It's usually considered a good thing when parents make positive assumptions about their children -- but not when it comes to guns. When researchers at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital in Cleveland, OH, surveyed more than 600 parents with kids between ages 5 and 15, they found that 87% -- regardless of gun ownership, geography, gender, income, education level, and the children's ages -- believed that their kids wouldn't touch a gun if they found one.
"People seem to think it's a problem of other people's kids," says Susan M. Connor, Ph.D., research director of the Community Safety and Resource Center at the hospital and the study's lead author. But, in fact, research has repeatedly shown that most kids can't resist handling a gun, even when instructed not to. When asked about their reasoning, 46% of parents said their children were too smart for that and 35% responded that their kids wouldn't touch a gun because they'd been told not to. "There's a big difference between what kids do and what parents believe they'd do," says Dr. Connor.
Her advice: Since there's a firearm in one-third of American households with children, it's a good idea to talk to your child about gun safety even if you don't have one. Give specific instructions, set up possible scenarios, and talk through what your child may feel and do. Then, even after discussing it, expect your child to do the opposite. If you own guns, keep them unloaded, locked up, and away from kids.
Copyright © 2004. Reprinted with permission from the June/July 2003 issue of Child magazine.