Toddlers: Testing Limits to Learn
Around two years old, children start to learn that people have different desires that are not always the same as theirs.
For example, your son wants to play with your phone, but you don’t want him to. While it might seem like he is trying to drive you crazy, he is really just trying to figure out how you feel about his actions. He’s learning!
He is thinking: “What will happen if I take mom’s phone and start playing with it?”
He uses past situations to try and figure out how you might respond this time: “Mom got angry when I took the phone out of her purse a minute ago, so she might get angry if I play with the phone again.”
To test, your child will go through with the behavior, just to see if your response is what he expected: “I had the phone and mom took it away again!” Even though he is young, he is starting to understand that what he wants may not be the same as what you want.
Responding to Your Toddler’s Testing
Your toddler’s constant testing and curiosity may be frustrating sometimes. Here are some tips on how you can respond:
Know that your child is not trying to frustrate you. Experimenting is the best way for them to learn.
Be consistent in your response
Responding, in the same way, each time can help your child know what to expect from their actions.
Be calm, patient, and positive
Your child will explore and push boundaries, then look to you for a response. Try to be patient and calm with your reactions, and stay positive. With your consistent reactions and guidance, your child will learn how to behave based on what others are expecting.
If an object is too tempting and creates an ongoing struggle (for example, he keeps wanting to take your phone out of your purse to play), remove the object and put it out of sight.
Continue to support your child’s language development with books. Keep practicing dialogical reading strategies, like asking open-ended questions. You can ask her about the pictures and characters in books. Like, “What do you see on this page?” or “What is she doing over here?”
Remember to add a few words to what your child says. For example, she says “Dog!” You can say “Yes, that’s a big red dog running in the grass.” Adding words can help your child start to use longer phrases and develop conversation skills.
Q & A
Q: My son seems bored and isn’t interested in the books we have anymore. What can I do to keep him excited about reading?
A: As children grow older their interests change. Choosing books about the things your son likes and enjoys can keep reading fun and exciting. Maybe he is especially excited about cars lately or is curious about a certain animal you saw at the zoo.
Here are a few reminders about what to look for in a good quality book:
- Words that match what is shown in the pictures on the page.
- Pictures of objects that he knows and can recognize.
- Words that are not so rhyming or repetitive that he can figure out what’s going to happen next. It can make it more fun if he has to guess!