This article is dedicated to my daughters Laura and Emma.
By “Day 1” I mean right after the delivery of that bouncing baby boy or girl. As parents we are charged with keeping our children safe in too many ways to count. Kids watch, absorb and then mimic everything in life including the way their parents deliver safety. For instance, how do children perceive the world of driving and all its dangers? Through their parents driving behaviors of course. From the first day they get placed into their infant car seat, then booster seat, and finally start driving themselves they are learning driving habits from their parents. Right from the beginning we need to teach good safety behaviors and for driving that means: drive defensively, attentively, don’t use your cell phone, and slow down in bad weather. We need to lead by example whenever we can.
Kids enjoy challenging their parents and in some cases showing how superior their intelligence is. My eight year old daughter taught me a safety lesson the other day. After picking her up from school and crossing a set of railroad tracks she said, “Daddy, you didn’t stop, look and listen.” I was solely depending on the automated crossing lights and arms to keep me safe. Rarely do these fail but we know that habits are hard to break and by not stopping to look and listen will I forget to do that when I come to an uncontrolled railroad crossing?
The focus of head trauma in sports these days has spilled over into other areas including recreational activities liking biking, inline skating and skiing. Using a helmet is now smart and not as uncool as it was just ten years ago. Laying the groundwork with these kinds of expectations when they are young helps to create a safety-smart mindset for life. A helmet likely saved my life when I got hit by a car while biking one time. According to witnesses I completed a mid-air cartwheel then hit my head on the city street. Do my kids where helmets when they bike—absolutely! They love to hear daddy’s story about his bike accident and when I show them my scars it seals the deal.
Most kids can be effectively schooled in the ways of safety. In fact nearly all kids inherently possess the genesis of root-cause analysis. How often have you heard the question “why” asked by a child no less than five times in pursuit of an answer? Kids want to understand the reason for why things are. Reward their curiosity and persistence by taking the time to explain. “Daddy, why don’t you just use a chair to stand on instead of a ladder to change the light bulb”? Because dear, chairs are meant for sitting on not standing on.
Here’s another example—kids are drawn to video. While previewing a ladder safety video for a training session my daughters wandered over to my computer. I took the opportunity to educate them not only about my work but a bit about ladder safety too. I was amazed at how the video (a well done instructional piece by Werner Ladders) held their attention. My hope is that they recall at least one safe practice from it. Unfortunately all parents have to battle the same adolescent mind which reinforces unsafe outcomes and allows a young person to conclude “My behavior doesn’t need changing unless I get hurt or I’m punished.” We are up against some tall odds but we must never give up.
It’s a commitment to safety education for life. Good and bad behaviors are learned at an early age. My kids see me mowing the grass and using ear plugs, work boots, safety glasses, and long pants. My hope is that if they see someone not dressed like me they conclude that the person is at a greater risk of getting hurt. Life is challenging and dangerous enough as it is. We’ll see if I feel any less anxious about my daughter’s safety when they move out on their own. Probably not.
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