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Teaching Your Child About Safety

Living dangerously

Children think nothing of sticking their fingers into sockets, playing with matches and glass paperweights, or climbing onto windowsills. From the children's point of view, they are just exploring the world around them when 'mom' and 'dad' kick up a big fuss over nothing. In their ignorance of the dangers associated with such activities, children think that it's all fun and games. Parents can't seem to turn their backs for a minute without them getting into some heart-stopping escapade. In such situations, the parent's fear translates into yelling, punishing or even a good spanking. 

Giving the wrong message

Hard-hitting as these responses may seem, they fail to get the message across to children that what they have done is dangerous and that their parents are reacting out of concern. When you yell at your child for running across the road without looking, she does not realize that you are worried that she might hurt herself. She feels that you're angry with her because she is doing something she's been told not to do. If you punish her for trying to 'iron' her clothes in your absence, she may think she's a bad person without comprehending the real reason for the punishment. Even worse, when you chase her around the house screaming at her to put down the kitchen knife, she may think that it's great fun to play catch with 'mummy'. It is imperative that you make her understand that certain activities are dangerous without squashing her zest for life and making her scared of her own shadow.

Tips on how to react

  • The cardinal rule when you find your child in a dangerous situation is not to panic. Stop him from doing whatever he is doing in a calm manner and then give yourself a few minutes for the adrenaline rush to slow.
  • Once you have calmed down, do try not to lecture or yell because your child is just going to turn a deaf ear.
  • Instead, make him think about the consequences of his actions without painting a scary picture. For instance, if he has run across the street without looking both ways you can put him behind the wheel of your parked car and ask him whether he can see the children playing in front. In this way, he will realize that drivers often find it difficult to see children.
  • Most children are fascinated by fire. If you forbid them to play with matches, you are just encouraging them to do just that. Thus, it may be a good idea for you to light a match and let your child hold it with your help. In case, he gets playful, the worst that can happen is that he will get singed by the flame, which will be an effective lesson for the future. 
  • Once you have done this, make it a standing rule that he cannot light matches unless you or your spouse is present.
  • Children are also drawn to water. Therefore, send your child for swimming lessons as soon as he is old enough. 
  • It is very likely that confronted with a situation where your child is in imminent danger, you will find it difficult to maintain your cool. All your resolutions will fly out the window and you may yell at your child or even hit him. If this happens, make it a point to apologize to your child and explain that you love him and that your reaction stemmed from concern.
  • All these steps are still no guarantee that your child is not going to do something dangerous. So keep matches, medicines, poisons, sharp and breakable objects away from your children. 

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