Testing Limits

Research any undesirable toddler behavior and you get the same response, “They’re testing their limits.”


Graham’s biggest impulse that we’re dealing with is temper. Aaaand hitting. That little boy does get angry with us, too. He used to just hit outright: raising both hands and slapping whatever is closest to him – even if it’s human flesh. Now, he just tests his limits.

He knows he can’t hit us. He knows a big, tearful timeout is around the corner if he wollops us a big one. What he doesn’t know yet is at what point does the timeout come?

What this means is we get the angry scowl, the wind-up, and as he’s lowering the blow – so to speak – he puts on the brakes to the point where, when contact is made, it is but a dainty tap.

Then he looks at you, just to see what the reaction will be. (It’s a raised eyebrow with a warning to ‘cool it’, by the way.)

There’s a short circuit somewhere in that little blond head though, because in the last two days, what has started out as an angry tap has morphed into a loving pat, during which he whispers, “momma… <pat, pat, pat> momma… <pat, pat>”

Let’s recap:

  1. Mom scolds Graham, picks him up to avoid certain death/disfigurement
  2. Graham winds up for a nasty blow
  3. Graham remembers mid-swing that he’s not supposed to hit
  4. Graham ends up lightly patting my arm/shoulder/face with his chubby hand and coos, “Momma…momma..” in the sweetest voice you’ve ever heard.

The amount of time it takes to make that emotional about-face would make a schizophrenic’s head spin.  But, I guess – at the root of it – he’s dampening the angry outbursts himself, which is a good thing, right?


  1. Right!

  2. Grandma Sue says:

    Yes, the terrible 2’s! It sounds like you’ve got a handle on it. It’s just another phase to get through.

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