Childproofing? How about childcoaching.


The time has come, the parents said, to talk of many things:
Of dishwashers and tabletops,
Of tacks and apron strings,
And why the stove is don’t-touch hot,
And whether kids have wings!

When our boy was a blanket-wrapped bundle, childproofing was an issue that we’d think about later. Even as he started to get more mobile, we decided we’d just deal with the obvious stuff, like cupboard door latches and padding around the fireplace hearth, and then wait to see what mischief he was most interested in getting into. This, under the hood, was just another way of thinking about it later.

Later has arrived.

Kiddo’s gotten taller, or else his arms have gotten longer. He’s also gotten pretty clever. He’ll pick up on a trick after seeing it only once or twice. (This is why, in our house, we no longer pick up cereal bowls and drink the remaining milk. FYI.) He knows how to turn on the TV and the Xbox 360; he also knows that if he touches the TV we turn it off, and has occasionally used this trick to his advantage.

And now, he’s tall enough and knowledgeable enough to open the dishwasher, and to push the button that opens the microwave. This morning Kiddo had a head start of only seconds heading into the kitchen, and when I followed I found the dishwasher and lower cupboard doors wide open, as if it were a mini-reenactment of The Sixth Sense.

We’ve gotten past the point where childproofing would do any good. Oh, we could try, but wrapping the kitchen in bubble wrap isn’t practical. The oversize box of plastic wrap can’t live on the counter forever.

This child! He’s figured out that he can pull chairs out from the dining room table and climb up on them to get the papers on the dining room table. We’ve prevented him from taking the stepstool over to the counters, but only by not doing it ourselves. Every morning he runs around and turns on all the lightswitches upstairs, including the living room one where he has to crawl out on the slippery arm of the couch, and then he turns and jumps off it to the floor. We didn’t teach him any of that. He sees us doing normal activities that are safe for adults, and simply follows suit.

So now the time for childproofing is over. Now we are trying to teach him what’s allowed, rather than simply walling it off. The tricky part is going to be un-teaching some of those rules later on, when he’s old enough to help load the dishwasher and set the table. I’ve tried the “when you’re bigger” line a couple times, but that just leaves the door open for little Mister Rules Lawyer to come back a few months later and point out that he is indeed bigger than when I first set that restriction.

My current strategy is to get him to help out with the parts of the activites that are kid friendly, hoping to redirect him from the more hazardous parts. He wants to open and unload the dishwasher? Sure, how about taking these plastic plates and containers to the counter. That sort of thing. My friends have said two years old isn’t too young to help sort the laundry and pick up the basement. If we do this right, maybe we can sneakily teach him to love doing housework the same way we sneakily taught him to love eating his vegetables.


Author: Jessica Wallace

I'm a wife, mother, and software engineer living near Seattle, Washington. I like doing competitive puzzle events like the MIT Mystery Hunt and The Game. I've recently started learning a bit about candymaking, much to the delight of my husband, friends, and co-workers.

3 thoughts on “Childproofing? How about childcoaching.

  1. Have you taught him to fetch your slippers, bring in the paper, get you a snack from the kitchen – assuming you then share, take out the trash? Oh, the possibilities are endless, fun to think about, ….and not very likely.

  2. And as soon as he can read, you can make a checklist on how to clean a bedroom or bathroom. I’ve heard that some kids have appreciated it in later years :).

  3. We’re in the same boat with Pete, though he follows Teddy more than us. We’d even gotten a lock for the fridge (since he’d go in and pull out everything from the bottom shelves and leave the door wide open) but he’s tall enough and dexterous enough to open it now.

    What’s been working for me is to find the things that he CAN do to help and lead him that way. For us, I always let Teddy turn off the light switch for the living room (since he can reach that one) and Pete turn off the one for the stairs. When he’s on the stairs, he can reach it. He helps with laundry (I hand him wet laundry from the washer and he puts it in the dryer) and with the dishes (we let him put his small plastic plates in the dishwasher). Unfortunately, I still haven’t found a solution for him using the chairs to get what he wants. It’s been… fun…

    I’d say it will be easier when Kiddo gets older but Teddy’s already reached the “but I don’t WANT to do it” stage. Maybe he’ll like helping longer and you’ll be luckier. 🙂

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