I believe you remember this fable by Aesop:
A scorpion meets a frog on the bank of a stream and the
scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back.
The frog asks, “How do I know you won’t sting me?”
The scorpion says, “Because if I do, I will die too.”
The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream,
the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of
paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown,
but has enough time to gasp “Why?” The scorpion says
“It is my nature…”
While the recent Newsday article trumpeted a recidivism rate around 3% for three years after a convicted sex predator has been released, my mind goes back to a conversation I had with a clergyman this past April. He sorrowfully noted a man he had known for years had been removed from his church office because he had been convicted as a child predator. This acquaintance had absolved himself of all blame because he felt there was nothing wrong, morally or legally, with his behavior. It was the way he was made. I guess nature tops nurture in that case. Tell me how to deal with that mindset.
When I taught physical science, I would present information about the forces of nature to my charges. Students would present so many instances they had gleaned from TV or the misconstructed ideas they had formed about the natural world. Newton, I am sure, must have had so laughs when he heard our discussions. My favorite to this day concerns The Case of the Falling Elevator. It is very possible my students came to class with fully formed concepts about gravity based upon the behavior of Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Wile E. Coyote, the Road Runner and Daffy Duck. Thank you Warner Brothers! Concerning the elevator in distress: my students would argue that, should they find themselves in a rapidly descending, out of control car, they would only have to watch the lights indicating the present floor level, wait and jump just before the car hit the bottom of the elevator shaft! I always told the kids, you have to obey gravity; it’s the law!
How naïve their preconceptions! But chalk it up to youth and imagination! But when a local newspaper article reports recidivism rates at “only 3%”, tell me how you would feel if your child, grandchild, nephew, niece, neighbor’s child, or any other child is included in that 3%? When is the number statistically relevant?
A recent song by the Goo Goo Dolls, Come to Me, includes the lyric, History’s like gravity. History has weight; it has substance. Georges Santayana wrote about those ignoring the past being doomed to repeat it.
Learning is an always thing. We cannot simply open our charges minds; pour in correct thinking along with right actions. Learning needs reinforcement. The trick is to make learning stranger safety awareness skills games that can be continually revisited.
Small things can make a difference. Here’s something that you might find helpful. First, go over the meaning of personal space. Have your child stand and physically describe their personal space. They should spread their arms out to the side and turn slowly back and forth to show their space. Write the letters D, E, R, U, T, T, and S on index cards or pieces of paper. Have your child(ren) spell out as many words as possible with these letters. Hopefully they will get to the word, T-R-U-S-T-E-D. Go over with them why they can call someone “a trusted adult.” Your home and therefore your rules and definitions! On a sheet of paper, print in large letters, T-R-U-S-T. Stress to your child the idea that trust is a bridge one person makes to another person. Draw or have your child draw a figure of a person on each side of the word. Draw a line over the top of each letter and reinforce the idea of the “BRIDGE’ from one side of the word to the other. Ask the child to identity the middle letter of the word. The “U” represents the child. Tell them YOU are the center of the activity we call TRUST. Ask them what would happen to the “bridge” if the letter “U” is removed. Hopefully they’ll say the bridge is broken, does not stand, or the bridge is incomplete. Tell them that without “U/YOU”, there is no chance of trusting someone. There can be no bridge.
If there is one word to be stressed over and over again, it is T-R-U-S-T! Say it loudly and often.
I wish I could come up with some rhyme based on Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham,” something based on the idea of would you trust them in a car. Maybe one of you out there can help us.
We cannot defy gravity. We CAN give our children the skills and wherewithal to fly safely into their future.