Some General Considerations for Parents and Caregivers
by Karen Sibal
Supervision is Key
Even after considering all the safety measures possible, adult supervision is still first and foremost to ensuring child safety. It’s important to always try and have your children play within your sight – it only takes a split second for something serious to happen.
Set Limits and Rules
It’s all about self-discipline: children need to learn about limits, rules and boundaries. What’s appropriate for your home? What guidelines will ensure your child is both safe and secure in their surroundings? Try setting well-defined limits and explain them to your children so they understand what’s expected of them. Rules should also be age-appropriate, short and simple to understand. They should be about the action you want the child to do – for example, “please don’t talk with your mouth full of food – you could choke.” Also, try not to have too many rules. A few simple rules that are firm and fairly applied will help children learn what behaviour is expected of them.
Once you’ve established a rule, it’s important to follow through. Be consistent in enforcing the rule each day. If the rules are constantly changing, it’s hard for children to know what behaviour is expected of them. They may be confused and act out, resulting in behaviour that tests your limits. Occasionally, when rules have to change because of circumstances (for example, you have to put the kids to bed earlier than usual), try to give your children advanced notice so they have time to think about the change, what is means to them and how they can adjust their behaviour.
Offer Positive Reinforcement
When your child follows one of your rules, it’s important for parents to acknowledge it. While we’re often quick to point out when our kids don’t follow the rules, we tend to overlook giving praise for a job well done. Focus on the behaviour rather than on the child. For example, avoid saying “good girl or good boy.” Try saying “good listening” or “thank you for not jumping on the bed”. You can also acknowledge good behaviour through hugs, kisses, high-fives, and lots of smiles!
Offer Practical Choices and Redirect Behaviour
So your child is trying to do something totally unsafe, like performing an Olympic dive off the kitchen table aiming to land right on the family cat. Instead of scolding the child, try offering a practical alternative and gently try to redirect the activity. For example, if your child really wants to jump, you could offer cushions as an alternative, or maybe line up some toys on the floor and have him jump over them. Children are naturally curious. Redirecting behaviour in a positive way will ensure your child explores in a safe setting.
Be a Model for Safe Behaviour
As parents and caregivers, we’re the biggest role models for our kids. Children watch everything we do and say. If you model safe behaviour and follow the rules that you ask your children to follow, you’re more likely to see your kids follow in your footsteps. When your four-year old child asks about something they’re not allowed to touch, for example, he sees you stirring a pot of soup on the stove, take the time to explain that the pot is hot and it could hurt him if he gets too close – that this is best done by a grown up. Avoid attracting attention to hazards. Try using electrical appliances when children are not watching you.
Involve the Family – Make Safety Fun!
Children need to be free to play, learn and explore their world – and to have fun while doing it! This freedom is vital to the growth and development of healthy, secure and happy children. Safety around the home, while important, does not mean that children have to live in a bubble. Parents and caregivers must find the fine balance in rules and fun, alternative activities that work best for their home.
1. Keeping Children Safe at Home, (2004) Halton Region Health Department, Ontario Canada.
Karen Sibal is a freelance writer, researcher and communications consultant. She is the owner of Sibal Writing and Consulting, a firm that specializes in public policy research and effective communications and web solutions for all types of organizations. Over the past 15 years, Karen has done work for local and provincial governments and several not-for-profit organizations. Karen has written extensively on children’s issues and has recently helped with launching an association for mothers and children in her community. She is a member of the Halton-Peel Communications Association and has also served as the managing editor of a government child welfare journal. Karen is currently authoring a children’s book series for preschool children and keeps busy with various community projects.
Karen lives with her husband and two girls, ages 2 and 8 years, in Oakville, Ontario Canada. For more information about Karen, please visit her web site at www.sibal.ca or call 416-580-9097.
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