Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Childproofing, necessary?

I have to address this here even though my kids are well beyond this stage.

My beautiful niece was burned at 9 months old when her brother pulled a bag of popcorn out of the microwave, it caught fire, and he dropped it on his sister who had followed him into the kitchen. She nearly died, has been through multiple surgeries and will have scars for life.

On a message board I used to post on, the two year old daughter of another poster woke up in the middle of the night, climbed her dresser, pulled it over on herself and died. They didn't find her until the morning.

A child that lived next door to me long ago ran out of her house, into the road, was struck by a car and was hospitalized for several weeks.

Another child scaled a fridge and got into his mothers prescription medication, which was put up out of his reach, and ended up in the hospital.

Why am I posting about this? These parents were not irrisponsible jerks who failed to teach their children boundaries. These are examples of children being children, and the reason I childproofed my house. Think of how a simple baby gate, a wall bracket, doorknob cover or a lock box could potentially have changed their lives. Don't get me wrong. I am not blaming these parents for things there is no way they could have seen coming, nor is there a guarantee that childproofing would have helped. However, I like to learn from others.

I have read people talking about how babyproofing is unneccesary. It doesn't teach children boundaries. Children have to learn how to fail. I have said it before, and I will say it again: I prefer that my children learn how to fail with things that will not potentially kill them.

Childproofing the most dangerous things is really such a simple thing. Wall brackets are not expensive or obtrusive. Keeping cleaners and medicines locked away does not mean that you cannot teach your children about them. A child being kept out of the kitchen when they are tiny will not stunt their development. I don't understand people who can see the dangers of allowing this stuff to go (through the tragedies of other people) and not do something about it. Just because it wasn't your kid this time, doesn't mean it can't happen to you. Kids are fast and they test boundaries. Fact.

How will kids learn boundaries if they don't have access? Well. I have a brain. My kids did not have access to cleaners as toddlers but they were still taught the word poison, and that the cleaners would make them sick. My children did not have access to medication but I still taught them that it could make them sick if they took the wrong ones or too much and so only mom and dad can give them medicine. They were not allowed to climb the furniture, even if it was bolted to the wall. Childproofing does not get you out of teaching your child. It simply gives you an extra layer of protection.

Now I did not put breakables out of reach once they were older than 1. I took the risk that there was a chance they could be broken. Sometimes they were. Mostly not. I could take my kids anywhere and be fairly confident they would keep their hands to themselves. Childproofing does not equal failing to teach your children manners.

I also have to say that some child-safe things are just good habit. I still mount shelving to the wall because it is more stable. I still turn my pan handles in. It's just good practice.

And one last story. I was very proactive in teaching my young children the proper ways to go up and down the stairs. When my daughter was 2, we were visiting my mother-in-law and she was carefully walking down the stairs to the basement, one at a time, holding the railing. My dog, who had never been down there, took that opportunity to run down. My two year old child was knocked down the stairs, all the way to the bottom and hit her head on the concrete. She was fine, luckily. A babygate could have kept the dog off the steps. That was almost 10 years ago and it's still clear as day in my head. Every close call we have ever had has stayed with me like it was yesterday. I can't imagine what it must be like for parents of children who were seriously injured or killed. All I know is that I would much rather be safe than that kind of sorry.

Project 365: The things my days are filled with.


  1. Good post. Honestly, that whole other discussion made me somewhat murderous...I wish to heaven my son was able to get up and get into things, and you can be darn sure I would childproof. Boundaries or no, it is the paragon of irresponsibility to assume your kids are always going to do as they are told.

    Unfortunately, some people just can't be told that, eh? Sigh. I just want to beat my head against the wall.

  2. Close calls do stay with you forever. I still vividly remember when you were about 18 months old and you woke up early one morning before Mom and Dad. You decided it was time to get up and climbed out of your crib, went downstairs, unlocked and opened the front door and went outside. The sound of the screen door slamming woke me up and I went down to investigate.

    By the time I got to the front door (which was open) and looked out, you were across the street in the park, in your pink blanket sleeper. Thank heavens we lived in base housing on a quiet little street with no traffic to worry about, but it still scared me to death to think about what could have happened. We bought a hook/eye latch that day and put it at the top of the screen door so there would be no repeats of that incident.

    You were also switched to a toddler bed to prevent accidents from climbing out of the crib. You were just too smart for your own good. lol

  3. Thank you for you blog. I am a pediatric emergency medicine physician and have seen too many tragedies firsthand. Promoting and facilitating childproofing has become my mission. My efforts include a website www.ChildSafetyHouseCalls.com to help parents, distributing handouts for other pediatricians to give their patients' parents, and an on-line store to give parents easy access to the good childproofing aids (there are lots of crummy ones). Keep spreading the word!

    Jim Schmidt, MD

  4. After the discussion about this on SM, we strapped our TV and entertainment center to the wall. We'd already put cabinet locks up, and no stairs for gates, but my thoughts are like yours:
    "Childproofing does not get you out of teaching your child. It simply gives you an extra layer of protection." I'm surprised by parents who do not share this point of view.