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Dangerous Behavior: What's a Mama to Do?

From hot fires to sharp objects to running out onto the street, it's a tricky to teach the little ones about the hazards and dangers of life.  Julia has quite a dilemma with her son's fascination with tying himself up.  Julia needs your advice on how to handle her delicate situation.  She writes:

I am having a HUGE problem with my 3 1/2 year old son. He has taken to tying everything up. He will take the laces out of his shoes and tie them around pretty much everything he can find. Recently he has decided to tie himself up and claim that "someone has tied me up" it started out quite cute because he really knew how to work the lower lip (Oscar anyone???). Until recently it has been very innocent. At least 3 or 4 times he has tied something around his neck. I tried being calm and explaining that this is very dangerous and we don't put things around our necks (fortunately my husband doesn't wear a tie for work, that would be too confusing...) until today. I was at a fellow urban mama's house and was inside the house for a brief moment to get my purse, looked outside to check on the kids and he was on a plastic bin in front of a tree with the rope used to climb the tree around his neck. My heart is still racing as I type this. I lost it as I am sure most of you mamas would. I go t more detailed about what could happen, i.e. killing himself, but being only 3 1/2 years old I know he didn't get it. Has anyone out there gone through anything similar? If you have, any advice? I have tried taking laces and the like away, but he seems to find things I wouldn't have even thought of. I keep thinking of all the horrible things that could have happened, and am very grateful he is sweetly sleeping away upstairs. Please help!

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hmm. I remember freaking my mom out like that once with the curtain rope when I was about that age. I even got ropeburn on my neck.

What about getting him a toy specifically dealing with string or rope, so that he could maybe get his fair share of tying that way? And maybe he could have that be the only thing he ties - other things "aren't for tying."

I really haven't had to deal with this personally, but I used to have a little wooden thing that looked like a mushroom and it had little hooks on it, and it was a little crocheting toy- it came with a bunch of yarn and i knotted it a certain way and it stiched into a little knitted tube, I think.

I am so sorry for your scare. I hope you get some good advice. good luck!

My boys, 7 and 4 now, have both been caught tying string or other things around their necks at some point. You are in a strange age where they are starting to play more independently but yet they are discovering so many potential dangers. I tend to think of the worst case scenario for everything, and I'm trying not to pass that paranoia on to my kids but it's really hard! I've had to tell them both a few times to never, ever put anything around their necks(and never, ever put plastic bags over their heads/never wear binoculars around their necks while playing on play structures) and they always ask me why. I just explain that it could hurt them very badly or even kill them. (And we've had many discussions on what dying means too. Luckily my older son has become somewhat of a safety officer and tends to alert us if he thinks his brother is doing something dangerous. But generally, if they are in the other room and they've been playing quietly for too long, I get suspicious and peek in on them!
It will get easier and they understand more, but you really did have a big scare. I would've flipped out too, and that is probably the best thing that you could've done to hammer in your fear!

My 5 year old son 'experimented' with that a few times last year and the year before. 15 years ago my brother killed himself (age 24) by strangulation so I can relate to your feelings of panic.

I tell my boy point blank (as the situations present themselves) that tieing anything around the neck, (putting bags over his head, running out in front of cars, playing with knives, etc.) is NOT okay, not acceptable.
In situations like this, I explain why I'm upset (because he figures I'm angry AT him) And I tell him that the behavior can and has killed people (I'm careful NOT to say that it can kill him--NLP!) And I'd rather be mad about it now than have to take him to the hospital or something.
He's been to a few funerals and we've talked about death ("Bye bye forever").

My take on the strangulation and other dangerous behavior is that we are very curious at that age and we are exploring our worlds. At that age, kids are also begining to test boundries and see what is acceptable, what will get mom upset, etc. Which is why I tell him outright that putting string, rope, anything around his neck is not okay and will not be tolerated and is reason for "time out" or some other sort of punishment (can't watch a favorite t.v. show?) In other words, it's a serious offense. In his kid brain, it's not worth losing the right to watch Power Rangers!

I also keep in mind that as our children get older, into the teen years,more dangers lurk! I want them to know what is okay and what is dangerous. People do better when they know the "whys", why drinking and driving is a bad idea, for instance.

oh boy... I gasped when I read your entry! I am so glad that scare is over! Your heart must still be racing!!
My son has tried this a few times with string he finds, or takes off of something (ribbon, etc). I'm fine with him playing with it carefully (I ask him to be safe), but if he puts it around his neck, I raise my voice and very sternly tell him to take if off immediately. Basically, I get my voice to a volume level and sharpness that scares him. I reserve this voice for "life threatening behavior" like running into the street (talk about heart attack!) and things like that. It visibly shakes him into attention and he knows stops. Then he usually asks "why" he is supposed to stop, so I try to explain about keeping your body safe, etc. I always feel that this is the hardest because I don't want to scare him...just make him cautious. If it seems like he truly didn't know what he was doing was wrong, I give him one more chance (while I monitor very closely). But if he does it again, or does it knowing it's unsafe behavior, I not only take the offending string/whatever away from him, I also take away a privilege. I'm not saying this always works, but it works enough. He doesn't walk along the back of the sofa anymore, or stick his head through the blinds, or crawl off the back of the deck...and most importantly he doesn't run into the street! My gray hairs are coming out in force!
Good luck and stick with it! This too shall pass, as they say...

Oh, you are not alone! My son, 3 3/4 has been spending the summer tying everything! Ropes for bridges, shoe laces for knots, etc. When he got into the body-tying, I took him on a boat and we channeled the tying into knot making and gates (how to be a pirate and a captain). We also gave him a pull cart with bungy cords that he now ropes things on an hauls around (his treasure from the pirate ship.

We are often ambushed now with gates of ropes across the room or path that we must pay a "toll" to cross. --- so far with good success in the redirection.

I try to envision one day, my amazing rope tying sailor. Maybe there's something there for you and your sweet boy too!

Wow. That is scary. We've found that our 3.5 yr old goes through "fixation phases" that change - right now it's buttons. He pushes ALL buttons - elevators, alarm clocks, fire alarms, you name it. We've had random things go off in the middle of the night that we don't even know how to "undo". We've learned that we can't fight the fixation so we support it. If he has a need to push buttons, we let him do so in a "safe" way. We gave him a calculator, an old cell phone, an old remote - you get it. He loves it. And he's actually learned how to use the calculator by adding up numbers.

For the rope tying, maybe you could try lacing cards or beads. I'd also suggest velcro shoes for a while if it makes you feel better when he's not within view.

Best of luck!

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