How do you measure the danger your child is in?
How quickly do you intervene when your child is in danger? I came up with for following informal scale for how quickly I react when my child is in danger.
Level 1: My Child Could Die
Water is very dangerous for non-swimmers. If my toddler is near the water without supervision, he is not safe. My five-year-old is a pretty strong swimmer, but he should also have supervision at near water. Provided he does not choose to flip or dive into water that is 3 feet deep he is relatively safe in most bodies of water. Teaching a child to be fearful of water is not a great idea. Instilling a fear of water makes it more difficult for a child to learn to swim. The sooner a child learns to swim the less dangerous water situations will be. But in the mean time, if my young toddler approaches water that is more than a few inches deep he could be in serious danger.
Moving vehicles. Toddlers are definitely in danger near moving vehicles. As mobile humans they move quickly. They are too small for a driver to see, and they are usually not aware of a dangerous situation. If a young child moves near a road, act quickly and treat the offense seriously. An older child is probably safe if he or she is not distracted. However, bikes and other toys, and other children can interfere with an older child’s ability to recognize a dangerous situation involving motor vehicles.
There are certainly other situations where danger is eminent. Please supervise and use caution with any situation that could cause your child serious harm.
Level 2: My Child Could Break A Bone
When a child climbs too high in a tree, or rides his bike to fast he could also be in danger. The harder a child plays, the harder she falls. However, the potential for serious injury is significantly less those discussed in Level 1.
I believe that it’s okay to allow your child to experiment with dangerous situations that involve climbing, jumping, lifting, and riding. If there is safety equipment that would be useful for the activity, like wearing a helmet when riding a bike, definitely reinforce the use of such equipment. Act as a spotter when a child is navigating a difficult maneuver at the playground. But also, just wait. Your child may learn to navigate this new activity with little difficulty and she will be happier and more fulfilled by her newfound self-efficacy.
Level 3: My Child Could Bleed
This situation may overlap with some of the activities in Level 2. If your child runs on the pavement, takes a fall on the blacktop or gets a cut in the kitchen, he may require first aid. Some of these situations could also land you in the emergency room. While this can ruin a pretty good weekend, and can be a real hit on the pocketbook, your child will be okay.
Your child can, and should, have age appropriate tasks in the kitchen. Most five year olds can cut with a knife, but of coarse it depends on the child. If my two-year-old picks up a butter knife and attempts to cut his banana, I am not going to fall all over myself trying to stop him.
Cuts, scrapes and bruises are a normal part of childhood, (and adult hood)! In general it’s probably a good idea to treat the injury not prevent it. Your child has more to learn from a fall, than from you stopping him too soon and preventing the fall from happing.
Level 4: If no one sees it, it didn’t happen.
Always try to ignore a kid when he falls. If it really hurts, he or she may cry and look for comfort, but he also may brush off the fall and continue to play. My husband likes to tell me I am too, “soft,” with our kids when they cry. “I coddle too much,” he says. I prefer to acknowledge and validate the emotion my child is feeling, and help him work through it efficiently. But I have no problems ignoring the tears for a minute or two when my child is not suffering from any serious injury. It helps when others who witness a fall do the same. If my child falls and everyone who bares witness jumps up to ask, "Are you okay!?" In this case, he will probably start to cry. If we all look the other way and act like nothing happened, the child will probably do the same.
Try to remember that there are different levels of danger. Don’t act like it’s a level 1 when it is actually a level 4. Teach perseverance and determination rather than fear and insecurity. Evaluate the danger, take a picture if danger is not eminent, and move on to the next thing.
Enjoy your weekend with friends and family. Stay safe, and hopefully no one ends up in the emergency room.