Why “child proofing” is actually bad for your baby – Part II
So what is the better alternative to “child proofing” the house? More shiny, new products or gadgets?
Really, the alternative is “no.”
I strongly believe that there is a better way to make my child learn safety on his own. It is an active system that will always work and teach the baby to avoid such hazards and it is much more natural than passively childproofing a house. Removing all potential dangers also removes chances for exploration, discovery, curiosity, and imagination. Those who childproof their homes tend to assume that children are incapable of even the most basic logical thinking. I want to believe that before kids try something new and dangerous, they will be able compare situations with those which they are already familiar with and analyze their approach.
Does that mean you should leave your kid alone in the kitchen for an hour with a set of steak knives, a bottle of bleach, and a blender? Of course it doesn’t. It means that you know you don’t have to hover over him every second “protecting” him from life. I think that a parent can reach a point where if you open a door and show the naturally-curious child around and tell him that what’s behind the door is dangerous and a “big no-no,” he will understand and find objects of interest elsewhere. Therefore, I have decided and recommend adopting an approach I call “The Power of No.”
The Power of No is simple. It teaches the child that certain things or items in the house are simply off limits for him. The idea is to give the child a verbal and visual cue that tells him that certain things are forbidden and dangerous. I don’t just say “no” all day long to everything. The Power of No loses its power if it is overused. The idea is to keep your baby out of harm’s way and at the same time to let him use his natural sense of exploration; so you should invoke The Power of No only when there is danger.
The challenge, of course, is figuring out how to teach a baby that has just started crawling what he can play with and what he can never touch. You need to create or wait for the right opportunity but here is a good example on how it can be done.
Let’s say your baby crawls towards some electric cables he sees lying on the floor. Just as he is preparing to lift his hand to touch the cords, and he is clearly focused on the task at hand, you say his name out loud in a very clear voice and add “No”. For example: “Jake, No” while looking directly at him. You use this combination of words for two reasons. One, calling his name so he knows you are talking directly to him. Two, saying only “No” because it is short, distinct, and unambiguous—to get to the point. At the very same moment you pronounce these words, also give him a visual cue – wagging your finger from side to side—the “No-No” gesture. Now your kid received both verbal and visual signals for The Power of No.
Your kid will recognize his name—and your tone. He will most likely pause and look back at you. There is almost no chance that he will understand what you want, so get ready for him to go back to his plaything. You will go again through the same exercise just to find out that he completely ignores you and touches the cords. As he does, approach him and tap the hand that touches the cord, very lightly but still with enough force to let him understand something is not right and give him again the visual and verbal signals: “Jake, No”.
Most chances he will be puzzled but still will try to do his thing, so you will need to go through several cycles of touching and tapping. I always suggest increasing the force of the tapping on his hand but only to a degree of discomfort to your child, never to hurt, harm or as a means of a punishment. You only want to draw his attention that something is wrong and mommy is using some unconventional actions to get to him.
If you are persistent and repetitive, eventually when you tell him no, he will actually withdraw his hand. At this point, when he finally understands what you want from him, make sure to shower him with love, hugs and kisses, praise him and give him as much positive feedback as possible. He needs to understand that this is what you wanted from him and that you are happy about it. This is the first step towards teaching him the Power of No and from this point onward, it is up to you to continue using it when it is needed. Good luck.
What are your thoughts? Will you try the power of no?