Funnel Pitfall #1—You don’t house-proof your child

In my next few posts, I will discuss several pitfalls parents fall into when determining whether a freedom is age-appropriate or inside the funnel. The first pitfall is child-proofing your house instead of house-proofing your child.

Certainly, you want to child-proof your house to a certain extent. Cover the outlets. Lock up all medicines and cleaning products. Keep your child out of harm’s way. But rather than physically preventing access to every item in the house, you must teach your child what he can and cannot touch. You must house-proof your child.

The first step in house-proofing your child is prohibiting all items that he cannot use appropriately. Whether your child is able to use an item as it is intended determines whether it is age-appropriate and if he should have the freedom to use it. If your child is too young to know how to use something appropriately, it is outside the funnel for him at that particular age. Here are some obvious examples:

•    Your keys
•    Your cell phone
•    The stereo
•    The remote control
•    Your books
•    Your computer

What’s the harm in letting your child play with these objects? Just because he can’t hurt himself with it or hurt the item doesn’t mean he should have free access to it. Keeping your child in the funnel is all about teaching him that the world is not his oyster. Allowing him to play with anything and everything in your home teaches him that life has no boundaries. Get him used to those boundaries from an early age.

The remote control is the most-often cited example. I highly doubt your 18-month-old knows how to use a remote the way it should be used. Maybe he sees you point it at the TV and will do the same, but does he know which buttons to push? I doubt it. It’s more likely he likes the sound it makes when he bangs it on the coffee table (which, I might add, he’ll also do when you’re at a friend’s house). Even if he uses it in a more gentle way (like pretending it’s a phone), you still shouldn’t allow it. Again, it teaches the child that he can play with anything and everything in the house. Find a toy version of a phone or remote and make the real ones off limits.

Now, there are some objects that call for a little more judgment. I know many parents allow their babies or toddlers to play with pots and pans, Tupperware containers or measuring spoons and cups. These are technically items that a child cannot use appropriately, so take caution. I won’t allow my children to play with these items since I use them regularly and don’t want to give them the idea that they can have free access to them. I do, however, have a drawer in my kitchen that has pieces to appliances and other kitchen-related items that I don’t use on a regular basis. This is the one drawer the kids know they are allowed to play in.

In addition to determining what items are off limits, this theory applies when determining what freedoms are appropriate. Test the theory when your child begins to show some independence. If he can get himself a glass of water and drink it appropriately at the table without spilling it or playing with it, he can be allowed that freedom. If he knows how to operate the TV and does so according to your direction (when you have allowed him to watch), it’s possible he can handle the freedom of turning it on and changing the channel. If he can play gently on the computer and only on the site you allow, he might be allowed the freedom.

If you are new to the Ezzo books, it’s likely you’ll have to scale way back on your child’s freedoms. That’s fine. It might be rough on both of you for a few days. But just keep redirecting him to his toys and other age-appropriate freedoms and you will both be fine. In just a matter of days, you’ll find yourself feeling less stressed and less concerned that your child is going to harm your things. And he will begin to show greater respect for your property.

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4 Comments

Filed under first-time obedience, parenting philosophy, prevention

4 responses to “Funnel Pitfall #1—You don’t house-proof your child

  1. Can you comment on whether a toddler should be allowed the freedom to “play” piano?

  2. Amanda

    Another thing to keep in mind with phones is that they could accidentally call people, even with the keys locked. Someone on my BBC birth board’s baby called 911 because her new phone had locked keys but has an emergency button that calls 911 even with the keys locked, for safety. They had a cop show up at their door 15 minutes later. Luckily he was understanding and laughed, but they could have been wasting valuable time that was needed to deal with a real emergency.

    As for the remote, they actually contain mercury in them so they’re not so “innocent” of a toy either. The buttons can also come off, my cockatiels used to bite them off all the time.

    Great post, I totally agree with the whole funnel concept from the Ezzos’ books! Parenting inside the funnel is never more valuable than when you go to someone else’s home and your child responds to your voice commands and already knows from training at home that certain things are not to be touched.

  3. Maureen

    Hi Katie. With the piano, I would probably have him ask permission first and sit right there with him while he plays. You need to supervise to make sure he’s “playing” properly, not pounding on the keys, driving cars on it, etc. My mom has a really old/antique piano and the kids are allowed to play but no toys can touch it. If he shows that he’s not responsible enough to be gentle with the piano and cannot ask permission, then I wouldn’t allow it for a while. And even if he’s not totally verbal enough to ask permission, he can at least look at you and the piano and do the sign for please.

  4. Maureen

    I never knew that about remotes, Amanda. Good to know. And I have heard of people being fined huge amounts for calling 911 when it’s not an emergency.

    You are so right about being at someone’s home and having your child respond to your voice commands. We just came back from a weekend at Grandma’s and it’s always really crazy and chaotic there. Despite that, William did really well with his “yes, Mommy”. We even took my sister’s dog to the dog park and I called his name from 100 feet away and he turned around and said “yes, Mommy”. Lucas also did really well playing with just the toys and not everything else in the house. And he napped really well. It’s nice to see your hard work pay off every now and then.

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