Pushing boundaries the pre-schooler way

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pushing boundaries, pre-schooler, toddler, behaviour, good behaviour, bad behaviour
If there is a line in the sand, my pre-schooler will cross it.

Someone help me with a puzzling issue I have. Why is it my pre-schooler is more willing to do what she’s told when the request comes from a non-parent?

I’ve noticed Elizabeth has become a lot more stubborn recently. I think she is going through a stage where she is testing boundaries. If there is a line in the sand to cross, she will go ahead and do it.

Sometimes she is an absolute delight and only too happy to do as she is asked. Other times she will steadfastly refuse to do anything asked of her. Even a simple request such “please put on your coat, it is raining outside,” will be ignored. Just this morning I had to deal with a tantrum because she refused to walk the short distance from the car to the school gate so I could drop off her sister.

If, however, the request comes from a family friend, one of the childminders at her pre-school or another grown up, she will happily comply. It’s not a daughter / father thing either, she gets equally stubborn with my wife.

I’d be lying if I said Helen, our eldest child, didn’t also display this tendency on occasion. I don’t, however, ever recall her being as cheeky as her sister.

Truth is, I do kind-of understand why Elizabeth rebels against mum and dad. It’s quite natural; she’s rebelling against those she loves and spends most time with. Teenagers are renowned for it, I’m just a little surprised to see it quite so strongly in a three-year-old.

It also shows how different my two children are. As I say, Helen is quite capable of playing up and she does on occasion. Her sister, however, is much more independent-minded and headstrong.

Do you have a child of a similar age as Elizabeth? If so, do they respond better to anyone from outside the family? Maybe your kids do what is asked of them all the time? If so, what’s your secret?

And then the fun began...

20 thoughts on “Pushing boundaries the pre-schooler way”

  1. My 2 and 3/4 year old will eat things at nursery that he wouldn’t touch if we served them to him at home.

    Nor does he seem to have any trouble napping during the day when he’s there, or at his grandma’s, but a daytime nap at home is a total non-starter. (…though secretly I think the nursery staff just lock them all in a room, switch the lights off and close the door and call it a ‘nap’!)

    1. Oddly, my youngest used to be the other way round when she napped; wouldn’t nap at nursery but would happily nap at home! Odd isn’t it what some kids will do and others won’t? regardless, I just wish she’d do as she were told every now and again!

  2. Oh John. AALLLLLLLLLL the time. She eats food at nursery she won’t eat at home, she’s a right pain but a delight at nursery. Isn’t it dispiriting?

    But on the other hand, I like a woman who knows her own mind. There must be a way of cultivating this energy in a positive way. I have no idea how though.

    1. I also like the idea of my kids being strong. I wish, however, this did not involve going into meltdown when asked to put shoes on before going outside / putting on a coat on a rainy day / eating nutritious food. Our eldest never went through a stage quite like this so it’s new territory to us!

  3. I have a 22 month-old nephew who is always good as gold for us. Yet when his parents turn up, he changes and becomes a lot more challenging. Saying no to stuff, he had zero issue with moments before with us.

    I remember reading that this is a compliment to parents, as your children are so comfortable with you that they are confident enough to try to dominate. The family pack being a beautiful thing, but where its members vie to be leader and protect the others as best they see fit.

    I’d adopt government policy here. We don’t negotiate with toddlers.

    1. I think an amendment to Government policy is a superb idea. Do you think it is a Home Office issue? I happen to have a friend who works there you see.

  4. Sounds very familiar, John, although we’ve had it a long time before Tilly turned three. She’s normally better for grandparents – still to get feedback from preschool, while she’s adept at pushing our buttons and playing us off against each other. However we just stand firm, especially where it matters. After a dreadful December, things are improving although I’m sure it’ll continue to be up and down.

    1. Ah Dan, we are having a testing time. I say it’s testing; we know very well compared to some peers we have it easy. We’re just not used to quite such stubborn behaviour! I think our Jan / Feb will turn out to be your December.

  5. Mummy here and there

    They are little Monkeys. My DS2 when taking yo nursery asked him to put his bag on the peg and had a massive stripe. I kid you not one member saff (his key worker) walked past, he suddenly stopped the stripe and smiled so angelic it was unbelievable. They sure know how to pit on a performance and defiantly have their own mind (sods!) X

    1. I like that! Although I’m not too sure how I’d respond if asked to tell off someone else’s kid! It would feel a bit wrong I think.

  6. I wouldn’t say all the time, but my kids are pretty good listeners. I guess that’s because I’m the mean mom – when I say something I always mean it! If I ask them to put something away and they don’t do it, I could just roll my eyes and pick it up myself, or I could call them back and make them pick it up and possibly give them some kind of consequence (like having to pick up 5 other things for not listening the first time.) The second option is more exhausting, but I know I’ve got to do it so they know they can’t ignore me without it being more hassle for them in the long run. That said, a 3 year old is a 3 year old, and what you’ve described sounds pretty normal. 🙂

    1. In our relationship, I am bad cop. In fact ELizabeth’s ability to say please and thank you has become a little lax to say the least and if she doesn’t put a request properly or tries ot get her way by stamping and shouting, she gets nothing. She’s getting the message now but it take perseverance. Nonetheless, we have realised we possibly we’re praising good behaviour enough and so have bought a Peppa Pig stamp set. Each time she her beahviour deserves praise, she gets a stamp. Thus far it has worked well.

  7. They don’t call it the ‘threenage’ years for nothing! But yes, my mum always contends that all of the grandchildren have been a lot easier to manage when their parents weren’t around and certainly now EJ eats pretty much everything they give him to eat at preschool. I’m not quite as strong willed as Jenny though – so I do make it more difficult for myself! Thanks for linking up to #thetruthabout John

    1. My youngets eats curry at pre-school. Give her this at home and she’d run a mile! And yes, my kids always do as granny tells them. Really hoping this is a phrase we get through quickly.

  8. I saw this for the first time this weekend with my 15 month old. I tell him no 100 times a day and he doesn’t even hear it. His Grandmother told him no and his little heart was broken, real tears and everything. It sounds like a challenging time with your smallest daughter, but you have to admire a child with a bit of spark. Good luck!

    1. Well, we’ve come to the conclusion we had ot offer praise more and give Elizabeth more rewards. Thus far, it is working!

  9. It’s a difficult one isn’t it? Monkey is about the same age and he definitely has his defiant moments which drive me crazy but on the whole I think we see lucky with him and a bit of reverse psychology usually works wonders. (For example he never wants to get dressed so I always say he can stay in pjs but has to go bed for the rest of the day, the pjs always come off then! Or I threaten to leave him behind and go with his sister and then he comes running as he doesn’t want to be left out). I fear that his sister will be a different kettle of fish though as even at 15mths she is showing a lot of defiance! Help!

    1. Well, reverse psychology has done nothing for us. Mrs Adams and I have had a chat about Izzy’s behaviour. Having noted the response to a simple, colourful stamp on the hand for good behaviour at pre-school, we’ve come to the conclusion we needed more praise and carrot as opposed to stick. I won’t tell you we aren’t still facing some issues, but a little more praise and celebration has worked wonders.

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