Ruling the roost

By Drum Digital
28 April 2014

Kids, especially toddlers, need boundaries that are clear, firm and age appropriate, so if there are behaviour issues, take control and ‘man up’, advises our parenting blogger.

I think my kids and I have a great relationship, they talk to me and we laugh and in general, I feel like we are on a good wicket. But we have very clear boundaries. I am not their friend and I don’t try to be. There are curfews, there are rules about technology and there are times when I am not very popular in our house.

Today I had a chat to someone I am working with on a new project. Jonty was telling me that his toddler has edged his way into their bed. Now Dad has been shifted out entirely, the toddler sleeps in the bed with Mom, while Dad is left sleeping on the couch. He obviously wanted some advice.

My response was: You need to be the parent. Take control and set limits and boundaries. There are three steps:

*Tell your toddler that you understand what he wants (to sleep in mom’s bed)

*Tell your toddler what the boundary is – he may not sleep in the bed

*Then give him a choice. The choice should be between something that is fairly acceptable to him and something he won’t go for.

For example:  You can sleep on the floor on a mattress next to my bed or you can sleep in your own bed.

By giving a boundary with choices, the toddler feels safe and empowered. It takes strength to follow through and if he throws a tantrum or chooses neither option, I told Jonty then he would need to take the little chap to his room and enforce one of the choices – the least desirable one.  As a parent you only need to do this once or twice for the toddler to swiftly settle down and follow the rules.

While this may seem antiquated and authoritarian advice, it is not – it is as relevant today in the 21stcentury as it was in the past. Kids, especially toddlers, function best when the boundaries are clear and firm and age appropriate.

The overall message is that regardless your child’s age – you are not their friend – you are the person who makes their world safe and predictable. So sometimes we have to “man up” and be the boss, even when it’s hard.


Meg is an occupational therapist with a special interest in treating fussy babies and those with sleep problems. She brought the Baby Sense brand to life in 2005 and is the owner of the company Baby Sense, for which she develops innovative baby products.

Meg co-authored the bestsellers Baby Sense (published in 2002, new edition 2010) and Sleep Sense (published in 2007) with Sister Ann Richardson. She wrote Feeding Sense (published in 2010) with dietician Kath Megaw and Dr Simon Strachan, and her fourth book, Your Sensory Baby, was published in May 2011.

Meg has also developed a collection of innovative Baby Sense products based on her Sensible Sensory Parenting principles outlined in her books.

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