A child who feels stifled is going to attempt to bust out.

I embrace the idea of not doing for children what they can do for themselves. I have found that much frustration from my children is actually in response to me not realizing their budding independence. A child who feels stifled is going to attempt to bust out.

I also try not to use phrases like, “Be careful,” because I believe it causes a child to doubt themselves as it is based on the assumption that they would not intuitively be careful. I’ve often seen children scaling steep and slippery towers with confidence only to have a parent see them and call out, “Be careful!” and then be horrified that the child immediately slips and falls to injury. Ironically, the parent is typically confirmed in their need to caution their child about safety rather than challenged in their use of warnings for a child already in control of things. But the two year old, while most often capable of dressing themselves, is not a fully matured individual and is not ready to handle all choices. As Dr. Phil said, “Sometimes our job as parents is to protect our children from themselves.”

I find that the best way to empower a two year old is through limited choices. The day may be too cold for shorts to be an option, but the child can choose between jeans and sweat pants. Not only does this help a child answer the question of how much control they have over themselves, but it helps both the child and the parent learn their personal preferences.

Some children are born with very good boundaries already in place and they may meet the presentation of two choices with the suggestion of a third they would prefer. If the third meets the requirements the parent has set for the day, then it is not permissive to let them wear their choice. With these children I have found that the limited choices presented, especially if there is an explanation given of how they were chosen (color, temperature, event attending), serve to teach the child what criteria you are using for selecting clothing and then they want to try themselves to select an item.

When children do not feel safe they test the boundaries.

When children do not feel safe they test the boundaries. They also do this at three. This is the stage where they are asking the question, “How much control do I have over YOU and the rest of the world?” In a punitive home where the answer to the question of the two year old, “How much control do I have over myself?” is a resounding NONE, the age of three is fairly simple as the child no longer is looking to set boundaries. When they do venture out to ask the question, they are met with the expected answer and accept their place as powerless in their world.

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