It’s Alive!

Dear Mamas,

My three year old freaks out and starts crying every time I turn on the vacuum cleaner. I have no idea why. I have to clean the rug occasionally and even if he’s in another room he has a fit. What do I do?

Jessica

Dear Jessica,

First of all, don’t worry. Kids this age are often afraid of loud noises or big machines that MAKE loud noises like vacuum cleaners and fire trucks. Part of the problem is the noise and part of it is the suddenness with which the noise occurs. One minute it’s quiet and still, the next minute it’s loud and moving!

Children this age also don’t understand the concept of “alive” and may think that the vacuum cleaner is waking up and coming after them when they hear it go on.  So take time to talk to him about the cord and how it plugs in. Show him the switch and let him turn it on and off. Begin explaining how it can’t move unless you make it move and that it is a just a machine and can’t hurt him.

While it is off and unplugged, let him try pushing it or touching it. You can also hold him while you are vacuuming. Just make sure that you are acting happy and unconcerned and saying things like, “Wow! Look at how this vacuum cleaner picks up all the cracker crumbs and dust. Isn’t that great?”

Eventually, he’ll get the idea. But no matter how comical the situation seems to you, never, never laugh at him or tell him he’s being silly. And never force him to touch it or go near it if he doesn’t want to. It’s just one of those things that takes time to understand. Hey, he’s only three, right?

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.


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