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Gets into Everything

What to do:

Self-talk. Say to yourself, "This is what normal, healthy, curious children do. My child just doesn't know it's not okay to get into my purse or stick his finger in the electric outlet. It's important that I teach her how to explore safely-without my getting upset. When I'm calm, he'll be more calm."

Empathy. Ask yourself, "How would I feel if I wanted to explore my world and people tried to stop me? I understand how my child feels-everything is new and exciting!"

Teach. Tell yourself, "I can help my child learn how to safely explore his world."

Childproof and Pay Attention. Keeping doors closed, stairways blocked, cabinets locked, and dangerous areas fenced off will reduce the number of times you have to say "no" to your child. Put things that are valuable out of your young child's reach, and make sure that you are watching him even after you do-be aware of what your child is doing where. Above all, don't leave guns, knives and other dangerous possessions where your child can reach them. LOCK THEM UP!

Make a rule. Rules act as predictable guidelines for children. Telling your child the rules gives her boundaries and limits that she needs. If your child gets into things, teach her to ask you first. Say, "The rule is, if you want something of mine, please come ask me if it's okay to play with it."

Use Reprimands. Reprimand by saying in a kind voice, for example, "Stop opening my desk drawer. Those things in there are not for you to play with. I'm sorry you're getting things out of my desk. The rule is that if you want something out of my desk drawer, you need to ask me."

Decide What's Off-Limits. Decide what your child's boundaries will be and communicate this information early and often. Say, "You may play in the living room or in the kitchen, but not in Mommy (or Daddy's) office. I will keep the door closed to help you remember."

Praise Your Child When She Follows the Rules. Say, "Thank you for following the rule by asking me if you could get the markers out of my desk," or "Thanks for asking if you can look at my makeup. I'll show you all the fun stuff in my makeup bag."

Take Your Child to Calm Time. If your child gets into something that's against your rule, reprimand her and take her to Calm Time to think about how to follow the rule she broke. After Calm Time is over (about 1 minute for each year of age), talk about how to ask you if she wants to play with something of yours.

What not to do:

Don't Leave Guns or Knives Where Children Can Reach Them. No matter how much safety training children receive, keep all guns locked up, each with its own approved trigger lock, and lock up the ammunition in a separate place that is inaccessible to children. Also, keep all knives locked away in a childproof place, no matter how old your child. Just hiding guns and knives is not enough. Children are experts and finding hiding places. Better safe than sorry.

Don't Make Forbidden Things More Inviting by Getting Upset. When you become angry when your child breaks a rule, she'll see that she can get more of your attention from misbehavior and she'll be encouraged to get into trouble more often. Even if she's not looking for attention, she will learn to sneak her explorations if you overreact.

Don't Punish. Rather than punishing your child for being naturally curious and getting into things, teach her how to use her curiosity safely-a skill that will serve her well her entire lifetime. Instead of trying to stamp out inappropriate behavior, emphasize the positive by teaching the behavior you want.

The authors and Raised with Love and Limits Foundation disclaim responsibility for any harmful consequences, loss, injury or damage associated with the use and application of information or advice contained in these prescriptions and on this website. These protocols are clinical guidelines that must be used in conjunction with critical thinking and critical judgment.