As a follow-up to my earlier post on teaching kids safety, I want to talk about scenarios at home where kids also need to be taught how to be careful. One common issue I’ve found common with mothers is keeping their kids from playing with the water dispenser, especially with the hot water.
When Kyle was almost two, there was a young family that came to our home to play with Kyle. When the mom arrived, she was surprised to see our water dispenser outside, in plain sight. She has two kids, aged five and seven, and at some point they burned themselves with the hot water dispenser. As a result, she hid their water dispenser so her children wouldn’t play with it and hurt themselves again. She asked why I kept our water dispenser outside, when Kyle was still very small and can hurt himself with it. I responded – Kyle already knows that he’s not supposed to touch it. “How can you even control him?” she asked. I told her what happened and how I managed it.
When Kyle was small, he saw the water dispenser and wanted to play with it. I presume it was because of the buttons and the colors. I told him “No, don’t touch it!” But, as normal with kids, when you just tell them no, they don’t really understand because you haven’t explained the reason behind it. Since they don’t understand, they probably won’t listen. Kyle kept going to the water dispenser even if I tell him no each time. So after around three attempts, I took Kyle by the hand and brought him to the dispenser. I asked him, “You want to know why mommy doesn’t want you to touch this?” I let Kyle watch while I fill the mug with hot water from the dispenser, then I let him touch it. I asked him, “It’s painful?” He tried to pull his hand away while nodding yes. That’s when I explained to Kyle, “This is why I don’t want you playing with this. It’s because it’s hot, and it can hurt.” I thought the message already got across, but soon after I saw Kyle teasing me and testing me by going near the dispenser again. So I did the same thing a second time, only I really placed his hand on the hot mug and kept it there for a while. I made sure he felt the pain, and it registered why playing with the dispenser is a no. From that point onwards, Kyle would just walk past the dispenser without trying to play with it. Sometimes he would even move away from it and point to it, saying “Hot, hot!”
Rather than just hiding the things that could hurt him, I find that it’s better to educate Kyle about why certain things are off limits. I also teach him as early as possible, before he forms any other ideas about the things. If I waited until he’s older – like five years old – he may not be as open to the lesson I’m trying to teach him, because he’s seen other things that influence how he thinks. Some moms will think that their kids are too young to understand just yet, that’s why they don’t try to teach their kids early. My policy is always to try educating Kyle first, even if he might be too young to process the information. I just keep repeating the message and reinforcing it – kids will never get it the first time. By constantly saying the same thing, Kyle will one day understand what I was trying to communicate. I do it different ways – not just by talking to them, but sometimes, like in the case of the dispenser, I let them experience what could happen.
It’s important that as parents, we are never complacent about our child’s safety. Even if you’ve trained your child well, there can be instances where the child himself will feel confident and not take precautions. I’ve heard Kyle say more than once, “I can do it because I’m big boy already.” There should still be boundaries for kids even as they grow up, and it’s important to identify the safe zones and the danger zones based on their age. There is a thin line between teaching kids independence and keeping them safe. It should always be age-appropriate, and the message should be consistent with each member of the household. You can read my thoughts on a child’s independence in my earlier article.
I hope this helps all you mommies out there who are doing their best to keep their kids safe. We are natural worrywarts, and we always want to make sure our kids don’t get hurt simply because of negligence. That’s why teaching them about safety – both in and out of the home – is best done at a very young age.
Do you have stories about how you teach your kids to stay safe? I’d love to hear them! Share them through the comments or drop me a message on social media or email 🙂