You may think the most dangerous place in the world is Afghanistan, Sudan or Darfur but from my parenting point of view I’ve got my children focused on parking lots.
As a former police reporter whose brother is also a police officer I’ve got too many sad stories of children who were either accidentally killed in a shopping mall parking lot or even in front of their own home, tragically sometimes by their own parents. I think most parents agree it is one of our worst nightmares so I don’t take any chances. I’ve got an aggressive marketing campaign around parked cars and parking lots of all shapes and sizes because all it takes is one person, one time, to make a mistake.
Whenever I want my kids to remember something, I never say it one, two or even 10 times. At least until their much older, probably adults, I’ll them something ALL THE TIME, especially if it’s life saving advice. As all good marketers know, repetition builds better retention of messages. The way my parenting trick about parking lots works is that when my children and I are walking near parked cars anywhere, especially in parking lots, I ask them, “Where are we now?” My two older kids (ages 6 and 10) are so sick of hearing me ask them the same question that one or the other will typically robotically answer “the most dangerous place in the world.” God help them if they don’t say that response quickly enough because then that becomes Papi’s cue for telling them the Parked Car Speech. That dramatic speech basically reminds them that EVERY car they see is potentially ready to “become alive” to instantly hurt or kill them, mostly because we adults are not always paying attention to others walking by, we’re careless or sometimes we’re just plain feeling mean. This speech may sound extreme but I believe it’s critical in order to remind them of how important it is for them to be aware of their surroundings because walking near vehicles should never be a casual thing. To further illustrate how frequently adults mess up at parking lots, sometimes I prompt the kids to point out cars that have fender benders in their back. A couple of times my kids have even been present to see two drivers honking at each other because one was about to back into another. These are the kinds of teaching opportunities that we as parents need to pounce on. Do you have your own parenting trick for helping your kids maneuver through the dangers of parked cars and parking lots? Let us know your tricks!