A baby gate was not something that I initially anticipated needing. We don’t have any stairs or accesses to dangerous spots, and we never considered the kitchen to be out of bounds. Plus, our daughter has always disliked being confined, and we generally let her go wherever she wants, as long as she stays out of trouble. Most of the gates I had seen her over $50 anyway, and I certainly wasn’t going to pay that kind of money for something that seemed so extraneous.
Then we decided to potty train our daughter, and I read John Rosemond’s Toilet Training Without Tantrums. I love pretty much all of John Rosemond’s books. He approaches child-rearing in a common-sense, old-fashioned manner, based on what has worked for the majority of people in the past. Some of his books are kinda repetitive, so I have just a basic set of A Family of Value, the Six-Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy Children, Making the ‘Terrible’ Two Terrific, and Toilet Training Without Tantrums.
I decided to start the potty training while my husband was travelling on business for a month. That way, I wouldn’t have to worry about cooking and could devote myself fully to cleaning up messes if necessary, especially if it took a long time for her to get it. You never really know with potty training; the kid could get it in a day, or it could take weeks. So I tried to prepare for the worst; I went ahead and stocked up on food and supplies in case we were stuck at home for a couple weeks.
Two of the recommendations for kids who struggle with potty training were a small timer and a baby gate. If necessary, the parent can set the timer to go off at likely times when the child should need to use the potty, whether the child realizes it or not. And if a child is particularly stubborn (especially older children), and the parent knows that the child understands the concept but simply refuses to use the potty, the gate can be used to confine the child in the bathroom, with his potty, toys and books, until he decides to use the potty.
Fortunately, my daughter had the potty 95% figured out by the second day, so I didn’t have to resort to either of those measures. But I found some other great uses for the baby gate!
Now, I don’t advocate blocking children into a room for hours at a time merely to avoid some annoyance. Toddlers and children need as much freedom as possible to explore and learn, and confinement doesn’t aid that. But in certain circumstances and for relatively short periods, having a child-free zone in your house can be a wonderful thing.
I started out putting the baby gate in the door to our bedroom, essentially gating our daughter OUT of one room, as opposed to IN to one room. I had put several boxes in there for sorting and organizing, and I didn’t want her undoing all my work. Even after I put the gate up, I didn’t immediately spend a lot of time in there where she couldn’t get to me. Most of the time I was out in the living room, and she didn’t need to be in our bedroom at all. Eventually she got used to the gate, and wouldn’t fuss if I went in there for short periods of time to do things like fold laundry or make the bed.
Once she had the potty training pretty well down, we decided it was (long past) time to teach her to put herself to sleep, and we started using the gate at nap times and bed times in the door to her room. When she gets ready for bed, we put the gate up, then do the book-reading routine in her room with her. Then we tell her it’s time for her to go to sleep in her bed, that she has a potty in the room if she needs it, and we’ll be right in the other room if she needs something. Whether she accepts this peacefully (10% of the time) or shrieks in outrage (90% of the time), we at least get some time alone without a toddler crawling all over us. Every five minutes or so, if she’s still upset, we go over and matter-of-factly repeat the reality of the situation to her. She usually decides to entertain herself after 5 or 10 minutes, and often falls asleep in her bed with a book.
During the day, I put the gate back in the door to our room so I can do things like fold laundry, use the phone, or just lie down without being walked on. The cat also appreciates a safe place where he can sleep without being jabbed with sticks and toys.
I believe that parental care is best for infants and small children, but especially if you are a full-time stay-at-home mom, sometimes you just need a break from being pawed and climbed on. A gate is great because the child can still see you, and you can easily step over it as you move through the house.
I ended up purchased the Evenflo Position and Lock Gate for about $10 from Wal-Mart. (Mine is neither pink nor blue, but a neutral wood color.) It’s perfect for what we need. It uses pressure to stay in place, so there’s no damage to the door frame, and it’s easy to move around. Pressure-mounted models are not safe for top-of-stairs use, though, so if you need to guard a staircase you’ll have to invest in a screw-in gate. My daughter has only worked it loose once, and that was after several cumulative days of yanking on it. If you reset it every day, if should hold fine.