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Dealing with toddlers testing boundaries.....

Updated: Jul 24, 2023


Toddlers are wonderful, it is such an exciting and rewarding time when they're really becoming themselves and their personality is shining through. It can also be a testing time, they're learning to communicate but don't always manage it effectively, and they're experiencing new emotions which they aren't yet sure how to handle. Of course, they are also learning how to test boundaries, and this can be one of their favourite hobbies.....especially at bed time!



Toddler's testing boundaries is inevitable, and a normal part of them growing up and developing. The important thing is, how you as a parent deal with this boundary testing, especially if it is impacting their bed time routine. One of the best things you can do is to set clear and consistent boundaries. This helps your toddler to understand what is expected of them on a day to day basis. It is very important these are consistent and that if there are two parent or multiple care givers, you are all implementing the same boundaries to avoid confusion. For example, if you implement no screen time after 5pm, this should be done every day and not overridden by another caregiver. Boundaries should be clear and simple. Toddler's aren't able to understand when boundaries change and the reasons why. They also aren't able to understand complex reasoning so keeping it simple is perfect. One of the times toddlers love to test boundaries the most is at bed time. Usually because they're already tired and could have had a long and busy day at day care. So what are the best ways to deal with this?


Wind down time before bed is essential. Keep bed time calm and allow them to spend time and connect with you in an environment that isn't over stimulating. Avoiding TV and screens at least an hour before bed time can avoid over stimulation.


Follow a simple and calming bed time routine, a bath followed by a story and cuddles is ideal but you can make it whatever sits your family. A set routine helps your toddler understand what is expected of them and prepares them for what comes next in that sequence of events.

Give them some control, but in a way that is managed by you. For example, give them the choice of which pyjamas they'd like to wear, but only give them two options. They feel as though they have some control, but you're also not spending half an hour going through 10 different pairs. Do the same with their bedtime story, give them a small selection to choose one or two from. All of this empowers your toddler to make choices and feel they have some control without them ruling bed time.

Keeping clear and simple boundaries at bed time will also help and it is important that you implement them consistently. If you only allow one story before bed time, stick to that rule. Once they start asking for two or three stories they have learnt they can delay bed time and push those boundaries, so be firm and keep to the one story. Toddlers are very savvy and will learn to push your boundaries subtly and one of their favourite things to do is to delay bed time.


If you struggle with consistent boundary pushing there are various things, such as reward charts and positive reinforcement that you can look at putting in place to further help.


If you'd like more help with a testing toddler, please get in touch.

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