Imagine this scenario: A mother posts a photo on Facebook of her 1-year-old son, smiling in his forward-facing car seat. You know that children younger than 2 years should be in rear-facing car seats. Do you say anything?
Unfortunately, this is a real-life example. A mother posted this type of photo, and no one pointed out to her that her son would be safer in a rear-facing seat. A few months later her son died in a car crash. A rear-facing seat may have saved his life. She has talked in the media about her despair and how she wonders why not one person spoke up about her mistake. She says she would have made the change if she only knew.
What is it that stops people from speaking up? I haven’t figured that out yet, but I thought it was worth a discussion.
It may be that not everyone is open to hearing this type of information. There are countless examples of parents who get defensive and feel you are judging their parenting style when a safety issue is brought up. Others may simply believe you are wrong or that it “won’t happen to them” because they “watch out for their children.” So how do you know when to speak up and when someone will think you are meddling?
Personally, I know that some of my friends want me to say something if I see a safety issue. I know others who would feel judged as a bad parent if I brought up something like using the wrong car seat. It’s taken trial and error to figure this out, but I don’t mind the errors (and occasional name-calling) because I know it’s not about me—it’s about keeping the kids in my life safe.
I know not everyone’s like me. Not everyone can let comments about meddling roll off his back. Some people just aren’t comfortable telling others that there may be a safer way to do something. Some might not want that type of feedback on their own parenting, so they’re not willing to say anything about others’ choices. Others may think that they don’t need to say anything because it’s unlikely that the safety issue will actually lead to an injury.
None of us wants to risk offending our family and friends or make them feel judged, but I reject these excuses for staying quiet. Parenting is so hard—it seems like every week there’s a new recommendation to follow. I don’t expect every parent to know every piece of safety information, so it’s my view that we should take advantage of our collective wisdom to keep our kids safe, and so, I usually say something when I see it.
The next time you see a safety issue, I encourage you to be brave and speak up. What’s the worst that can happen? Someone calls you names? Maybe. But think about what might happen if you don’t speak up—a child you care about could get hurt or killed. What is more important: not offending someone or keeping a child safe? Only you can decide what you are comfortable with, but think carefully about the consequences of your choices.
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