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Teaching Your Child Safety

Q. What is the best way to teach safety awareness to young children?

A. The best way is to follow your instincts. It is a natural process. You, your parents, your brothers and sisters, any other close members of your family, and your friends provide just the right input.

You are your child's first and most important teacher. You, your family, and your friends form for your child his or her first and most important social group. Your parent-child relationship is the main model; and you, your relatives, and your friends make up your child's training ground for all future relationships.

You as a parent work around the clock as you nurture, love, guide, support, teach, and protect your child. Safety looms high in your mind at all times. It underlies all other interactions. As a matter of fact, you, with your family and friends provide a safety net for your child. These relationships that you all build up over time are what protect him or her. It is you and all of these people who are nearest and dearest to you who teach your child who to associate with, what to accept from others, what to say, what not to say, and who is okay for getting to know. In addition, through books you read to and with your children about these basic safety precautions, you reinforce the concepts.

While you might think you need a specific formula or some kind of child protection procedure list to follow, it turns out that a major part of the child protective process comes directly from you and your strong family and extended family bonds. You will find that you, your relatives, and your friends tend to do naturally all they can to teach your child to stay close by in busy and crowded places, caution him or her not to run in the street, show him or her how to hold on tight when in a parking lot, and much more. You all cultivate this protective relationship over time. Love is the secret ingredient that makes it all work.

Prevention is always the goal when it comes to handling problems connected with children. As they say, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." However, as we all know, even with the very best of input from you, family and friends, accidents do happen. Where do you go from here?

The first and foremost thing to do in a crisis is to return your child to safety in the fastest and most efficient way possible. Once again, you will know just what to do at just the right time. After that, go right to the attitudes section of the "15 Pillars of Parenting" explained in Constructive Parenting, pp. 15-18. Here is how those pillars apply.

1. Separate the Behavior from Your Child. You do not like that your child ran in the street? but you love your child. After you have protected your child from the harm that could have happened, and after the emotional impact of the event has worn off, begin teaching your child how not to repeat this behavior in the future.

2. Look for the Cause of the Mistaken Behavior. Explore the whole situation thoroughly. Try to figure out if it was caused by a lack of knowledge, a sudden distraction, or even by something that you yourself may have inadvertently said or done. Being able to eliminate the cause is the key to preventing it from happening again.

3. Listen and Communicate. If your child is old enough to give you information from his point of view, by all means listen to it. Even ask for it. Find out as much as you can about what went wrong.

4. Be Positive, Warm, and Supportive. The focus of all communication between you and your child should be on teaching. While you may have gotten excited over the danger and naturally raised your voice at the time, there is no need to chastise your child. You are your child's first and most important teacher.

5. Be a Person, Not a God. Remind yourself right away how many mistakes you make day in and day out. This time your child made one. Share some of your mistakes with your child. Then band together to wipe out this safety problem. Neither one of you wants to see this danger ever happen again.

Spring brings with it the freshness of changes. It is a time of rebirth and a new beginning. Rest assured that you, your family, and your friends are all working naturally on your child's safety. In addition, you now know with confidence how to handle any dangerous situation that might arise. Enjoy the freshness of spring with a great feeling of security in your child's safety.

Ask your questions to Dr. Sally at drsally@drsallyparenting.com., www.drsallyparenting.com, 561-715-9115.

Sally Goldberg, Ph.D., professor of education and author, is an adjunct instructor at Nova Southeastern University and at the University of Phoenix Online. She is also a well-known national conference presenter who gives workshops, presentations, and keynote speeches. You will also see and hear Dr. Goldberg as a frequent specialist on TV and radio. She has a bachelor's and a master's degree from Cornell University. She also has a Ph.D. from the University of Miami. She is a regular writer for the Parent Guide, a Tampa Bay magazine, Today's Parent, a South Florida newspaper, Parents' Monthly, a Sacramento magazine, and Viewpointe, a Palm Beach County newspaper. She is also often quoted in major national magazines and newspapers.

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