Baby Proofing and Discipline - Mothering Forums
Gentle Discipline > Baby Proofing and Discipline
Dal's Avatar Dal 03:00 AM 02-26-2005
I'm sorry that this is a bit (or a lot) rambling. I've done a fair bit of lurking here and am so impressed with the mothers who post here. I'd love to hear some thoughts on any of the questions or ideas below.

I have an 11 month old son, Simon. So far my husband and I have tried to make our home as baby proofed as possible. For the most part, we try to keep everything that is inappropriate for Simon out of his reach and out of his sight. Is this what others are doing/have done? If not, how do you approach it in an AP/GD way? If others have gone from an extremely baby proofed environment to one that includes off-limit items, how did you do it?

Here's a scenario that may be worth discussing: My husband and I drink coffee from travel mugs. Simon loves to play with them. If we have something in our hands -- whatever it may be -- it's the first thing he wants to inspect. We hold the mug securely and let him play with it, or hide the mug from him behind a pillow and sneak sips when he isn't looking. Since he has played with our mugs in the past, putting them off limits and drinking out of them in his face seems rude and inconsiderate. Actually, doing anything in his face that he cannot do some version of feels this way to me. E.g., today I cut up some apple for him to eat. He started to scream because he wanted to play with the knife. Obviously I wasn't going to give him the knife. I gave him a baby fork instead, which satisfied his desire to play with a utensil as I had been doing. Ditto with mealtimes. If we're eating something in his face, he wants to do something similar. Should we always find something similar or that will otherwise entertain him in these circumstances? I can't imagine just letting him wail. I'm not convinced that he'd understand why we aren't letting him partake in whatever it is he is keen to do.

Another scenario: What if I want to read a book while he's playing and as soon as he sees my book, he wants to play with it? Do I just abstain from reading until he's so absorbed in something else that he has no interest in my book (e.g., if he were playing with my husband)? So far I have been doing the latter. Good idea?

I'm aware that there are theories that what I'm doing is a disservice to Simon -- that it would be better if he had more limits, that it's better to houseproof a baby than babyproof a house, and the like. I can see some merit to these theories, but have yet to find a fully articulated account of one of them to make a decision about it. Can anyone direct me to a suitable resource? Perhaps someone feels strongly in favour of or against this approach and can elaborate?

At some point Simon will have to be exposed to things he can't play with. He already is at times, e.g. when we aren't at home. In those cases I tend to physically move him from things that aren't suitable, or move those things away from him. Any words of wisdom about this approach? What is the gentlest and easiest way to teach him that certain things are off limits? Do I even need to worry about this now? Our current baby-proofing/avoidance/redirection approach is working well.

AllyRae's Avatar AllyRae 03:15 AM 02-26-2005
We didn't babyproof much...some outlet covers because he's attracted to the tiny holes in the outlets, the top of the stairs (he fell down once), and the chemical/trash cupboard. Oh, and a gate in front of the fireplace because it's sharp brick.

Everything else he has full access to. We gave him a drawer in the kitchen for his dishes, and he plays in that drawer--if he tries to get into the silverware drawer (with forks, butter knives, etc.), we redirect him to his drawer...he usually always goes to his drawer. If he tries to get into the cupboard with the glass pans, we redirect him to the cupboard with the metal pans...he's happy to go to the metal pans--much louder when you bang on them! LOL!

We put the books in the basement because he'd rip them...but he has full access to everything else. If he's not supposed to touch it because it's dangerous, we put it up. If we just don't want him to touch it because we don't (not for any reason other than we don't want him to), we redirect him. If it continues to be a problem, we remove it from the area. He's just too young to understand abstract concepts like "don't touch that particular thing, but do touch this"...and I believe that his curiousities should always trump some material thing. So, we remove dangerous things from his reach, give him access to lots of cool "non-baby" stuff...dishes, pans, the piano, etc. And if it's not dangerous but we don't want him to touch it, we just remove it from his reach.
StephandOwen's Avatar StephandOwen 03:49 AM 02-26-2005
Pretty much ditto AllyRae

For my sanity I do have gates that block off the stairs, an area with 2 bedrooms and a bathroom (1 bedroom is my 9 year old sisters.... way too many little pieces of toys laying around in there, the other bedroom is my dad's and, again, too many chokable things, and the bathroom is not safe for him at this time and it was easier just to block off that whole area), and the kitchen. I do allow him in the kitchen when I am in there and he loves playing in the cupboards and taking the spices out and stuff. But there is only one of me I just can't keep up with him. If the kitchen was not gated off I have no doubt he would get his fingers broke in those silly circle cupboards (lazy susan, I think it's called??) when I'm not looking. I also do outlet covers because that just makes me nervous. I recently bought some of those *tot locks* to lock two drawers that hold dvds. He had learned how to not only open the drawer but also the dvd cases. They are not my dvds so I did not want him scratching them. Other than that he has full access to anything he wants. If it's something I would rather he not do (like throw the cookbooks down for the umpteeth time) I try redirecting him.

