ECS Faculty Reflections: “A Toddler’s Need for Boundaries”

Each month the ECS leadership team chooses an article related to early childhood education that the faculty can read and reflect on.  For March we chose this article from author and educator Janet Lansbury called “A Toddler’s Need for Boundaries – No Walk in the Park.”

Read some reflections from our faculty:

“As I was reading through the article, I was continually nodding my head at what it was talking about. How consistency, structure, and boundaries are all important, not only for a child but also for us adults. It is so easy for us to give in when we’re tired or stressed out/feeling done with the tricky situation at hand, but this definitely does not help with children learning consistency. It is also really hard to teach children one thing when they’re not given those same rules at home. Say a child at home always has their parent help them put their shoes on, however when they get to school, and the teacher asks them to put their shoes on, the child proceeds to say they can’t, or they start complaining. In the moment, you may be trying to get everyone out the door, and just give in, do it for them, but this definitely isn’t helping them learn. And as talked about in these articles, the children will know that they just have to complain more or put up more of a fight, and their teacher will give in. We should encourage our children not only at school but also at home, to work on doing things by themselves, otherwise, frankly, they will never learn.”
– Kristin, Ones Teacher

“If we do not create clear-cut, easy-to-understand boundaries, then children may not feel supported. Often when the boundaries are not clear there is a sense of uneasiness, a flakey, wishy-washy feeling. As an adult that does not feel good. You feel that you don’t know what you’re going to get, what the outcome is. It’s almost like walking on eggshells. Now imagine a small child. What a terrible feeling to experience. This was a fantastic reminder to set clear boundaries.”
– Margaret, Fours Teacher

“This article had me saying, “yes!” Setting clear limits and boundaries with kindness and firmness, and then maintaining consistency with those expectations is the real gift we can give children as early childhood educators supporting their development. Families can struggle with the emotional impact of their children’s big feelings as well as time constraints, siblings, or other complications. Using our knowledge and experience and the environment as the third teacher we can maintain more of an impartial and objective stance. We can use our relationship and connection to the child to understand urges and impulses that they are struggling with and/or support them to cope and express themselves in appropriate ways. Janet has said that when toddlers test us they are doing “their job” and I love that perspective. They need us to be able to be clear and consistent to make sense of the world and to gain the skills necessary to navigate our society. I like to think to myself, “testing, testing 1,2, 3…will you be consistent with me?” which helps me maintain that way of thinking in the moment “
– Kim, Ones Teacher

“With children, it’s important to follow through with your words, even if it’s hard to do so at times. If we don’t follow through, we’re setting a precedent for children to know that just because we say something, doesn’t mean it will happen or that we mean it. Of course, we have to do this with sensitivity and compassion while also following through with positive discipline and natural consequences. This is always something that can be worked on and I feel is never quite perfected. This is also where consistency between school and home can come in hand for educators. Without communication happening both ways, there can be inconsistencies happening that can further confuse the child in question. This quote really spoke to me: ‘Children do not feel hurt when the adults they desperately need establish behavioral boundaries. It is easier for a parent to indulge a child than it is to be firm and consistent, and children know that. A child may cry, complain or even throw a tantrum when limits are set. In their hearts, however, children sense when a parent is working ardently to provide a safe nest and real love.’ Crying or throwing a tantrum can often make us feel as though we have failed a boundary or child, but it does not mean that we are doing the wrong thing necessarily and is all a part of their growth and development.”
Emily, Threes Teacher