As I continue to work on things away from this blog (which is a collection of Free-Time/Casual Online Writing, Remarks, And Notes By ME Whelan) and continue to figure out what goes and what stays of my existing online-writing, the de-emphasizing of one or another continues as well....

Friday, May 29, 2015

Why Otherwise Smart Kids Who Know The Safety Rules Don't Always Follow Them

What too many parents/adults don't realize is that you really can't teach children safety rules and think that's good enough.

In fact, I can think of a few times when even as an adult I've taken a risk that - really - could have been disastrous if I weren't correct in assuming it would be OKAY.

First, I'll offer an example involving children. When my own children were little they were always pretty cautious and sensible and emotionally mature. And they were smart children. So were their three cousins and the two other children they were all playing with one day out on my mother's front lawn. My daughter was the youngest and around four. The rest of the group ranged from about six to twelve. They all had parents (including mine) who told them over and over again about not ever talking to strangers. They all probably heard it at school as well (although, of course, my daughter may not yet have heard it at preschool).

It was someone's birthday, and we adults were in the house; knowing that the whole group of kids was outside and so assuming they were all fine - and they were. Somewhere along the way they came in both looking for a drink and delivering a piece of advertising, which whoever brought it in placed on the dining room table.

I asked, "Where did you get that?" One of the children kind of proudly said, "The man and the lady gave it to us and said give it to your mother." I said, "What man and lady?" and the reply was, "The man and lady in the car."

I said, "In the car! What have we said about talking to people in cars?" and the child said, "but they were nice." That's when a few of the others backed him up and "confirmed" that the strange man and woman "were nice".

The advertisement was for a business in town, so chances are the people were fine (particularly since all eight children had returned to the house :/ . But, the point is there's always the chance someone won't be fine. When all is said and done, children just don't get it. They think they get it. They intend to do what they're told and to follow safety rules, but they're not mature enough to always stick to rules they more than know well because they are children.

As an adult I've had a few times when I've taken rides with strangers because (and no matter how safety-conscious, "smart", or otherwise sensible I am - and I"m a really cautious person), taking that ride just seemed like the better option. One such time was when my car broke down right under a bridge where it blocked the road. Other cars started coming and backing up, there were downpours that created some flooding, and I had my two-and-a-half year old son in the car. He got scared when he knew the car wouldn't go, so he started crying.

A very nice seeming young couple stopped and offered me a ride to their house "just up the road" where the guy would go inside and call someone for me. (There were no cell phones then.) I wasn't comfortable about it, especially since I had my son with me; but I didn't know what else to do. I certainly couldn't walk with him with me and with the flooding. So, against my better judgment I climbed into the back of this perfectly nice seeming couple's black Trans Am, at which time the guy drove up winding and wet hills at - truly - about seventy miles an hour, I'd guess. Maybe it was sixty and just felt like seventy because of the rain and the loud Trans Am. Either way, the roads are narrow, winding, steep, and curvy; and all I could think about was if an accident happened nobody would ever guess where that my son and I were involved.

I've got a couple of similar stories, all of which (as MOST often is the case) turned out perfectly fine. The point is, though, that once in awhile taking that chance leads to horror and/or disaster for the person who sizes up the people involved and the situation and takes that stupid chance against their better judgment.

Both were years ago now, but I can think of two cases just in Massachusetts, where I live. There was one case in which a young woman thought she had to wait for hours for AAA in bad weather/circumstances, so she accepted a guy's offer of a ride and was murdered. Another was a nineteen-year-old young man who made the mistake of giving a hitchhiker a ride.

People much older than children run into situations, size up the person/people involved, decide "it's probably OKAY", and learn they were wrong. There are those who say they don't want to go through life not trusting people, and most people generally agree. The thing is, though, that "not trusting anyone ever" is very different from "trusting everyone".

In any case, no matter how smart or well behaved or seemingly sensible children are, and no matter how much their parents think they know them; children who have not, in fact, been raised not to trust or raised to like people in general may be more likely to feel confident and grown-up enough to trust their own judgment and maybe decide a rule can broken "just this once" - and that's why they can't be trusted to follow those safety rules 100% of the time.

Image: ME Whelan

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