Pushing boundaries is completely normal and healthy. It’s how children discover what they are able to do physically–the boundaries of their body– and learn what they are allowed to do– the boundaries of rules set by caregivers, to keep them safe.
We try to keep much of the house, at least the areas they frequent, ‘yes’ areas. This means that there is very little that we need to redirect from. But the girls have still found ways to push limits.
Lately, their weaning table has been a source of pushing boundaries. The girls have started to enjoy climbing it. We’ve moved it from always being in sight, to somewhere less observant–hoping this would help. It didn’t and we needed to move it again once we realized they were using it to climb onto other pieces of furniture, at the risk of great harm to themselves and each other. The latest location we moved it to is the only other place it will fit in our small home, near the kitchen counter. But, they quickly discovered that they can climb their table and see over the counter, along with reach everything on-top of it. So what to do?
1- We consider the reasons they may be testing a boundary, such as climbing. Could they be trying to reach something or are they needing additional attention? Maybe some extra cuddles and love is in order. If this is the case, when V climbs something that is meant to be climbed, like their steps, I comment on how confidently she climbed and how straight she sits on the top. I don’t want to “praise” her, but I want her to notice that I see her and her accomplishments. Then she realizes she doesn’t need to do something that is dangerous in order to receive attention from me.
Sometimes it’s because they are interested in working on the counter. They aren’t quite able to verbally express what they need and want, so they rely of their actions. If this is the case, we bring their learning tower (which is meant to be climbed) close and start a meal or project together. This isn’t ‘rewarding’ them for climbing the table, it’s showing them the appropriate furniture for their actions.
2- Sportscast and redirect. “E wants to climb her weaning table, mama is concerned that she may fall and injure herself. Perhaps E would rather climb her Pikler triangle or Nugget couch, as those are safe and meant for climbing.” If she continues, I will redirect her body to the Nugget couch.
3- Ask questions and redirect. “V, are tables meant to be climbed? We sit and eat at tables, we climb our pikler triangle. It’s not meal time, so let’s go find your Pikler triangle.” Once we establish that the table isn’t meant to be climbed, I then ask if she would like to go to the appropriate climbing furniture herself or does she need me to bring her there? If she leaves the table, great! If she doesn’t, we then go to their movement room where the triangle is located together.
4- Redirect. I will calmly point out that I see she needs to climb, so we go and find something that is meant to be climbed.
5- Removal. If they repeatedly attempt to use a material improperly and if I’m not able to keep a close eye or if it’s become a game–if I’m able–I remove the item. When their table was too tempting and I needed to work on dinner, I removed it. When they take their nap, I put it back. Often times, after a good rest, the desire to push that particular boundary is no longer a temptation. Good sleep can usually help create a fresh start.
Do you notice the trend? There is a lot of redirecting going on.
How do you handle pushing boundaries?