5 Tips for Setting Limits and Rules for two-year-olds

Although we may think it's too early to set limits and rules for two-year-olds, it's important to start at an early age. This means they'll know what's expected of them.
5 Tips for Setting Limits and Rules for two-year-olds

Last update: 31 May, 2021

The age of two is a key moment in a child’s development; they become more independent and enter a stage of maturity and greater demands. During this period, they fight against what they don’t like or don’t want, and even start to use those dreaded tantrums. That’s why it’s important to set limits and rules for two-year-olds.

You may think that, at two years old, it’s too early to set limits and rules for your child. But it’s at this age when they start to discover their environment. Therefore, it’s important that they’re guided by certain rules that they must learn to respect. This will help them to have greater security and self-esteem, better self-control, and a greater tolerance for frustration.

The rules and limits don’t have to be restrictive; they just have to be adapted to their age and allow them to discover their environment. So, here are some ideas for setting limits and rules for two-year-olds.

How to set limits and rules for two-year-olds

A 2-year-old playing with a toy train.

Set clear, firm and, consistent rules

Rules and limits should always be followed; there should be no exceptions. Otherwise, the child may become confused about when to follow the rules or not.

They should also be clear and direct. Instead of saying, “Are you taking a bath now?” Or “Could you pick up all the toys you’ve taken out?” You’ll say, “Go to the tub, it’s bath time!” And, “Pick up the toys you’ve taken out.” Commands need to be clear. You’ll say things in a loving way, without shouting or threatening, but you need to be firm.

Don’t set too many limits, but make them clear

We have to establish a few limits, but these limits have to be clear. In other words, the rules have to help the child understand how they should behave. When we set a limit, it’s important that we explain why the limit’s important. For example, instead of saying, “Don’t run up and down the stairs!” You’ll say, “Don’t go up and down the stairs, especially by yourself, because you could fall and get hurt”.

Set limits in a positive way: rules for two-year-olds

Use positive language instead of imposing language. This way, the child won’t see the rules as an obligation and will be more receptive to complying with them. This will also benefit their self-esteem and security because we’re respecting their freedom.

Helping them recognize their emotions

It’s very difficult for a two-year-old to recognize emotions (anger, fear, sadness). It’s important that we educate their emotional intelligence and explain to them why they feel the way they do. This way, the child will begin to recognize when they’re feeling each of the emotions and, in this way, they’ll be able to manage them better.

Don’t yell at them or confront them when they’re having a tantrum

If the child’s in a moment of anger, it’s better to wait to talk to them when they calm down. When they’re calmer, you’ll demonstrate understanding and affection, but don’t give in to their demands, because, otherwise, on other occasions, they’ll use tantrums to get what they want or desire.

A two-year-old girl making an angry face.

What do children learn from rules and limits?

  • They can’t always get what they want. This will help them overcome frustration and understand that not everything is allowed.
  • If they fail or stumble, it’s not the end of the world. This way, they’ll learn to be consistent, to fight and strive to achieve their goals, and that all success can be achieved if they work hard.
  • Respect for others. Rules and limits aren’t only set for the good of your child but as codes of conduct for interacting with other people, respecting their parents, friends, or people in their environment.
  • They realize that they’re not the center of the world. A two-year-old child thinks that everything revolves around them. Rules and limits will help them understand that they’re not the only person in the world that matters.

About setting limits and rules for two-year-olds

These tips can help you set limits and rules for two-year-olds and make this developmental crisis easier. It’s a tricky age because they go from being babies to becoming more independent, and this makes them easily upset if they don’t get what they want. Setting certain rules and limits will give them the greater sense of security and self-control that they need at this time.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.