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Why do Kids Test Boundaries? And How to Handle it

It’s common for parents to feel that their child is CONSTANTLY pushing their buttons… and if you’re anything like me, these moments make you question your parenting skills. It is exhausting when we feel like we are in a state of continuously correcting difficult behavior.

If you have a child old enough to misbehave, then I’m guessing you can relate!

What if I told you, this was actually a sign that you are a great parent? No, I’m not joking.. I really mean it!

And here is why:

Kids tend to test boundaries where they feel the safest. It’s their way of learning about and exploring the world around them. It’s how they develop their self-concept. Children build security this way!

Hopefully this helps you to reframe your perspective around those tough moments, but let’s take this a step further. What is the best way to handle boundary testing behaviors?


Every human being strives for autonomy. For children, the level of autonomy they can handle is always changing. As they grow, they desire more. As they rise to each new occasion, they build self-esteem. For most families I work with, I recommend sitting down every 3-6 months for each child and brainstorming the most frequent power struggles at that time. Once they have that covered, they can come up with some choices to use proactively. These choices should be offered before resistant behavior, never after. Offering choices is a powerful tool that can help to build autonomy and decrease power struggles.

Consistency in our expectations is also very important! This is what tells a child they are safe and secure. If expectations are always changing, children will always be searching for them. That is why in times of big life transitions, children can tend to amp up their boundary testing behaviors. There are many ways to maintain consistency in the midst of transitions, which I cover in my Online Empowered Parenting Course. It’s important to have systems in place to help you hold firm boundaries within loving limits.

If you are hoping to hone in and dive deeper into these strategies, I invite you to join us in the upcoming course, beginning soon!

Hopefully, with this understanding you are able to reframe those difficult parenting moments when you think you just might pull your hair out. We may not thank our kids for acting this way, but we can view their boundary testing as a way of saying, “Thanks for being my safe place Mama!”


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