A child's mental health is just as important as their physical health and deserves the same quality of support.
The Law of Unintended Consequences says that actions of people always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended.
Sometimes in our attempt to do what is right, we get things so very wrong.
This is also encapsulated in the famous phrase: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”.
I would like to discuss the famous “Milk Carton Campaign” in the 1980s, and the unintended consequences that followed.
Back in the 1980s, pictures of missing children were printed on the sides of milk cartons throughout the country. The goal was simple, the odds of finding missing children will increase if more people are looking for them.
So for a few years kids and adults were eating breakfast with a picture of a missing child in the middle of the table for all to see.
Every day a picture staring at you.
Every day a different missing child.
Every day millions of kids across the US seeing another missing child.
A missing child that was their age.
A missing child that looked friendly.
A missing child that could easily have been them.
The campaign of saving children ended up frightening millions of children across the country. Kids thought that there were kidnappers everywhere and that they might be the next victim. This led to the cancellation of the campaign.
There are a few important lessons from this story. First, one should always be evaluating whether there are any unintended consequences and one shouldn’t be afraid of changing course if the unintended consequences are damaging.
Additionally, one should be extremely careful when educating child safety to children. While the issues are serious and potentially dangerous, one should be careful to teach children in a non-frightening way. Scaring children and educating children are NOT the same thing and they don’t accomplish the same thing. Making a child afraid will not make the child safer, and it will also contain numerous disastrous unintended consequences.
Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety.
You can email Yisroel at firstname.lastname@example.org
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