Set Up Your Environment for Success: Pre-toddlers and Home-Proofing


By Amanda, Planning On It

Home-proofing means “setting appropriate limitations” on your pre-toddler’s mobility, introducing freedoms only when your child is old enough and wise enough to understand how to handle them. Where does the difference lie between “home-proofing” your child and “baby-proofing” your home? It lies in philosophy. … In contrast, “baby-proofing” has parents rearranging their living area so the child is never placed in a situation where Mom or Dad would have to limit his freedom of exploration or confront him with the feared words, “No, don’t touch.”  –p. 129, On Becoming Pretoddlerwise

After reading the above description of home-proofing your child vs. child-proofing your home most Babywise parents will nod their heads in agreement. Then they will go their merry way thinking they can leave their home completely unchanged and surely they can train their pre-toddler not to touch any off-limits items. At least that’s what I thought.

And then my child actually became a pre-toddler.

I learned that maybe Ezzo didn’t mean that we should leave out the glass dishware on the coffee table, or that tube of medicated cream in the nursery, or all those DVDs on the low shelf right beside the toybox. Oops! Live and learn, right?

So how do you find that balance? How do you train your child in self-control and respect for others without either endangering their safety, causing irreparable damage, or just plain driving their mothers crazy?

Much like child-proofing, home-proofing your child starts with setting some physical boundaries. You will make use of baby gates and playpens, child locks and regular locks. But as above, the difference lies in philosophy. Your goal is very different. Your goal does not end with keeping your 15-month-old from throwing books all over the room; it ends with teaching him proper respect and care for those books. But in striving for that goal you also recognize he is just 15 months old and this will take time. You recognize that you can teach respect for books by keeping out a few paperbacks and then later reintroduce the rest of the books that usually reside on your coffee table or low bookshelf.

Here are a few tips and ideas on home-proofing your child while staying sane.

Put a physical limit in place if…

  1. An item is dangerous. All the moral training in the world isn’t much good if our kids don’t live to be 3, right? So first we make sure their environment is safe. This means put medications and even vitamins in very high medicine cabinets or locked in a toolbox or small safe. Put a child lock on that knife drawer. Put a latch on the front door that your child cannot reach. Make sure heavy furniture is secured, especially things like TVs and tall bookshelves. No need to go crazy, just do a few commonsense things as a precaution.
  2. An item is precious. If an item is very valuable, sentimental, or irreplaceable, do not leave it within reach of your pretoddler until you can rely on him to not touch it. The risk isn’t worth it for the emotional or financial distress it would cause you.
  3. Your child is driving you crazy. How do I define crazy? Well, if you find yourself yelling frequently, spanking frequently, or feeling exasperated or exhausted by the simple act of keeping your child out of trouble, then these are clear signs your child is outside his or her funnel! A pre-toddler can be brought back inside his funnel by putting a boundary in place to limit his activity. This allows you to keep an eye on him, and it allows you to focus on training him to one or two items at a time. Using a baby gate is not admitting defeat. It’s admitting that you have a healthy, active 12-18-month-old and need to scale back his freedoms so he can listen to your instruction better. By scaling back on the number of off-limits items you can really use your energy wisely to buckle down and enforce the “that’s a no” instruction with consistency, patience, and firmness for just a couple items. Once your child is reliable with those, expand the boundaries a bit again and work on training with a wider funnel and more off-limits items.

Keep in mind the foundational principle in Babywise, that you are welcoming your child as a part of the family, not rearranging the family to conform to his desires or asking him to tag along with your adult lifestyle. Do not rearrange your living room to look like a daycare or only decorate the top half of your Christmas tree. But also do not keep fragile vases on the coffee table and then lose your temper when your 15-month-old topples one over on herself in a mischievous moment. Welcome your newly walking pre-toddler into your home by making sure his needs of stimulating play and safety are met while also slowly but surely teaching him what is valuable in your home, what deserves more care and attention, and where his personal boundaries lie within the home.

Amanda blogs about her family and home organization adventures over at Planning On It. She’s a former teacher and nanny and currently a stay-at-home homeschooling mom to her three young children. 

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