As for the reading... my ds does not let me read. Anything. Unless it's to him. If I have a cookbook/book/magazine/mail/whatever he will come over and sit on it! (I usually lay on the floor reading so he knows I am around if he wants to play). It's so funny to see him walk up, turn around, position his butt, plop down, and crack up laughing.
ETW's Avatar ETW 02:07 PM 02-26-2005
We have hardly babyproofed at all. One of us is with DS all the time, we allow DS supervised access to many non-baby items, and we gently redirect from things that he can't handle. AP and GD are about being respectful of the child and I can see how either full-babyproofing or little to no babyproofing could be seen as respectful -- I think it's just a matter of how you handle it. Personally I prefer for DS to have access to almost everything and occasionally hear "that's a no-no, would you like this instead" than to have his experience limited to fully baby friendly items. As for your examples, DS loves Coke bottles and DH loves Coke. Obviously we're not going to give DS Coke, so we try to keep a clean empty Coke bottle around for DS to hold when DH is drinking his. This doesn't always work 100% -- sometimes he wants the full one that Daddy has -- but it helps a lot. My laptop is like your book -- I cannot use my laptop around DS because he will absolutely freak out if he can't press the keys. So I just don't use my laptop around DS -- no point in putting that kind of temptation in his face and then getting upset when he erases my harddrive! We also try to have baby friendly items that are comparable to the adult items in as many areas as possible. Some examples -- DS used to pull our books off the bookshelf so we filled one of the lower shelves with his books and now he focuses on those. We have an open baker's rack and use the bottom shelves for cookbooks and bowls -- DS was always getting in to the bowls so we filled one metal bowl full of small toys and now he focuses on that one. As far as physically moving him, I think that's fine with a baby, but you might be surprised at how responsive he is to simple requests. DS likes to fool around with the dog bowl after the dog is finished his dinner -- instead of grabbing the bowl from him or moving him to another room I say "hand Mommy the bowl please" -- he beams and hands it over willingly. I say something positive like "thank you for helping Mommy pick up the bowl!" He has recently started moving away from things when asked -- last night he was about to open the trash and I said "remember that the trash is a no-no because it's so messy -- please come over here" and he came cheerfully. Of course he went back to the trash several times to see if it was always a "no-no" but he also came away willingly when asked. I'm not saying that will always work, but it can't hurt to try.
4evermom's Avatar 4evermom 05:19 PM 02-26-2005

Your techniques sound good to me too. I think it's mean to have things in front of a young child that he or she isn't permitted to explore with the exception of dangerous things which should b as out of sight as possible.

With things like stepping in the street w/o me, I would immediately pick him up and go inside (of course he was never far from me in the first place and I was constantly watching for cars).
BetsyPage's Avatar BetsyPage 05:30 PM 02-26-2005
Dal, I also agree you are on the right track.. we did things similarly around here. I could have written your past when my dd was that age... But I wanted to say that eventually, you will be able to read, drink coffee, etc. in front of your dc. I found things started getting easier for me to do that around 12 months, & now I can read, have a drink, work on rug hooking, etc sitting on the couch while dd plays. Yes, she will sometimes want to come up & touch it, but we are teaching her gentle touch, etc. and she no longer grabs things out of our hands, etc. She is 15 months, btw.
USAmma's Avatar USAmma 05:56 PM 02-26-2005
I guess I feel that Nitara's at the age where she needs to gently be taught limits. She needs to accept "no" whether that's verbal or non-verbal. I try to distract and trade things but sometimes she gets locked on something and I just have to comfort her and tell her she can't have it.

I have given up on reading books unless it's with me standing at the counter reading, or after dh gets home and can watch them so I can lock myself in the bathroom for a few minutes.

mommyofshmoo's Avatar mommyofshmoo 06:02 PM 02-26-2005
We didn't really babyproof other than putting dangerous stuff like chemicals out of reach. But my dd is cautious, coordinated, and not all that physically rambunctious. Not all kids are like this, but babyproofing for safety was not such a big issue with her.

