Testing limitsPushing the envelope is what we do, it's how we progress, it's how we grow -- and kids are gifted at it.
Around here, my husband and I have a special nickname for our 7-year-old niece, who's living with us. Those days when she's testing every ounce of our resolve, we playfully call her Queen Testoria. As in "Oh, look, it's Queen Testoria -- she must have forgotten that she already had her chance to get a snack before bed, because I see she's hiding a yogurt under the covers." Queen Testoria tests. She wants to know exactly what she can and can't get away with.
What to do:
Pick your battles. With Queen Testoria, we try to choose the important fights. We won't fight with her about whether she has to eat everything green on her plate -- we can't force the food down, after all. But we also won't be fighting about eating cookies later, because our rule is if you don't eat your dinner, you don't get dessert. And she knows it.
Don't give in. Part of Testoria's strength is her ability to whine and argue until even the most solid grown-up feels like throwing her own tantrum. Lengthy explanations exploring every in and out of the rule, however, just add fuel to the fire.
But be sympathetic. This shows that rules aren't enforced out of arbitrary anger. "That's such a bummer about no cookie tonight. Well, maybe tomorrow you'll eat your dinner and we can all have cookies together!"
Be consistent. No matter what your family's rules are, if they're not enforced the same way (well, pretty much the same way) every day, you're just asking for prodding, testing, questioning. Without consistency, rules become as tempting to break as a leaning Lego tower in a roomful of 2-year-olds.