Toddler Street Safety Without Spanking
By Chris Dugan


 Spanking toddlers for exploratory behavior is harmful and unfair.  They need to explore their environment as a necessary part of their cognitive development.

In the Summer 1987 issue of _Children_ magazine, Dr. Dennis Embry  writes:

"Since 1977 I have been heading up the only long-term project designed to counteract pedestrian accidents to preschool-aged children.  (Surprisingly, getting struck by a car is about the third leading cause of death to young children in the United States.)

 "Actual observation of parents and children shows that spanking, scolding, reprimanding and nagging INCREASES the rate of street entries by children.  Children use going into the street as a near-perfect way to gain parents' attention.

 "Now there is a promising new educational intervention program, called Safe Playing.  The underlying principles of the program are simple:

   "1. Define safe boundaries in a POSITIVE way.  "Safe players play on the grass or sidewalk."
     2. Give stickers for safe play.  That makes it more fun than playing dangerously.
     3. Praise your child for safe play.

 "These three principles have an almost instant effect on increasing safe play.  We have observed children who had been spanked many times a day for going into the street, yet they continued to do it.  The moment the family began giving stickers and praise for safe play, the children stopped going into the street.

   Dennis D. Embry, Ph.D.
   University of Kansas
   Lawrence Kansas"

 Principle #1 may be particularly important in light of the fact that some young toddlers may not be able to comprehend negations yet.  Hence, when the parent says, "Don't eat out of the catfood dish!" "Don't jump on furniture!" "Don't go into the street!" the toddler hears, "Eat out of the catfood dish! Jump on the furniture! Go into the street!"

 Principle #3 can easily be integrated into a parental habit of "catching them being Good."  Too often, parents only notice when their child is behaving unacceptably.  Children are trying to learn how to be a person and a member of their native culture.  Letting them know when they are succeeding can help them immeasurably on their developmental journey.