We should all strive to teach safe practices by our actions and not just our words. Parents strive to teach safe practices to their children. Pregnant mothers are careful about what they eat and drink and what they do to protect their unborn child. After a baby is born, the child cannot leave the hospital until the hospital staff has checked to see that the child is secured properly in a child safety seat and that the seat is installed correctly in the car. As children grow up, they learn by watching adults, especially their parents and grandparents.
We may tell them about safe practices but if they watch us and we do not practice what we preach, how can we really be upset when they mirror our unsafe practices? We tell children to look both ways before they cross the street, to never run with scissors, to avoid talking to strangers and to never play with fire. But at various times of the year, adults will violate those very things we teach. On the 4th of July, adults will play with fireworks. On camping trips, adults will play in the fire. Adults will run across a busy street instead of a crosswalk. Children who see us do those things think, since we do it, it must OK.
What we all tend to forget is that children are very observant. A child’s mind is like a giant sponge. They watch everything adults and parents do. We are all role models to all children. Children want to be and do what adults and older children do. Therefore, when we tell them to wear their seat belt but we do not wear our own seat belt, do not be surprised when they do not wear their seat belt when they begin driving. They may hear what we say, but they really learn by what we do. It is similar to the animal world, where young animals learn by watching how their parents live.
We can teach them about safety by living what we preach. Just yesterday, I saw a young mother crossing a busy road in the middle of the block with her three- or four-year-old child in-hand. She had to stop in the middle of the road to wait for traffic. There was a traffic light with a lighted pedestrian walkway just about 50 yards away. Her child was “learning” a very unsafe practice from her mom.
Our kids also watch us carefully as we drive. They see how fast we drive. They see how we change lanes and how close we follow the car in front of us. Do we stop completely at stop signs? Do we run red lights or when it is just a little yellow? Do we yell, curse, and honk at other drivers who cuts us off? Do we obey the laws and live with safe practices? If we don’t, then regardless of what we tell our children, we are teaching them how to live unsafe lives. If we want our society to be better for our children, then let us all try to teach our kids by setting a safe example. We are the role models for the children of our communities. We should all think about what we do because by our actions we are teaching children how to act like adults.