the little details. They watch us get upset and it upsets them. Sometimes the more upset we get with them, the more upset and defiant they become.
Dealing with toddlers and their boundary-pushing is hard. Even when you are trying your hardest and follow these tips. Just remember that you are doing the best you can and that this too shall pass. Eventually, they will grow past this stage and you will have a whole new set of things to navigate with your kids. Hang in there, you are doing a great job!