Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Works for Me - Teaching babies boundaries

Before I go into my "What works for me" I want to say a few things. When I first had Caleb, and he was still a baby, I was so judgemental of other moms. I clearly remember seeing a child screaming and kicking his mother in Target and was sure that his behavior was due to a complete lack of parenting on the part of his mother. "My kids will never act like that," is what I told myself (and others!) And then he turned 3. And I was humbled beyond belief. Many times over. Many, many, many times over!

So my philosophy on parenting goes like this: if you are training your child, seeking God's wisdom and it works for you - GREAT!

I know that what works for me, may be what you want to do (and vice-versa) and that is fine with me. With that said, some of you have asked me about 'carpet training' or 'boundary training' so I will share what works for me. I am NOT telling you what you have to do OR that you are a bad mother if you aren't doing it!!

Got it? Good! Now that we have that out of the way...

We teach our children boundaries at the early age of...when they can crawl. And one of the methods that we do it, is by teaching them to stay on the carpet in our house. Most of the things that are off the carpet in our house are things that I don't want the kids into anyway, so this works on so many levels for us. Here is what we do:

Once our kids are able to crawl we don't let them crawl off the carpet. If they do we redirect them back onto the carpet. It takes a lot of work and patience, but the payoff is so worth it (for us). Since this usually takes place around the 6 month age, we use redirection not discipline.

Here are the reasons I like to 'carpet train' (I really don't like that term because it sounds like something you do with 4 legged furry animals, but I guess that babies are kinda a 4 legged...I digress...):
  1. I don't have to chase my baby (or babies) all over the house and wonder what they are getting into.

  2. It teaches boundaries at an early age.

  3. When we go to anyone's house they stay in one spot and look to me for guidance on where they can go.

  4. It allows me the opportunity to expand their boundaries as they get older instead of restrict them.

  5. The 'carpet' can also be a blanket when we are outside and I don't want them roaming around.

Now here are some commonly asked questions/misconceptions:

Baby's learn by exploring...how do they get to explore if confined to a carpet?
I don't want them exploring the bathrooms, kitchen, stove, pantry...and other areas that are usually not carpeted. The space that they are confined to is large and has lots of toys and other age appropriate things for baby's to explore.

What if I have a 12 month old...can I go back and teach them to stay on the carpet?
Yes, but it's a LOT more work than if you start when they are young and they never know there are any other options. It also takes more time and patience.

When do you let your baby off the carpet?
As they get older we allow for more freedoms. My girls are 15 months old and still on the carpet.

My little Mikey/Janey is really strong-willed. He/She would never do that.
I have 4 kids, all with very different personalities, yet all train-able.
How do I know if my baby understands what they are supposed to do?
When your baby starts to put their hand off the carpet, only to look back at you first, you know that they get the concept of what they are supposed to be doing. It's been my experience that they understand it very early on. Way earlier than I would ever give them credit for!

Do your kids ever get off when they aren't supposed to?
YES! I have a child (or two!) that love to test the boundaries. So we redirect (or discipline when they are older). And in that they learn a lesson on consequences.

Alrighty, whew that was a long one! As an end note I want to reiterate that this is about what works for me. If it doesn't work for you...I'm okay with that! To see other ideas, check out Rocks in my Dryer.


Stacy said...

Thanks for this great tip.

I appreciate all the effort you put into explaining how it works. I need to have another baby so I can try this out! :)


Elizabeth said...

Great parenting technique. I love it! You're right that it is essential to teach kids boundaries early on, and that it gets harder as they get older so you have to start early. My baby is 5 1/2 months and beginning to crawl, and I like your carpet idea. That will keep her away from the kitchen and bathrooms, and the older kids' rooms since there's tile on the way there.

We baby-proof our house somewhat, but we never put away all of the pictures and decorative things that we love. Instead, we teach our kids not to touch them. Re-direction early on, then discipline (like a slap on the hand) when they are older. I listened to a Family Life series once and the speaker was saying that if a baby is old enough to crawl/toddle over to something that is dangerous for him, he is old enough to be taught not to. Even if they have a more "fiesty" personality:)

I can't believe your girlies are 15 months. It seems like they just turned 1!

p.s. Next time we're down visiting my bro-in-law, I'm calling you. I want to go to Sea World!

Robyn said...

Better than having gates all over the place!

Real-life Family said...

That's such a good idea! I wonder why more people don't do that? I hadn't really even thought about something like that, but it makes so much sense! Now I want to "rewind" Levi and try it!