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Teaching Moments

Sending The Right Message with Kids

“Never” and “Always.” Are We Sending the Right Message?

photo by Grand Jury Never Say Never


On the job site I’ve done unsafe things to get the job done.  Things like step on the top step of a step ladder, free hand table saw cuts and blow off wearing protective equipment.
As the owner of a small construction company I preach safety to my guys and point out safety violations all the time.

Am I wrong? Am I sending the wrong message?

We all know that there are no absolutes but we still teach them. Is it because they’re easier to remember.  Isn’t that right?  Or is it wrong?


This story begins on a Sunday. My son and I were driving to Emerson Field in Concord to hit some baseballs.

Vehicle Stranded

While driving by an old school I noticed an obvious disabled vehicle in the corner of the larking lot.  The vehicle had a flat tire and three older women, standing in front of the flat tire looking bewildered.
My son will later ask me how I even saw this car tucked into the parking lot corner.  I explained to him that I have a terrible habit of looking around when  driving.

Helping A Stranger


I turned turned my truck around and to ask if the older women needed any help. They were clearly flustered, embarrassed and unsure of what to do.  At first they told me they did not have a spare tire so I offered them a ride and the use of my cell phone.
Having noticed that this woman was not 100% confident on whether she had a spare tire or not, I asked them if they wanted me to check for a spare; I found one under the trunk floor mat.
After changing the tire they thanked me and asked me who I was. Although tempted too say “batman,” I left them with a business card instead.

While driving away my son started in with a myriad of questions:

Q. I thought you told me never to go near strangers?
Q. Why did we stop?
Q. What if they were bad people?
Q. Why did you offer them a ride? They were strangers, You told me never to take a ride from strangers,You said always assume that strangers offering rides are dangerous, And never to go with them.
Q. What were you thinking dad?

A Lesson In Contradiction

How do you explain to a child that I break the rules all the time?
How do you explain to a kid that I always told to avoid strangers that I always stop and help strangers?
I tried to explain to my son that in a split second that we DO judge a book by its cover?
We do size people up as threats or non-threats, and sometimes go against what we teach always and never to do.

Thinking Without Thinking

We do that by “thin-slicing,” using limited information to come to our conclusion. Basing decisions on our experience, training, skill sets, and knowledge.

Helping People IS Still Important

So saying “DO AS I SAY, AND NOT AS I DO” doesn’t fly with a pre-teen so I tried to explain to him the best I could about threat assessment, thin-slicing, and sizing up the situation from afar.
Helping people is still important but we need to balance the importance of helping people in need with our own safety.
Well I’m not sure I answered all his questions but I sure did have fun hitting balls!
Stay Safe!


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