Childproofing: Necessary or Lazy Parenting?

I began childproofing my home before my son was born. I had heard so many horror stories about babies sticking their fingers in electrical sockets, pulling TV’s down on themselves and choking on shoe laces that I could not let that be my child’s fate. I plugged every socket, put latches on every cabinet, got a shoe rack for our shoes, cut the cords open on the mini blinds… I admit, I was borderline obnoxious, but I wanted to be safe not sorry. 

The whole time that I was obsessing over baby proofing, a girlfriend who was pregnant with number two told me most of what I was doing was completely unnecessary.  She said she didn’t believe in childproofing, and that she just taught her children boundaries. She insisted that childproofing was a cover-up for lazy parenting. I wanted to insist that she was an ass for saying that.  But she was on baby number two, maybe she knew something I didn't... 

Even though I debated listening to my good friend and been there-done-that mother, I never could get my head around her theory.  How could she possibly teach a six month old not to stick her finger in a socket, or pull cleaning chemicals out of a cabinet? I just could't risk it, I continued childproofing.

But wouldn’t you know, whenever I would take Oliver to her house for a play date,  her daughter acted like a perfect angel while Ollie looked for trouble.  I asked her how she did it, and she said lots of patience and redirecting her child by saying, “NO! that’s not for you! But this is for you.”

She explained that the key was redirection.  She gave her daughter a drawer in the kitchen full of her things, and spaces that were all her own in other areas of the house. When her daughter would get into something she shouldn't, she would redirector to her something that belonged to her.  She created boundaries just like she said, and it worked. (Here is where I wanted to interject a “BITCH!,” but you know what they say, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”)

Recently I started thinking about whether I made a mistake childproofing. Should I have listened to her and created boundaries instead?

Nope! Knowing all I know, I just cannot get my head around not childproofing at all. There are too many dangers in a pre-baby house.  Measures need to be taken to create a safe space.  Plus, once a baby becomes mobile they are fast and crazy, there has to be a level of baby proofing!  

Things like plugging electrical sockets, keeping small objects off of the floor, cutting the loops in the mini blind pulls, clearing things away from windows that can be used as a step to fall out, keeping sharp objects out of reach, fixing furniture so it cannot be pulled forward, and securing the TV should not be overlooked when childproofing. Also, now that Oliver is becoming more and more fascinated with my electronic devices I have started childproofing them too.  There are childproof covers for smartphones and tablets, and recently  when I got a new MacBook Pro, I was able to find the sweetest MacBook Pro case to protect it.  

I love this case!  It's Purple!
And it let's the apple shine through.
So. Cute! 
There is no way around it, childproofing is extremely necessary! Now that being said... I do believe there is truth in some forms of childproofing being "lazy parenting."  One of my biggest regrets is letting Oliver unload my bedside table drawer and empty my bookshelf on daily basis.  I felt that I was choosing my battles wisely (lazy). At toddler stage my day could be one constant “NO!” I don’t want to be that mom yelling NO! all of the time. I try to let Ollie explore and learn lessons on his own. Now that drawer is empty and I have NO idea where any of the stuff is. Slowly, one by one he would make off with something. I chose that battle wrong. It was a perfect chance to teach Ollie to respect mommy’s things. Fail.

Why yes, that book is titled:
Don'ts for Mothers...
We also have a problem with him climbing on the coffee table.  We were so proud of him for climbing, that again we thought we were choosing chose our battles wisely.  Now we have an empty table and a son with no boundaries around furniture.  Fail. Double fail when visiting friends and family.  

I have learned a very valuable lesson about childproofing that I hope I can pass on to parents still in the childproofing stage.  Definitely plug up sockets and stay mindful of small harmful objects, but do create boundaries where necessary.  Basically if you would not want your child doing something at a playdate's house, then don’t let him do it at yours. Keep in mind, making concessions for your child that are not about safety, may be more harmful than good. Babies need baby proofing. Toddlers need boundaries.

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Two confused parents=One amused baby Hopelessly we are trying raise a baby who is clearly smarter than both of us. April is an award-winning writer and blogger. Her work has been published in over ten countries and four languages. From books to newspapers, to print/online magazines and everything in between, you can find her work. For more on April, Visit AprilMcCormick.com


Unknown said...

So true. I'm 100% for childproofing when there are risks to baby (power plugs, knives, chemicals, glass objects) - all it takes is 5 seconds to turn away and they can get into it. I'm also 100% for supervision; when they are near that kind of thing it's a great opportunity to start building those boundaries - the proofing is just a backup for if/when (okay let's be honest here, it's just a When. No 'if') they decide to try it again without you around.
It's part of growing up, and part of growing little people in your home. Luckily, their cute-ass smiles make it all worthwhile!

Unknown said...

