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Imagine that you’re in an unfamiliar country. You don’t know the language or how things work. It’s exciting but stressful : what if you do something wrong?

This is what a child goes through every day. . Little by little, he has to learn how the world around him works : at home, at the grocery store, at day care. Having rules and limits is reassuring for him, because he knows what’s expected of him. To find out what an effective rule is, click here. That being said, all children disobey rules one day or another : it’s normal.

My child disobeys

When your child disobeys, don’t assume that she’s mean, that she hates you or that you don’t know how to make her respect your authority.

Under 2 years of age

Kids sometimes disobey simply because they don’t really understand the rules or have forgotten them.

From 2 to 3 years of age

At this age, kids begin understanding the rules but try to figure the limits out by testing them.

They think : ” I can’t throw my car. But can I throw my book? “. They try it…to find out.

 You’ll likely find this period a little trying at times. That’s normal. Accept the fact that your child will challenge the rules. It’s part of the learning process and their development.

What can I do?

  • Don’t set too many rules. Start with the two or three rules that are most important to you. Gradually introduce new rules.
  • Make sure your child understands the rules : attract her attention, place yourself close to her and use simple words that she’ll understand.

From 1 to 2 years of age

A child understands simple rules such as: ” Sit down “.

From 2 to 3 years of age

A child understands simple rules that have two related parts, such as : ” Pick up your stuffed animals and put them in the box.”

  • Praise your child when he follows the rules, mentioning the desired behaviour :
” You put your toys away in the chest . I’m proud of you! “
  •  Offer your child choices whenever possible. This will allow him to assert himself. He’ll be proud of himself and develop self-confidence.
o Let him choose what clothes to wear to day care : ” Which sweater do you want to wear, the green one or the red one? “
  •  Respond to your child’s needs, but not to all his desires. When a child expresses a physical or emotional need, this is not a whim.
You’re in a store and your child cries to get a toy. That’s a want, not a need. If you buy it for her, she’ll learn that crying is a way to get what she wants… and she’ll do it again.
You’re visiting friends and your child sticks to you. He’s shy and needs to be reassured. That’s a need, not a whim. Take him in your arms and reassure him.
  • Don’t let yourself be influenced by your child’s tantrums, even when they happen in public places.

Easy to say but not always easy to do? A little help could be useful?
Find out about the Triple P activities that are offered near you.


MSSS (2009). Les services intégrés en périnatalité et petite enfance. Favoriser le développement des enfants âgés de 1 à 5 ans. Guide d’intervention pour soutenir les pratiques parentales.

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