“You will fall to ruin because you believe that exceptions to the rule make new rules.”
― Pierce Brown, Golden Son
Every single one of the fifty states has some type of law that require children to be using a seatbelt while riding in a car. All but one state requires that the driver of a car be using a seatbelt while operating the vehicle. The reason for these laws are quite simple. Seatbelts keep the occupants restrained in their seats. This greatly reduces the risk of such dangerous incidents like blunt force trauma and being ejected from the vehicle. Due to these and other safety reasons, in addition to the laws mandating seatbelt usage and fines for violating these laws, states are also using media campaigns to educate the public about the safety benefits of seatbelts.
Just because seatbelts have saved so many lives and just because of all the legislation mandating their usage, doesn’t mean there aren’t times when it would be more advantageous had the occupant not been using a seatbelt.
In August of this year a 38-year-old businessman in India was charred to death when a car he was driving caught fire. The man died inside the car as he could not unlock the seatbelt and escape. - (full article: https://goo.gl/qSwRCp)
I am using seatbelts to try to make the following point. All too often people believe that an exception to the rule either disproves the rule or creates a new rule. Very rarely will there be a rule that applies 100% of the time. Many have driven drunk without causing harm to themselves or others. I also personally know someone who not only survived a fall from a height of four stories, but he did so without sustaining any injuries. Neither disprove the fact that both are extremely dangerous. Likewise the case of the seatbelt trapping the Indian man inside his burning car doesn’t prove that seatbelts shouldn’t be worn. While these are exceptions, neither change their respective rule.
So how does one properly educate their child, or anyone else, that the exception doesn’t alter the rule?
A common mistake that I often see people make is that they deny the existence of the exception. The better method is to give validity to the exception. If you aren’t acknowledging what the other party is bringing to the discussion, don’t expect them to give validity to that which you are bringing to the discussion. By showing that you are listening to them, you have a greater chance that they will be listening to you. Once you have given the validity to the exception, here are two suggested methods of how to approach the subject: statistical based and risk vs. reward.
With the seatbelt example above, the best approach would be the statistical based approach. Yes, this man in India died because he was wearing his seatbelt, no one is denying that. It is an occurrence that can and does happen. But such a situation is a statistical anomaly. There are two main situations when the seatbelt would be more hindrance than help, a car fire and a car getting submerged in water. Using statistics from 2015, less than 0.01% of accidents resulted in a vehicle catching fire, and less than 0.003% of accidents ended with a vehicle being submerged under water. Deciding not to buckle a seatbelt because of possibilities that are less than 0.01% and less than 0.003% is not a wise decision.
The risk vs. reward method is also a useful approach. What is especially helpful about the risk vs. reward approach is that it doesn’t require that the statistics be in your favor (unlike the statistical based approach). All you have to show is that the reward that will potentially be earned isn’t worth the potential risk. In these cases, the risk might only be a very low percentage risk, but all that needs to be accomplished is to show that the risk outweighs the reward. For example: I need to park my car and run into the store for only a few minutes. Do I pay the fifty cents for parking or do I risk receiving a $75 ticket for non-payment?
Both risk vs. rewards and statistical based are rational approaches. They will have tremendous success when having a rational debate. They will be much less effective when the other party is having an emotional discussion. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to argue rationale when the other side is arguing emotion. Example: It would be very difficult to debate the need to buckle a seatbelt with the sister of this Indian man who died in the above mentioned car fire. His sister would be arguing not from logic, but from emotion.
Statistical and Risk vs. Reward are great tools for the parent to use when speaking with their child. By using these methods, the parent will be able to convey not only the “what”, but the “why” as well. People, not just children, are more likely to follow the “what” when they have an understanding of the “why”. Being able to speak these things out with your child, and having them listen is wonderful, but it still isn't the ideal goal. The ideal goal should be giving the child these tools to use within their own thought process, educating them to recognize how and when to use each of these tools.
Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages who are looking to improve their awareness and their social skills. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety. You can email Yisroel at YMPicker@gmail.com