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Why do children test the limits set for them?

Lynne Kenney
Psychology
Learning where the lines are drawn is a basic part of childhood. Children generally test the limits to make sure that they are firmly established and to determine whether they are really required to stay within them. Testing the limits is often done for several other reasons too:

1. to establish the hierarchy of power in the relationship
2. to gain control of the situation
3. to assert one’s needs
4. to try to move the limit or boundary
5. to get what one wants

Testing the limits is also a method of defining one’s identity. If your 8-year-old knows she cannot wear makeup to school, she might come into the kitchen on a school day with makeup on, just to see what your reaction will be.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.