As young children gain mobility, they begin constantly challenging their boundaries indoors and outdoors. They want to explore, and find out from their parents where they can and can’t go.  A particular boundary that gets challenged is the driveway to road.  For obvious reasons, I think it’s fair to say this one scares the heck out of us as parents.
Our nearly three-year old Ryan is challenging boundaries daily.  The road entry boundary has been a consistent opportunity for him and his parents.  Because our side of the road is on a hillside, the only sidewalk available is across the road.  We have been reminding Ryan EVERY TIME to hold our hand when crossing, after we look both ways for cars.  When he is riding his bicycle, we make him stop at every crossing and look both ways.  Sounds logical right?
The issue is independence.  In many cases, Ryan emphatically states “I want to do it myself”, or he just does it on his own.  He is resisting holding hands and wants to launch himself across the street without taking the care to look properly.
This past Sunday, we were getting ready to go in the house for lunch and then a family mini-trip to the zoo.  I was putting some tools away in the barn and Ryan was pushing his Little Tyke lawn mower around.  As I got within 20 yards, I noticed he was in the driveway going toward the road.  I asked him to come back so we could eat lunch.  He said “No Dadda” and kept pushing his mower toward the road.  As I ran to stop him, he started running toward the road.  Not the reaction I was looking for.
About four feet from the road, I yelled “STOP!” so loudly that the neighbor momentarily stopped cutting his grass.  However, Ryan kept going.  He crossed the boundary and was now in the road about four feet.  I yelled “STOPPPPP!” even louder as I got within two feet, and he finally complied.  He turned around, visibly shaken by my volume and tone.  I scooped him and the lawn mower up as the neighbors looked on and went straight for the house as  Ryan began wailing.
As I approached the house, Jen was on the porch asking what happened.  I think I said, “Ryan ran out into the road”, but I’m not sure.  We explained our reactions and got Ryan to calm down as we sat down to eat.
As my adrenaline wore off, I wasn’t angry.  I was….silent…reflective…thankful.   I realized just how badly this could have turned out, and I was so grateful Ryan had not been hurt.  I couldn’t shake a visual image of him actually getting it by a car, and I began quietly sobbing right at the table.  Ultimately, I was responsible for watching him and I had let him slip away.
Jen was so great.  She asked me what was wrong.  After I told her, she told Ryan how upset he had made dadda by not listening and running into the road.  Ryan replied, “sorry dadda””, in which I told him what he had done wrong and what could have happened.
In the days past, I have been reminding Ryan of this incident, and he has been stopping to check both ways.  So, I am hoping the lesson sank in.
However, I think a great teacher for kids is Mr. Pain.  Touch a stove, it’s hot, will check next time.  Run in bare feet and step on a rock, will put shoes on.  Burn your mouth eating food that’s too hot, check the temperature.  The problem with this situation is that if Mr. Pain occurred, Ryan may not get the chance to learn from it.
I get it, he wants his to be free.  I LOVE the fact he always wants to be outside, and will keep encouraging that.  We will continue our push-pull dance with his boundaries, and pray that major accidents can be avoided.
Any advice on teaching boundaries?  I would love to hear from you.

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