OH MY! Yes, here's the deal- even with "childproofing" you HAVE to be an active parent. Because, damn if the kid(s) doesn't figure out how to work the latches on the cabinets, or turn the doorknob to get out, or find an electrical outlet that has something plugged into it rather than just the plug protector... Even with every gadget imaginable, I guarantee they (aka- Chase) will still find a way to find danger in something completely benign. Such as climbing on the couch? Tripping over his own feet? Pulling books off the shelves onto his head? Etc. The thing is that childproofing is more an extra layer to give you an extra 10 seconds. Because let's face it, even if you are right next to them in the same room- unless you never have to sit on the toilet, or cook, or put away dishes, etc- there will be times you have to turn your head for a second, and that's all it takes.

Just my two cents :)

Unknown said...


Cyndi said...

I definitely agree. We baby proofed some when Thomas was a baby, but of course all those little plastic things broke by 2 1/2 and now we don't feel the need to replace them because he understands what is safe & what is not. And thank goodness, because I HATE those plastic cabinet locks! Lmao! I think going to daycare helped us too. Daycare is very good at the redirecting & distraction technique.

Anonymous said...

We do both styles. We babyproofed the kitchen cabinets & put one of those things on the doorknobs to the closet that contains cleaning agents. There aren't any outlets that aren't blocked by furniture so that wasn't an issue & the rest we left up to supervision.

We, too, had an issue with the coffee table. Honey thought it was cute until I explained how mortified I/he/we would be if she did that at someone else's house. So then he got on board with nipping that in the bud. Occasionally she'll backslide in that area, but then she gets a time out, which, thus far, is proving effective with her.

Anonymous said...

I have done plenty of baby-proofing, and I have three kids. The one time we left the door to our downstairs unlocked, our baby took a tumble down a flight of stairs. I was six feet from him. Sometimes they are faster than we are, and we need something to slow them down.

I agree that it's a mix. There's baby-proofing, and there are boundaries. Kids need both. But to each his own.

Lynn said...

Hi April!
I did limited baby proofing. You know, the killer outlets, the cabinet locks on the poison stuff, etc. But I didn't go wild with it. I kept an eye out to be sure they weren't going to kill themselves. But I have to be honest, I never blocked the stairs. They had to learn. We showed them "the crawl" on the stairs. They learned early on, hands AND feet on the stairs. Don't laugh... but my 15 yr old still does it sometimes, when he's tired. And he's 6'1". Even when they were going down the stairs, until they were steady walkers, they had to go down the stairs backwards on all fours. That's how my brothers and I all learned, and we lived... and so have my two, who are now 15 and 12.

I really think that kids need to approach life with confidence. And being able to negotiate small dangers early on is important for building that. I realize this took a lot of serious hands-on time. But it's worth it now. They're great knife jugglers. Kidding!

Kristy J said...

We did a little baby proofing with AJ but not a lot. We do a lot of boundaries and he does pretty good with them. He just started walking so the hands on and setting boundaries is about to go into over drive. The outlets here can't really be baby proofed so we try to put things in front of them or redirect him as soon as he goes near it. This helps going to other people's houses because he doesn't try to touch things he knows he's not supposed to. It does not help if I want to have play dates at our house because the other kids that have their house baby proofed to the hilt will hurt themselves because no one has taught them boundaries. I think it needs to be a mix of both baby proofing and boundaries.

Unknown said...

I did no baby proofing with either of my kids. My son is almost 20 and seems to have turned out okay -- no electrocutions or loss of limbs or the like. He is often deemed respectful and kind by other adults, so I think I did all right by him. My daughter is almost 9, and she definitely understands boundaries -- but I've had to work with her much more energetically as she spends half her week with her father {we're a split family}, and they are very, um, RELAXED where rules and follow-through are concerned. So even with baby-proofing, I'd still have to stay on her constantly to drive home appropriate behavior.

I don't think there is any one blanket statement that fits for every child and all situations. As long as your kid isn't a douche-wagon and doesn't break crap at other people's houses... and as long as your kid is nice and funny and listens pretty well... then whatever method you've used is the right one. I don't believe there are truly any parenting "FAILS" because either you gave it your best shot and rolled with the punches, or else you were an abusive ass-hat / neglectful jerk-face. I'm thinking, based on how much you care for your son and by how loving you appear in your blog posts, that you are in the first group.

To summarize... YOU AREN'T A PARENTING FAIL! You're simply a parent. And that's an awesome group to belong to. It means we love our babies and do our best to be the parent they need us to be. Some people say the road to hell is paved with good intentions... but the fact is, the road to heaven is paved with the same damn material. Give yourself a pat on the head, Mommy. You're doing it right. And anyone who disagrees is a fart-faced-poop-brain. Baby-proof, don't baby-proof... WHATEVER! Dole out the hugs and call it a night! :)

Unknown said...

I think that this is a great topic. I have a 6 month old and we are just beginning to baby proof. I couldn't think about doing it before now. We have wooden stairs and there is no way in hell I am letting her climb up or down the stairs alone anytime soon. We moved the wires from the TV and plugged the outlets and I put a baby gate up to keep her away from the stairs. But beyond that I think I will just try the redirecting method as she gets older. I want her to be safe and me to be able to relax and enjoy her childhood without worrying about her dying on the stairwell or electrocuting herself while I'm in the bathroom.