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  • Annika Brindley

Why Limit-Setting May Not Be Working With Your Toddler





Have you read a lot of parenting books and tried many ways to set limits for your curious toddler? Do you feel like nothing is working? Do you set a limit sometimes and sometimes just give up because it is just too exhausting? If you find yourself “Yes, sometimes”, it is time to take a look at your "sometimes".

Sometimes, is a sneaky in-between state that works against us and keeps us stuck.


When my oldest son was four, he often had massive meltdowns about getting dressed for school. It was so frustrating and was enough to make me want to pull out my hair. Finally, I asked him, why do you flip out when I ask you to get yourself dressed for school? He said, "Because Sometimes you do it."


It was a genius moment ripe with clarity for me; he was right. Sometimes when we had ample time in the morning before heading off to school, I would ask him to get himself dressed for the day. He was four; of course, he could get himself dressed. However, Sometimes, when we were in a mad rush, I would whip his clothes on him just to get out the door in time. I had not seen it. I had created the Sometimes dynamic that was causing my frustration. Doing something Sometimes makes that something possible.


Let's be honest, if you know your mom will do it and you don't want to do it, why would you? I explained to him that it was his job to get himself dressed every day from now on. I committed to that choice, even if we were running late. After two days of massive pushback, I never had to whip his undies on him again, and he felt empowered.


My, Sometimes, was robbing him of an opportunity to grow. Sometimes keeps us in the loop of Intermittent Reinforcement. When you Sometimes reinforce a behavior, and you Sometimes do not, it drives the behavior more. I believe this to be one of the most potent forces on the planet, a potent and often invisible force that keeps us stuck, especially with our children.


Scroll through your day and see if you can expose your Sometimes. See if your Sometimes is creating an unwanted and unnecessary negative dynamic. See what happens when you shift and commit. Children need clarity and consistency.