Babies and toddlers have big feelings that they can’t always control.

When they have tantrums and “act up,” they’re often showing you they are overwhelmed by their feelings and need support. To develop self-control, young children need limits they can understand. This takes time and is something they learn gradually. In fact, many adults still struggle with self-control!

Limits help children feel safe when they are out of control. Children test limits because they want to know that the limit is solid. They also want to see what will happen next, or what your reaction might be. Imagine a child walking along a fence, testing every part of the fence to see if they can break through. If the fence is strong and reliable, there will be less limit-testing as time goes on.

The power of prevention: Heading off misbehavior

Setting limits is all about your own self-regulation.

All toddlers try to push the limits. This new independence is an important part of their development. They develop the ability to self-regulate gradually over the next few years. Your firm, kind limits help make this happen. You might not see results right away, but stick with it and you will!