Street Danger

My hands are full with a very busy and quick little 2 1/2 year old boy and a 5 mo old infant. When home I'm able to juggle both of their needs and am glad for the time being that my 5 mo old isn't mobile yet. Today I went to the library with a friend who also has young children. My friend said, "I'm afraid your little boy is going to be hit by a car, he just runs straight out into the street without fear" I realized I have got to find an effective way to teach him that the street equals danger!!!! I always explain to him that cars don't stop for little boys and he needs to stop when he gets to the street to wait for mom and dad to help him cross. Obviously what I'm doing is not working. Please help me with a strategy to teach him to stay away from the street!!

This is a situation I recently faced. I will share with you the why and what of my actions.

I was trying to load the car with the diaper bag, a large stack of boxes for the mailbox, and my children. Just as I got the last box in, out of the corner of my eye I saw that my little one put his foot in the street.

I turned and yelled, "STOP!" I didn't use a you-are-in-so-much-trouble voice, but more of a panicked-what-if-there-were-a-car voice. I ran over to him, as if though he had been hurt by a car. And scooped him up and said, "Are you alright?" over and over. I started kissing his arms and legs, "telling him that I was so happy his arms were safe and his legs didn't get hurt."

I think that my mind's eye had taken me to the moment of a car crash and I wanted him to feel my fear that something really bad could happen (more than anger or a casual response). I wanted him to feel the gravity. And when I started crying (yes, I am pretty sure the tears were more real than forced), I then told him that it isn't safe...something very bad could happen (I think I used the words tire and squish - but I can't remember) and that he always has to hold my hand in the street. He started crying a little bit, realizing how serious, not because I was angry, but because he had done something that made me scared and very sad.

We haven't had another problem. He is very careful, and I have now empowered him to help me check both ways and tell me when it is safe. But, he always has a hand.

So, that is the what. The why is that sometimes I think helping a child understand the emotion behind a serious situation helps them learn. Sure, some kids can be told not to go near the street, and just won't. But, I think it is important to help teach them, that it isn't just a rule - don't eat on the couch - or something. That it is about safety, and the consequence could be really big.

I am sure there are other ways, so please share what has worked for you...

Painting: Paris Street, Rainy Day, 1877/Gustave Caillebotte — The Art Institute of Chicago


Kyndra said...

You taught me this tactic long ago and I have used it often. My daughter is always quick to repeat bad behavior if I get mad about it, but if I get sad about it and help her understand the dangers involved she never does it again. Recently she picked up a butcher knife and we did something very similar to what you did with the street, and she started to cry and now she says "Danger" when looks at the knife on the counter.

Afton said...

Good advice. Lots of it on this blog! I need to catch up and find out how and why you were prompted to start this and how you have the time. I always loved watching you be a mom, you're so inspiring!