Today is my post on "Staying in the SAFE ZONE with Mama". We practice this with Caroline all the time and even take trips to the store just to do so. This will wrap up our BFBN week. Thanks for joining us!
Now that we have a walking, running, very independent toddler, we have to start considering safety a lot more when we are out. Caroline is now a little over 1.5 years old. It is too early, in my opinion, to worry her about "stranger danger". She wouldn't fully understand the concept, and there is no need for my little 1.5 year old to worry about such things that might scare her. What we are doing with Caroline in an effort to protect her, however, is teaching her about safe practices when out.
This basically consists of a "safe zone" by Mama or Daddy. In order to keep Caroline in this safe zone, we are teaching her some basic concepts:
1. Basic instructions (come, wait, turn around, stop, etc.): This has taken a lot of practice, and we are still working on perfecting everything, but Caroline listens pretty well at this point. I learned a few weeks ago, that Caroline needs to be looking at me before I give her an instruction. This one addition to our practice has helped tremendously in the results we get! I have her "Look at Mama", then give her a request.
"Come" has been one of the hardest "commands" for Caroline to listen to. I recently started giving
her more specific instructions. Instead of "come", I tell her to "come touch Mama's leg". She used to head in my direction, but not come completely over to me. Now she understands fully what I mean. She comes all the way to me and touches my leg before any praise happens.
2. Setting physical boundaries: If we are playing outside, I point out physical markers to Caroline and tell her how far she is allowed to go by herself. I use trees, plants, lampposts, etc. We even have her go touch the item so she knows exactly what we are saying. When in a store or other public areas, I don't always require that Caroline hold my hand. I do require that she stay right by my side, however. If she doesn't do this, she has to hold my hand. Period. No negotiating. It's a one time chance since this is a huge safety concern. If she runs off once, she is done walking without holding my hand. If she refuses to hold my hand she rides in the cart/stroller/or is held. She is told the rules as we enter each scenario so she has a heads up.
3. Listen the first time: This is the tough one at this age. I give Caroline a few chances when we are at home practicing. When we are out, however, there are real safety concerns. As a result, there are immediate consequences, as mentioned above, that I enforce the first time she doesn't listen. Practice makes perfect, however. We all know that we can't expect our little ones to follow rules perfectly at this age if we don't give them practice. So, not only do we practice at home, we go out just to practice these skills. I'm the mom at target that has nothing to purchase (although we all know that I probably find something), walking around with my daughter practicing these instructions. We plan these outings regularly just to give Caroline lots of practice. She also gets to practice things like going left, right, putting things back, staying quiet, walking not running, saying hello to be polite, waving hello if she'd rather, etc. The outing provides HUGE learning opportunities.
4. Setting expectations and explaining them: I try and set Caroline up for success, by telling her the expectations every time we walk into a store (and other public places). I remind her that she needs to listen to Mama, that she needs to stay close to Mama, that she needs to look at Mama when I ask her to, that when it's time to go she needs to calmly leave with me, etc. Telling her these expectations up front, allows us to be proactive. She knows ahead of time what is expected, and will be more likely to listen when I ask her to do something.
We'll talk to Caroline about strangers at a more appropriate age. In the meantime, I feel comfortable knowing that we are creating safe habits with her. We are always reminding her and have high expectations that she typically exceeds, as a result of the practice, practice, practice. That's not to say we don't have those moments where she is running around like the toddler that she is, and not listening. We certainly do! I just remember to stay consistent, keep my expectations clear, and provide immediate consequences so she learns. This might mean I hold her or we leave the store, but it is well worth the lesson in the moment!