Parents strive to protect their children from the very beginning. For example, pregnant mothers are often careful about what they eat and drink. You also can’t leave the hospital until hospital staff has ensured that your baby is securely fastened in a properly-installed child safety seat. As they grow up, we continue to teach our children safe practices: look both ways before you cross the street, don’t run with scissors, and don’t talk to strangers, just to name a few.
What we forget is that children are very observant. Their minds are like giant sponges, soaking up everything their parents do. We parents are major role models for our children. They may say that they want to “Be Like Mike” but they often really want to be like Mom and Dad. So when we tell them to wear their seat belt but we don’t wear our own seat belts, they see and learn from our actions. They may hear what we say, but they learn by what we do. It is just like in the animal kingdom, where young animals learn by watching how their parents live and survive.
We can best teach our children about safety by living what we preach. Just yesterday, I saw a young mother crossing a busy road with her 3-4-year-old child in hand. She had to stop in the middle of the road to wait for traffic to pass. There was a traffic light with a pedestrian walkway just about 50 yards away that she could have easily used to safely cross the busy roadway. Her child was “learning” from Mom a very unsafe practice.
Our children also watch us carefully as we drive. They see how often we speed on residential streets, buckle our seat belts, stop completely at stop signs, run red lights, succumb to road rage, and obey traffic laws and safe practices. Regardless of what we tell our children, if we don’t practice safety in our lives, we are teaching them how to live unsafely. If we want our society to be a better place, let us all try to teach our children through setting a good and safe example of living. After all, we are their biggest and best role model.