Children and Safety

This is apt to be a “hot button” topic because people have such a wide variety of opinions, experiences and ideas about it, but that’s pretty much exactly why few “top down” regulations or “laws” will ever be relevant for everyone. Just too many variables.

By what process do “children” become adults? How do people become responsible for themselves, rather than dependent on others for their lives and safety? What part does chronological age have to do with it?

We would all likely say that a two or three year old is incapable of exercising sufficient judgment to be trusted to hold or use a sharp object, let alone a gun – no matter how much one might attempt to teach them. To start with, most don’t have enough control of their muscles, but then there are the three year olds who play classical piano… Of course, that is the exception. I never met a prodigy like that myself, but my experience with three year olds tells me no. Can I then assume that this is true for everyone, everywhere?

How about a five year old? Ten? Seventeen and a half?

Again, it depends on the child. My two boys were taught to shoot when they were six or so. They were allowed to shoot pretty much whenever they wanted, as long as they had supervision. The older boy demonstrated good understanding and compliance with safety rules, along with general reliability taking responsibility for himself, and was given a .22 bolt action rifle for his 12th birthday. He’d had several BB and pellet guns before that, and did well with them. The younger brother, however, didn’t do so well in either the following rules or accountability departments, and he didn’t get his first .22 until he was nearly 14 – despite the expected moans about how it “wasn’t fair.”

Our job, as parents, is to demonstrate both adherence to the safety rules (integrity), and comprehensive personal responsibility for our choices and actions. Without that consistent example, it’s very difficult for children to understand the concepts or develop the necessary self discipline. That it actually happens sometimes anyway is a wonderful mystery.

But more than just a good example is required. The child must be given the opportunity… the necessity, to make age/cognition appropriate choices AND to live with the real consequences of those choices. We would, of course, prevent them from actually harming themselves if possible, but the consequences must be very real and very immediate – both for good AND bad choices. Just telling them about it, or “warning” or yelling our heads off when they’ve messed up won’t do the job, though praise for good choices is important too. Giving them all kinds of choices, but then immediately rescuing them from the bad ones is a terribly destructive thing – even something like cleaning up after children who are perfectly able to take care of that themselves.

For example, I think I was probably four years old when I found a pot handle sticking out over the edge of the stove. I was able to reach it, and pulled on it enough to tip it. I was drenched in ice cold water!! And then, to add insult to injury, I was given a cloth and expected to wipe up the water! Mean old mommy.

My mother told me, years later, that she did that on purpose after seeing me attempt to reach for things on the counter above my head. She figured that an ice cold shower would cure me of the tendency and didn’t want to wait for me to learn the hard way with something hot.  She was right! I never tried it again. And my own children learned about pot handles (and lots of other things) in much the same way.

So, the age of the child, and the amount of protection they need is relative – whether we’re talking about sharp objects, guns or stoves. How terribly sad to see children increasingly isolated from every conceivable risk and experience, given all “choice” and no responsibility, only to be told at the ripe age of 18 that they are suddenly “adults!” How many of those newly minted adults are truly ready to be responsible for themselves and whatever children they produce? How many of them can honestly teach what they have never learned?

What is your experience, and what are your strategies?


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    Happy Blogging!

  2. I too taught my daughter to shoot at approx age 6, and she did well following the rules of safety and learned the skills to shoot well.
    On the other hand, I have a cousin that I would not want to be in the same county with if he was in possession of a firearm at age 20. Just because he couldn’t be trusted to not screw up through inattention. He’s an airline pilot now………

    There are general age appropriate prohibitions, but there are always varying percentages of exceptions for any given group. Definitely one-size-fits-all does not always fit. However, govt doesn’t know how to do anything different with it’s rules, with any consistent outcomes. The cries of ‘fairness’ will only come from those who think that they should be one of the exceptions while ‘if it saves just ONE child’ will be the cry of the oppressor who wants to be your ruler despite the actual outcome. We obviously can’t trust every parent to make the correct choice, but the alternative is the statists call for the stupidity of the ‘collective’ to be in charge.

    I don’t know the solution; other than to say to the statists ‘you shall not pass’……

  3. If we are going to preserve our liberties and freedoms we have got to teach our kids. I found a great book that helps begin the discussion with kids about why their parents have chosen to carry a weapon for protection. This book deals mostly with open carry but would still be great even for parents who choose to conceal carry.

    • Thanks for posting that! More food for thought. Some concerns with that article, however…

      First, all training of children needs to be both age and ability appropriate, as determined by the parents. The term “children” can mean almost anything, so blanket concepts as presented here are sometimes less useful. I think we would agree that all two year olds, for example, are incapable of understanding such training and that preventing access is the most appropriate safety measure for them. The arbitrary age limits set by “law,” however, have little to do with safety, and in many cases render young people unnecessarily at risk by forcing them to remain helpless potential victims, or at best curious bystanders.

      Second, another blanket notion that all guns and ammunition must be “locked up” is counterproductive in the extreme if people want to be able to defend themselves and their families. Each family will have to decide this for themselves, of course, but I raised several children, had guns in the home the whole time, never had any of them locked up and never had an incident. My sons were safely shooting, with supervision, by the time they were six. And they learned the rules so well that they were comfortable calling attention to lapses by others, including the adults.

      Ammunition shouldn’t be left around loose for a number of good reasons, but the recurrent fear of this author that some small child might actually load it into an empty gun seems pretty far fetched. That would require skills and strengths most little ones simply do not possess – and almost certainly could not be done by accident. If an older child did have the skills, one would hope they also had the training to know they shouldn’t be handling any of it without supervision.

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