Setting Limits

by Tomoko

When my daughter was still an infant, I could never imagine that she would ever become a child with the “terrible twos” since she was a happy and gentle child.  When she became around 15 months, she started to have a strong “will” and show aggressiveness. I was so shocked when she tried to hit me, talk back to me and refuse to do anything.  I guess it is a typical stage for her age.  She is struggling to express herself when she does not yet have the words and wants to assert her independence.

I always deal with this stage in my toddler classroom but it’s so hard for me when it’s my own child because I tend to get more emotional. I try to be calm and not to get upset. I try to explain what she did and that makes me feel sad. Building a reasoning mind is important for this stage.  When your child doesn’t want to do something you ask, please explain why it’s important to do it.  Here are some tips  that may help when you encounter difficult situations with your child.

“The child needs to move freely within the environment so that he may gain independence. Although the child is still young, she requires clear and consistent limits.”

For example, when the child is asked “Would you like to have a cucumber or carrot?” If the child chooses carrots, she needs to try it. “Would you like to go to the potty by yourself or do you want me to take you there?” If the child doesn’t want to go, you will take the child.  If your child doesn’t want to hold your hand on the street, “Would you like to hold my hand or would you like to sit in the stroller?”

  •  The limits need to be consistent so the child gets a clear idea.
  • We always need to be clear why we are doing that for the child.
  • Giving real options allows the child to experience logical consequences.  For instance if you were to say “If you don’t put your shoes on now, I will go shopping without you, but realistically you can’t go out without your child.”  A real option would be to say, “We need to go out now.  You can put your shoes on or I will put them on for you.”
  • Set the limit in the relationship for the child and the other children’s safety.
  • If you know the child will answer “No” don’t ask the question. For example, “Would you like to go to the washroom after drawing?” The child might say “No” so provide specific direction instead such as “Go to the washroom after drawing.”
  • If the child is not playing with the blocks properly, then distract or entice the child with another activity.  Prepare an alternative such as, “Let’s do this puzzle.  We’ll put your blocks away.”
  • Always acknowledge positive and good behavior of the child. “You put your toys away all by yourself. You did it.”
  • Limit the use of negative words. For example, instead of saying “Don’t run. Don’t touch,” say “Walk quietly in the house.” “That is dangerous, so use this instead.” State the affirmative of what the child can do.
  • Become the role model for the child.

The child’s liberty should have as its limit interests of the group to which he belongs. Its form should consist in what we call good breeding and behaviour. We should therefore prevent a child from doing anything which may offend or hurt others, or which is impolite or unbecoming. But everything else, every act that can be useful in any way whatever, may be expressed. It should not only be permitted but it should also be observed by the teacher.  This is essential.  From his scientific training, a teacher should acquire not only an ability but also an interest in observing natural phenomena. In our system he should be much more passive than active, and his passivity should be compounded of an anxious scientific curiously and a respect for the phenomena which he wishes to observe. It is imperative that a teacher understand and appreciate his position as an observer.”  Discovery of the Child by Maria Montessori

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5 Comments

Filed under 12-18 Months, 18-24 Months, 2 years +, Discipline, Tomoko

5 responses to “Setting Limits

  1. Chandra

    Thanks for this posting. I appreciate your thoughts and experience for guiding toddlers from the Montessori perspective. It has been challenging for me to find information/examples/guidance that help me as my son approaches 2 years old.

  2. Sometimes I wonder if I should be setting limits for my 7month old. At what age do they understand correction?

    • My daughter is also 7 months old. I don’t know how much she is able to understand correction at this age. When I do correct (such as stop her from touching something she shouldn’t) I ensure that I my face is close to hers, that I have eye contact, I use a very serious face, and I tell her “No” firmly. I then remove whatever it is she shouldn’t be touching and redirect her to something that is good for her. I do not expect her to follow through of not touching the prohibited item. Right now she is being guided very strongly by her human tendencies to explore and learn about her world. She shouldn’t have to feel torn between her natural urge to develop and her love for her mother. I try as much as possible to have a safe environment for her to explore. Tomoko’s advice is wonderful to begin learning for yourself of how to appropriately set limits.

  3. Pingback: Top Ten of 2013 | Montessori Moms

  4. This is good information!
    I would love to read an article about potty training.

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