Broadly speaking, it’s good we teach kids a few basics of safety. Not every parent is equipped to responsibly handle potentially dangerous situations. So we create very general guidelines that apply to most. That’s cool.
And kids should be learning about things like unwanted touches from others. Though there was a discussion at the preschool drop-off about getting everybody onboard with using the same body part names as used in the school lessons. But we all handle these things a little differently.
However, when the school sent home the “Never-Never Rules” that they’ll be studying soon I cringed a bit. Here they are:
- Never ride on wheels without wearing a helmet.
- Never cross the street without checking all ways for traffic.
- Never play with fire.
- Never touch a dog without asking the person in charge.
- Never use a sharp tool without an older person’s help.
- Never touch guns.
- Never ride in a car without wearing a seat belt.
- Never go in water without an older person watching.
As I cycling advocate, I object to the first item on this list of rules being “wear a helmet.” Really?! You’re going to put something as innocent and mundane as bicycle riding on the same list as “never touch guns?” OK. Fine. As a person hoping to eventually improve our bike culture to the point where we no longer need helmets (a la the Dutch), I get the need to balance the immediate risks with sending a larger advocacy message that biking should be fun and so safe that no helmet is necessary.
I could make the same argument for a number of items on this list though. Parents teaching their kids to use tools responsibly. Outdoor education that involves learning to properly start and put out a campfire. The exceptions are obvious. Yes, there are even some folks out there teaching their young kids to responsibly handle a gun.
For most families, we’d probably rather have the Never-Never Rules drilled into our children’s heads and give them with the freedom to “unlearn” them than allow unsuspecting kids to stumble into injury or death. But I can’t help but look at the Never-Never List and wonder when childhood got so … milquetoast.
Would I let my kids ride in a car without a seat belt? No. I won’t even let my kids cross the street by themselves because we live in an urban area. However, I’m not sure that riding around on the sidewalk in front of our house on a scooter belongs on a list of otherwise potentially deadly actions.
A version of this first appeared on Newfangled Dad. Photo by Whit Honea.