Street crossing seems to be the daily event most associated with parents throwing their parenting philosophies and ideals out the window. It’s a time when parents tend to abandon respectful parenting based on gentle guidance and learning in favor of physical boundaries imposed against a chid’s will. After all, “What good is a trusting relationship if my child is dead!?”
The problem is, strategies based on authority imposed restraint don’t teach your child how to make safe choices. They make you the enemy and leave your child feeling powerless with a strong drive to reclaim that autonomy through rebellion (translation: running for the street anytime you’re not looking).
If your child runs to the street, instead of a spanking (which will teach your child to fear YOU, not the street) or putting your child on a leash, say, “Danger! When you run into the street, I am scared because you could get smashed by a car (pointing at cars) (I statement) (look scared). Danger (pointing at the street)!”
Then, and here’s the most impactful part, “Let’s try again” (replay). Take him back to the point at which you were both together, and walk through the situation again, making the safe choice. Run toward the street, then stop abruptly at the curb. Point to the curb and say, “Stop!” (make it fun). The replay is a wonderful parenting tool that leaves your child feeling empowered, respected, and with a muscle memory of the safe choice.
If you feel a consequence is necessary, you can continue with a logical consequence, “We now have to spend the rest of the afternoon inside the house because I cannot trust that you will make safe choices outside and I must keep you safe.”
Now every single time you are about to step off a curb, you both stop abruptly and say with a smile, “Stop.” Doing that routine will make it second nature for him to stop at the curb.
As your child gets older, you can expand it to, “Stop. Look left. Look right. No cars.” to equip your child with the skills to navigate the world more independently. My two year old’s “guys” even say this when they cross their play streets.
Responding to a child running to the street in this way will teach this child that running into the street is scary, not safe, and will not be allowed, in a way that enhances your bond, respects your child as a human being, and empowers him to make better choices in the future.
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