Teach­ing road safety

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - PARENTING - By PRISCILLA J. DUN­STAN

ROAD safety with young chil­dren is an im­por­tant is­sue, and one many par­ents strug­gle to en­force. Un­for­tu­nately, this is one of those is­sues that par­ents sim­ply can’t af­ford to be lax on. It is very im­por­tant that chil­dren learn from day one the habit of prac­tis­ing street and side­walk safety. By ap­ply­ing the use of your child’s dom­i­nant sense, you can make the les­son eas­ier for them to as­sim­i­late and learn.

Tac­tile chil­dren will ap­pre­ci­ate the con­cept of phys­i­cal dan­ger. You can say: “If you run across the road with­out an adult, you may get hit by a car and won’t be able to play soc­cer,” and your tac­tile child will un­der­stand. It is im­por­tant to re­late the con­se­quences to some­thing that the child phys­i­cally likes to do. Tac­tile chil­dren also re­spond well to rules.

“The rule is that you wait for mummy to hold your hand, be­fore you cross the road.”

Keep your re­minders ba­sic and di­rec­tive, such as clearly say­ing: “Hold my hand.”

This will be more ef­fec­tive than ex­pla­na­tions, which tend to turn the tac­tile child’s lis­ten­ing off. Con­tin­u­ously prac­tise the phys­i­cal as­pects of safety – look­ing both ways be­fore you cross, wait­ing for the green “Walk” sig­nal, hold­ing hands – than us­ing words alone.

Au­di­tory chil­dren will re­spond to ver­bal ex­pla­na­tions. Frame the con­se­quences in the ver­sion of a story, and be pa­tient in an­swer­ing their many ques­tions. Use ver­bal praise when they fol­low the rules, and a sim­ple change of tone to the voice when they don’t. Tone is im­por­tant with au­di­tory chil­dren. Of­ten par­ents will, un­wit­tingly, send mixed sig­nals by say­ing some­thing with the wrong tone. For ex­am­ple, ex­plain­ing the con­se­quences of cross­ing the road with­out an adult – in a soft sweet­heart type of voice – will con­vey the wrong mes­sage.

Make sure you use an un­com­pro­mis­ing tone when ex­plain­ing the rules, and try to keep small talk to a min­i­mum when cross­ing, so as not to dis­tract from the im­por- tance of the task at hand.

Vis­ual chil­dren will need your fa­cial ex­pres­sions to match the con­se­quences of what you’re say­ing. Look stern when talk­ing about the con­se­quences of not fol­low­ing the rules about cross­ing the street. Have your child sit in your car and see that it is im­pos­si­ble for a driver of a ve­hi­cle to see some­one small in front of the car. This demon­strates how a driver might be able to see a mummy, but not a child.

If your child is par­tic­u­larly re­sis­tant to your rules, start with mild pic­tures of con­se­quences. Make sure you lead by ex­am­ple; let them al­ways see you fol­low­ing road safety. Use star/re­ward charts when they do things well, and be sure to gush to friends and fam­ily when they be­gin to fol­low the rules.

Taste and smell chil­dren are usu­ally pretty timid with traf­fic and pre­fer to hold mum’s hand at any time. How­ever, they tend to run out if fol­low­ing a friend, or when see­ing a friend across the road.

For­tu­nately, they are eas­ily in­flu­enced by a par­ent’s dis­ap­proval. Let your child see how up­set you would be, even at the thought of them cross­ing the road unac­com­pa­nied – it will make a strong im­pres­sion, and she will tend to fol­low course.

If par­tic­u­larly re­sis­tant, ask your child to hold your hand, and help you cross the road, rather than the other way round. They will feel that this is some­thing they are do­ing to help you, not some­thing only lit­tle kids do.

Don’t be afraid to be un­com­pro­mis­ing with road safety. From the be­gin­ning, teach them to look both ways – even right-left­right – be­fore cross­ing. Make them wait for an adult and hold hands when cross­ing a road, even at marked cross­ings. En­sure they al­ways cross at the ap­pro­pri­ate place, wait at lights, cross­ings, cor­ners, etc, even if run­ning late.

Road safety is a life and death sit­u­a­tion and one not to be take lightly. Be con­sis­tent and firm, and don’t be afraid to dis­ci­pline if need be. – McClatchy-Tribune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

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