When I was asked how to make my home safer for my child, I thought “Well, don’t have chain saws lying around or anything.” All joking aside, I know what it means to be cautious and conservative about your kid’s surroundings. Living in a custody situation where you are constantly being judged on “how good/bad a mom you are” really puts a heightened sense of awareness in your daily life.
My biggest rules:
1. Know your kid. Really. Was your kid the baby who cried when the vacuum cleaner was on, or who laughed and clapped their hands at the loud noise? Did he have a natural distaste for putting dirt in his mouth, or was he shoving it in by the spatula-full? Does she approach animals like they are big teddy bears, or does she hide behind your leg when the local German Shepard tries to sniff her?
Some kids are more courageous than others. Some contemplate longer before acting. Some are naturally shy, and some seem to have been born without fear. Which one is yours? How to balance the elements of keeping your kid safe and helping them build confidence is a tricky conundrum in the parenting world. All of us want our children to gain independence and problem-solving skills, but that doesn’t mean throwing them into the gauntlet unprepared.
2. Educate your kid: One of the best things you can do is give your kid the tools to tackle the big scary world without fear and intimidation. Let them know you trust them. But let them know there are rules to follow too. If any of you have a 4-year-old, there’s no shortage of opportunities to answer the illustrious “WHY?” question. Seriously, their brains are BEGGING to be educated.
My kid asked me why she had to sit facing forward in her booster car seat. My response: Because the cops will get you. Maybe a slight dramatization but it works. She knows that when she’s not strapped in, or facing the correct direction, she’s breaking the law. And when you break the law, the cops come.
Again, knowing what’s important to your kid helps here. Will they be afraid if you tell them “because if we get into a wreck and you go through the windshield, you will die” or will they think its the funniest thing ever?
3. Let the natural consequences teach the lesson of safety (when they are not dangerous!) My daughter’s booster seat has transformed itself from warm-cozy car seat, to annoying hinderance to her backseat coloring-fest, is constantly pulling on the seatbelt, trying to reach the dropped crayons on the floor. Predictably, the seatbelt will eventually be pulled out to its maximum capacity and lock, gripping her tighter than any human being enjoys. She cries and throws a fit for the remainder of the trip, but unfortunately for her, every action has a response. If she chooses to be unsafe, the consequences are not good.
4. Know where to draw the line. Some things need parental intervention. You know your kid’s limits, you can asses what situations will be the most dangerous. I’ve watched my daughter use knives and scissors and told her which ones are safe and what cannot be touched. I trust her to ask me before eating or drinking anything unknown. But I do worry about other things, such as talking to strangers and wandering off in public. If you are confused about how to find a solution to a problem, make a ultimatum until you figure it out. My ultimatum for talking to strangers is “If mom doesn’t talk to them first, then you don’t talk to them either.”
You are the parent. You make the rules. If you don’t know the answer, make a ultimatium until you educate yourself enough to make a decision on where you stand.
*This is an entry to the Safest Line contest. To learn more, please visit http://www.thesafestline.com.