Plus, I'm not too protective of my belongings. I actually wish I had fewer things of value. (Not that anything of ours is so valueable per se, but I wish I'd spent less on our couch and rugs, thinking of how much breast milk, spilled drinks and potty training accidents are now on them.)

You don't have to sacrifice your furniture to your kids, but you wouldn't be the first person to have to repaint your walls and replace your couch after your children get past toddlerhood.

It does get easier with regards to things like computers, coffee mugs and books. The phase where they have no impulse control is pretty short.

In strangers' houses, I find it's easiest to supervise carfully and put lots of fun stuff to play with in front of a baby. Guide them to the can haves and away from the can't haves.

There will come a time where you'll have to say "No", but it might not be for a while. Some kids respond well to redirection for a long time.
Piglet68's Avatar Piglet68 06:37 PM 02-26-2005
Welcome Dal!

We also babyproofed as much as possible. I don't think it's possible to have 100% babyproofing, so I am not sure I agree with those who feel it's important to have "limits" around. I couldn't escape from limits no matter how hard I tried. After all, we'd pay visits to relatives' houses that weren't babyproofed. We went out to stores that weren't babyproofed, and of course there were some things in our home that just couldn't be changed/proofed. There were always opportunities to teach her limits, without us having to follow her around the house all day. Trust me, it is nice to know that your house is safe enough that your toddler can get up and watch some cartoons on Saturday morning while you and DH get some much-needed sleepin time ('course that happens when they are a bit older). And reading a book is easier if you don't have to worry about baby getting into things while you are reading (assuming baby isn't trying to grab your book, lol, in which case I'd do exaclty what you said you do).

I also 100% agree with your wanting to redirect, substitute, etc at every given opportunity. Should you "always do this?" Well yes. Because the fact is you won't be able to do it in every situation, and as he gets older and you get out more you'll find more and more situations present themselves to teach about "limits". Trust me, you don't have to go out of your way to instill them. I don't think you are doing any disservices to your son right now. And, to answer your final question, if you do encounter a limit that has no redirection/substitution opportunities, one where you just have to say "no" and remove him, then let him express himself! Let him wail and cry and tantrum. Comfort him, let him know it's okay to feel the way he does. Try to name his emotions for him. It's not about stopping them from crying. They need to cry and be frustrated and then move on. That's how they learn that they CAN move on...

I think you are doing great!
Dal's Avatar Dal 01:32 AM 02-27-2005
Thank-you for all of the replies! It seems that we're doing things pretty much the same way that others here are doing them (or have done them). That's nice to know! I'm still curious about those who teach their child limits like these from an early age -- how is that done? And those who feel that baby proofing is a bad thing. I think there might be something to that... though I also think the way I'm doing things (and others here too) is great. It's working so I guess I won't worry about fixing what isn't broken.

Just to clarify, when I said that we have extensively baby proofed I didn't mean to imply that Simon only plays with baby things. There are several "adult" things around that we let him play with, some of which he has to handle somewhat carefully -- or at least not start chomping away at. So far, he is pretty much continuously supervised, so I've factored that in to how we've baby proofed. He's extremely rambunctious and physical, so it wouldn't be wise to leave him unsupervised quite yet -- I can't even fathom when I'll feel comfortable doing this. He's into everything when he's awake and trying to use everything as a stepping stool to get as high as possible.
Calidris's Avatar Calidris 02:32 AM 02-27-2005
Not too sure about limits in general (Fern is just 12 months, we're still figuring this out) but for example with coffee/tea mug, from about 8 months or so we always said HOT and just let her touch it for a second, then pull her hand away quickly (it was never TOO hot, but we also didn't do it when it was cool), she thought it was funny, for a while she had to touch it every time she saw it (and each time we'd say HOT) now she is not very interested in our coffee mugs and she understands the concept of hot, she also knows that she won't get a sip out of our beer bottles and doesn't even ask, but once when dp was drinking a rum drink in a glass she threw an absolute tantrum because he wouldn't give her a sip (to her it was juice, and thus fair game). So I guess we did teach her some limits (that she can't have beer and coffee :LOL ). Hmm, now that I've figured this out myself maybe I can apply it in other aspects.
mommyofshmoo's Avatar mommyofshmoo 02:48 AM 02-27-2005
The people I know who didn't beleive in babyproofing either did the hand slapping thing, which obviously i'm against, or spent what I felt like was way too much time training their kids *not* to touch thing.

