About a year ago, my sister shared a story with me about how a young child got into a fatal car accident. The mom was ordering food at the counter of a fast food chain, and the child was running around. The mom just let him be, and without knowing it, the child had run outside when the door to the store was open. He ran into the street, and an oncoming car ran into him. The child was crushed by the impact and died on the spot. While we were talking, Kyle walked in, and I instinctively pulled him close to me. I explained to him what we were discussing, and I tried to help him understand what happened. Though I was afraid that he won’t fully understand what I was saying, I saw that he was really listening and trying to process. This made me realise that it’s never too early to teach kids how to avoid accidents and to stay safe. I used this conversation to remind him of something that happened the week before.
A week earlier, we were sitting in our restaurant with friends, when Kyle and another child ran out the door. We immediately got up and ran after them, because we were afraid they would go into the parking area where a lot of cars pass. I know Kyle likes cars and buses, and I was worried that he may run after a bus if he sees one. Fortunately, I’ve already taught Kyle since he was two years old that he shouldn’t go into parking lots and streets on his own. So when we got outside, I saw that Kyle stopped at the sidewalk and didn’t go further. He was actually just playing on the side with the leaves on the ground. Still, I scolded him and told him that he needed to ask permission before he goes out. He tried to justify himself by saying that he just wanted to play, and I told him that he can play, but he still needs to ask first so we can guide him. I explained that there are many things that could happen, like someone might take them or they might get hit by a car if they go out on their own. I could tell that he wasn’t really listening, because he still tried to argue that he wasn’t wrong in going outside on his own.
I used the story of the accident to remind Kyle of safety, and the things he should do when he wants to play. I told him, “What the baby did was not good. The baby also just wanted to play, but he wasn’t thinking if it was safe to go out into the road.” I was trying to see if Kyle understood. Kyle asked, “So the baby got hurt? Did he have to go to the hospital?” I didn’t tell him that the child died, because he he won’t understand. Instead, I said the baby’s head was broken. So I asked him, “Is Kyle going to go to the road on alone?” I was worried how he would reply. But he said, “No.” I asked him why, and he answered, “Because it’s not safe. It’s very dangerous. Because a car might hit me.” I probed further – “You don’t like a car to hit you?” He said, “No, because it will hurt.” That’s how I know that he understood. I realized it’s not enough to remind them or telling kids what they need to do. It’s important to ask the right questions to see if they understand what they should do and why they need to do it. The questioning should be specific, so you’ll know if they understand when the rules apply and it’s not just a general understanding that they need to stay safe. Doing this gives me confidence that Kyle knows what to do even when I’m not watching him.
When crossing streets, I always make sure that Kyle is carried. The same goes for escalators. I don’t let Kyle cross the street or stand on the escalators, even with adult supervision, because I don’t want him to experiment on his own later on. There might be a time when he feels like he’s already big enough or old enough, and he might go by himself. We want to be the one to tell him when he can walk with adult supervision, and when he can go on his own. If he starts trying to cross streets or ride escalators with adults too early, he might soon try to do it himself after his next birthday.
Ever since he was around one-and-a-half years old, I taught Kyle that every time we go on the escalator, I tell him “Don’t move.” He needs to be carried, and he needs to stay still. I explain to him that if he doesn’t, he might get into an accident, like fall and get hurt. There would be times when my husband would stand behind us on the escalator, and Kyle would start playing and horsing around with his dad, and I would have to remind him – “What’s mommy’s rule on the escalator?” He would reply, “Don’t move. No playing.” Then I would tell him he can play once we get off, but while we’re on the escalator, he needs to follow the rule.
I know Kyle understands that he can’t go on the escalators alone, especially now when he’s allowed to run around. One time, in our building, I saw him run ahead of me. I was worried that he’ll run up the escalator by himself. When he got close to the escalator, maybe ten feet away, he stopped. He turned towards me and said, “Mommy, carry.” That one incident gave me the assurance that Kyle remembers to do things the safe way. He understands that riding the escalator can be dangerous for small kids like him. It’s important for kids to really have that knowledge of ‘safe zones’ and ‘danger zones’, so they can make the right decisions when they suddenly find themselves alone.
I’ve met a few moms where instead of educating their kids on what’s safe and what’s not, they foolproof their environment and control their kids’ movements. Both approaches keep your child safe, but I chose to educate Kyle about why he shouldn’t do certain things. By teaching him how to act and why, I’m making sure that Kyle will know how to handle different situations. Setting boundaries and establishing rules for safety is one of the most important things I do for my child. It not only makes managing Kyle easier, but also ensures his own safety even when I’m not around. Having that peace of mind is priceless.