Is it safe to set up a ‘fake accident’ to teach your child a lesson?

The safety experts at RoSPA weigh up the pros and cons of this parenting tactic...

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Recently, we covered a story about Marina Fogle setting up a ‘fake accident’ on the stairs for her toddler.

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Under her supervision and using cushioned mats, she let her little one, Iona, fall down a couple of stairs in her hallway.

Ultimately, the shock of the fall was enough to stop adventurous Iona from dangerous behaviour on the stairs ever again – she understood that if she did the same thing twice, she could fall and hurt herself.

Ultimately, Marina’s lesson potentially saved her from a real accident, one that could’ve had dire consequences.

It all sounds pretty risky, we know ? Yet this story still had us all talking and thinking here at MFM HQ, and we’ve got one question on our minds:

Is this a safe way to teach your child about safety hazards?

We decided to chat to RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) this tricky question – and here’s what they had to say:

“There is a strong case for educating children about situations that involve serious risk, including development of risk scenarios, so long as those in charge are entirely sure that the risk can be contained.

“This builds youngsters’ confidence, assuring them that they can develop strategies to cope with potential hazards. It also cultivates a ‘personal risk assessment’ approach to situations, so that dangers can be anticipated and planned for. 

“RoSPA’s National Safety Education Committee (NSEC) recognises the attraction of parents creating ‘fake accidents’ for children, however, RoSPA has always steered away from setting up fake accidents particularly where children are concerned.

“We believe that adults creating traps can leave children with the impression that it is OK to then re-create the scenario with other children – on the same lines as recreating what they see on TV.”

RoSPA then suggests anyone who does want to stage an ‘accident’ – in whatever case – thinks about these 8 things before doing so:

  • Is the scenario you create really safe?
  • Can you control the scenario?
  • Is it age appropriate?
  • What is the lesson you are trying to deliver, and will your scenario deliver this?
  • How would you feel if the child actually received an injury?
  • How will the child feel and behave in future, knowing that you will set ‘traps’ for them?
  • How will the child feel and behave knowing that you purposefully put them in what they should (if the lesson is to work as intended) perceive to be a dangerous scenario, to teach them a lesson?
  • Will the child try to copy the lesson to help other children (might this be unsuccessfully re-created for the right reasons)?

In a nutshell: RoSPA are saying they’re not recommending you do it, but they get why you want to do it, and if you actually are going to do it, make sure you’ve thought about all possible outcomes…

So, how do you go about helping them understand risk?

Say you’ve decided that a ‘fake accident’ in the home is not for you – what other ways are there to teach little ones about hazards?

RoSPA suggests joining something like a trampoline club, which introduces the idea of personal safety and risk under the watchful eye of a professional.

“The ideal learning environment for children in which to [become aware of everyday hazards] is in a controlled way, such as LASER (learning about safety by experiencing risk) safety centres around the UK,” they told us.

(You can read more about LASER and their safety centres here.)

“Initially, skills should be taught with an appropriate level of expert supervision (such as an instructor showing you how to land safely on a trampoline).

“This gives children the physical experience of recognising and coping with a hazard.”

But we also want to know what YOU think, and how you help your little one learn about hazards such as the stairs when they’re small?

Let us know in the comments below, or over on Facebook.

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