As touch is the best way kids learn, I think it's not a great idea to discourage it. Also, studies show that kids who are trained not to touch (using hand slapping at least) just stopped touching all non-baby things. I know my daughter at 2.75 knows a lot of stuff she's not allowed to touch- computers, etc. But I don;t think babies below maybe 18 months can understand the fine variations in what is allowed or not allowed. They can learn gentle touch for a pet, or "hot" for a stove- but the rules they can process are limited.

Training babies can be one of two things-"teaching" which involved slowly introducing knowledge of rules at a pace they can process and understand, or "training" which programs them to have a knee jerk response to certain objects- a response they don't understand. "Training" is about "mommy says no!"- and learning is about "this thing is dangerous" or "that is delicate."

Obviously teaching takes longer than training, but I hope my dd does understand why she must follow certain rules, and I'd never expect her to obey me or anyone else blindly.

Hope I;'m making sense- I'm tired.
Dal's Avatar Dal 04:22 PM 02-27-2005
Thanks for the additional responses.

That does makes sense mommyofschmoo. The training vs. learning distinction is very helpful. Thanks! I wonder when they are old enough to learn these things? (In general, of course.) I have a book about a babies brain and mind development from birth up until 5 years of age. Hopefully I'll get around to reading it and it will have some answers for me.
Piglet68's Avatar Piglet68 08:46 PM 02-27-2005
Another thing to consider with the babyproofing thing. I believe it's very important to create a "yes" environment. An environment where my babies/toddlers are as free as possible to explore everything around them. And like you said, Dal, that means some "adult" things are left around too. We dont' mind if they aren't valuable and/or breakable, and if they don't pose any harm to her, she can have at them. I think that kids in a Yes environment thrive, and are free to follow their inner "programming" to learn about the world around them. I think kids in a "No" environment just learn to shut down that inner drive. I have found that there will always be a few "no's" around the house, even if we babyproof to the max, which is why I never found any reason to hold back, even a bit, on babyproofing whatever we can. JMHO.
girlndocs's Avatar girlndocs 02:05 AM 02-28-2005
Hi Dal,

About your books, when you read: Me, my DH and our 6-yo son are voracious readers. So dd (almost 12mos) knows books must be something important to investigate because everybody else in the household is constantly using them!

Sometimes we have the scenario that you describe, and what works really well for us is to say, "Not for Bella. Mama's book." (At this point I unobtrusively slide the book behind my back or something & divert her by getting very animated with the next part.) "Where's Bella's book?" Then we grab one of her board books and look at it with her; sometimes she wants to flip the pages & point at the pictures, sometimes she'll listen to the little rhymes. (She really likes Mama, Mama & Papa, Papa by Jean Marzolla.) After awhile she gets distracted by something else & wanders off. Then we can read in peace for a bit.

Good luck!
Soundhunter's Avatar Soundhunter 03:55 AM 02-28-2005
Hey Dal,

Looks like you found your home here

As you know I'm in a different school than most of your responders here. At Simon's age though, most of my reading was done while I nursed her, she was happily occupied and didn;t bother my books then, I was suprised by how much reading I got done. Now that she's 17 months old, I'll read 2-3 books to Emma first, then I tell her it's my turn and I read to myself while she plays. Sometimes she gets mad for a moment, I'll rub her back and repeat that it's my turn to read, and she gets over it quickly enough and does her own thing, though I smile at her frrequently, laugh if she does something funny and my lap is open for her to climb onto at any time.

I've never felt it was cruel to have things she couldn't have. Sometimes she wants things that she doesn't want to share too, and I respect that, the same way I expect her to learn to respect when I don't want to share things.

As for no vs. yes environments etc, I do say no and have said no for some time (as you know from the other board) but I do say yes far more than I say no on most days, she does have the occasional testy day thankfully those are rare. I do also make a point to take her to a yes environment every day, somewhere outside, when I was in vancouver Science world was good, now here on Pender Island I'll let her roam the fields/shores/playgrounds/yard. She has times every day where she can touch anything and everything, but our home, and other people's homes are not those places, at least in our world. I don't think I say no too much and I don't hit or yell or do anything else particularly none-gentle, I guess I'm not as gd as many on this gd enough to not be a punishing authoritarian, but also far less permissive than most here. We all have to raise kids in ways that are loving, but also to be little people that we can live with.

I agree with pp's that it will get easier when he's a bit older, though at some point, he's going to cry because he can't have things he wants, I've always felt that I'd rather be the one to teach Emma that than other people/kids in the big cruel world, who may be less kind about it and less likely to offer her hugs and love while she is upset.

