Child safety: how to involve them?

12 May, 2023

Child safety: how to involve them?

By Laurence Morency-Guay

When it comes to ensuring the safety of little ones, two important notions regarding child development come to mind: the evolution of moral reasoning and that of receptive language. Indeed, it is important to first understand to what extent children grasp the importance of respecting the rules and what they are able to understand from the questions and instructions addressed to them.

The evolution of receptive language: questions and instructions

Here are the main developmental benchmarks for the evolution of children's understanding of questions and instructions. It can be practical to know them in order to better understand to what extent children will really understand the safety instructions given.

Around 6 months

Begins to react to the “no” command. The child stops and looks at the interlocutor, but does not necessarily stop his behavior.

Around 9 months

Responds appropriately to the “no” instruction. The child stops his behavior.

Around 12 months

Understands some simple instructions, especially when they are accompanied by a visual cue (by waving your hands, say: “find your rattle”; by pointing to the bottle, say: “bring me the bottle”, etc.).

From 13 to 18 months

Understands instructions related to routines ("we're going to eat", "we're going to sleep", etc.).

From 19 to 24 months

Includes questions referring to self-concept ("what's your name?", "how old are you?", etc.).

Two years

Understands simple instructions , without being accompanied by visual indications.

Includes concrete double instructions (“take off your boots and put them down”, “go get the toy and give it to your brother”).

Includes questions about cause (“why”) and place (“where”) , if they do not involve making a deduction.

Three-four years

Understands the concrete triple instructions (“go to the bathroom, take your toothbrush and come back to see me”).

Understands “why?” questions. ", " When ? " and how ? and responds appropriately.

Five years

Understands and reacts appropriately to instructions and complex multi-pronged questions (“While picking up your coat, can you tell me where you put the toy?”)

Six years

Can follow and respond appropriately in a multi-person conversation.

Source: Morency-Guay, Laurence and Poulin-Gagné, Nicolas. 2021. The guide to human development benchmarks. Pearson Erpi.

The moral sense

Before the age of seven, the child will have great difficulty understanding that there can be different ways of functioning. Thus, he will be rigorous in the application of the instructions and will not derogate from them. He will not make the difference between a behavior made by accident or in an intentional way: he will thus expect the same consequence for an accidental or deliberate gesture. For example, according to him, crossing the street without looking out of distraction or provocation should have the same consequence. Thus, I suggest that you above all discuss with your children the logical consequences that can result from not respecting a safety rule.

Behaviors and manifestations of the moral sense of children (according to Piaget's theory)

0-7 years old

  • Moral conscience is very rigid: there is only one way to do it.
  • Judgment is based on appearances and consequences. It is dichotomous (without nuances). Intentions are not taken into account.
  • An action is reprehensible only if it results in punishment or unpleasant consequences.

8 years and over

  • Moral conscience is more flexible: there are several ways to do it.
  • The judgment is based on several criteria. It is more nuanced thanks to the understanding that the same behavior can be good or bad, depending on the context. The intention behind the act is taken into consideration.
  • An action is wrong whether or not it results in punishment or unpleasant consequences.

In conclusion, be sure to formulate your instructions and define your expectations according to these development benchmarks when it comes to the safety of the little ones, you will thus have more success in respecting the safety rules and will be better equipped. to understand your children's reactions!