On Following Instructions

Encourage your child to carry out simple instructions. For example, if a child is able to take something from a shelf, he is also able to learn how to put it back, or at least try. Don’t abruptly rush in and in one swoop undo all that the child has done. If time permits, help the child learn how to “fix” or clean up his own messes and mistakes. Pulling the paper off of a toilet roll might be a fun experience for him, but not so fun for you, and it is good to involve him in fixing the problem. You could not expect a small child to wrap all the toilet paper back on the roll, but he could help you pick it up and put it in a box.

When your “no” really means no!

Sometimes you must be firm and not allow Baby to do something. Children have to learn that they can’t just act on impulse. They are surrounded by dangers. Cars can run over them if they wander out into the street; they must not lean out of windows, stick things into electric outlets, or go near swimming pools or streams without supervision. Teach them about what things they must never drink or put in their mouths. You must do what you can to make it very difficult for an accident to happen in your home by supervising your little ones at all times. Your job is to teach your children the ropes, and that begins as soon as Baby is mobile.

Show children exactly what is dangerous and explain to them—even act out if you must—what could happen to them. For example, help them understand the danger of reaching up and grabbing a pot handle of something cooking on the stove—or better yet, teach them that they’re not allowed in the kitchen or near the stove. You can designate a “safe kitchen” area where your little one can be when you are cooking and need to supervise him. Use chairs or the kitchen table to separate the area, or mark the floor with colored tape to teach him that he should not go beyond that line. Be sure to give him plenty of safe toys to play with so you don’t have to be concerned that he’ll get into anything dangerous. You can have the older children know that it is their job to police Baby and any visiting children concerning the danger zones in your home.

If you ignore some activity that is wrong or dangerous, or if you do not react firmly, they will assume that what they are doing is okay. If you tell them to stop, but then let them continue, that means that what you say isn’t very important, or what you say the first few times doesn’t really count. Their curiosity, of course, will lead them more and more to see what does matter to you. They’ll try to find out when you do mean what you say or when they can safely assume that obeying isn’t really important and they can ignore you. That can have disastrous and even life-threatening results if they try something that could seriously cause them harm when you aren’t looking.

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