Anyways, I think you;ll love this place, glad to see you here
SoggyGranolaMomma's Avatar SoggyGranolaMomma 01:40 PM 02-28-2005
We baby proof the heck out of our house! Just out of necessity because we have so many little ones to keep our eyeballs on.

I *always* reinforce what the kids CAN play with if I tell them they CAN'T play with something. That's totally fine IMO.

They can't play with Daddy's tools, but they can play with their toy tools. They can't play with Mommy's stove, but they can play with their toy stove. (Or Mommy's tools and Daddy's dishwasher! we *try* not to be too gender specific)

A wise woman once told me, when I was still an insecure mommy (and I still am a lot of the time!) that just the fact that I *care* enough to WORRY about whether I'm a good mom, MAKES me a better mom than 9/10ths of the mothers out there! A special mom puts the heart and feelings of her children ahead of her own. It's not about what's EASY or comfortable, it's about learning what's best and wondering if what we are doing is best. You guys are some awesome mommas!!
SoggyGranolaMomma's Avatar SoggyGranolaMomma 01:45 PM 02-28-2005
Oooooo this is GOOD!! "Training babies can be one of two things-"teaching" which involved slowly introducing knowledge of rules at a pace they can process and understand, or "training" which programs them to have a knee jerk response to certain objects- a response they don't understand. "Training" is about "mommy says no!"- and learning is about "this thing is dangerous" or "that is delicate."

I need my husband to understand this!! He doesn't get that it's not enough and not giving the kids CREDIT enough just to say "I said NO hitting!". Umm you'll forever hear me piping in from the other room "TELL HIM *why* WE DON'T HIT!" : He drives me nuts!

I'll always qualify things with a reason "We don't touch the oven because it's HOT! Hurt Baby!" "We don't hit, hitting hurts!" "Be gentle with the baby, baby is little" That kind of thing. Excellent point!
4evermom's Avatar 4evermom 04:01 PM 02-28-2005
Originally Posted by mommyofshmoo
The people I know who didn't beleive in babyproofing either did the hand slapping thing, which obviously i'm against, or spent what I felt like was way too much time training their kids *not* to touch thing
The problem with babyproofing in my opinion is it creates a false sense of security for the caregivers. Kids will get into things you can't even imagine. I know most people will agree that nothing takes the place of supervision. I wasn't able to babyproof because I live in a big house shared with many people but my ds wouldn't let me out of his sight anyway so I'm glad I didn't bother trying

It should be called Baby Resistant instead of Proof
Dal's Avatar Dal 01:50 AM 03-01-2005
Thanks for all of the additional ideas and insights!

Soundhunter, I don't know what took me so long to find this place. It's great! Thank-you for telling me more about how you do things with your dd. I tried the book suggestion today. It didn't work because I ended up getting distracted, but I think that I could spend some time reading in front of Simon. I will try to do more and see how he reacts. One thing that occured to me today is that when I have another child, Simon's freedom will not be thwarted and the baby will be expected to stay away rather than (e.g.) ruin Simon's drawing or what-have-you. I don't think it would be nice to have to maintain separate spaces for each child.

I definitely don't have a false sense of security, even with the extensive baby-proofing that we've done. It would be very scary though if someone were to leave their young child to her or his own devices thinking that a room was 100% safe -- they never are.
Soundhunter's Avatar Soundhunter 04:08 AM 03-01-2005
I also think that our children seeing us reading is one of the best ways to teach them the love of reading, Of course the biggest way is to read to them, but also if they see us reading often in day-to-day life than I think it's good too.
captain optimism's Avatar captain optimism 11:26 AM 03-01-2005
I am not sure what people mean by babyproofing. We did put up safety gates and door latches to prevent our son from getting access to things he couldn't handle safely. Gradually we have relaxed about using them. He has been respectful of our books almost from the beginning, so we never worried about letting him play with those. I don't know why that was, just a personality quirk or modelling or something. At first we only put board books in his reach, but we soon saw that he almost never tore a page of our books. He has been interested in books from the moment he saw them.

(Rachel, you are so right about having children see you read. But be careful that yours aren't like mine--handing you a book and saying "read" and then toddling off to do what they like! )

Anyway as a general thing I think it's better to put things you don't want the baby to have, out of his reach. Otherwise you are constantly saying no. I don't think it's that important to teach limits to a baby at a year. They have trouble generalizing rules and it's really hard for them to control their impulses. There are enough things that you can't put out of their reach--like your coffee cups--that you will have plenty of opportunities to set limits.