It’s far easier to learn something when the consequences are immediate. It doesn’t take children long to learn not to touch a hot stove. What’s really difficult is changing behavior to avoid a problem where the consequences will not be seen for years if at all.
Gal Baras describes how much he’s always enjoyed being out in the sun and how recently he discovered he had skin cancer on his head. He writes about a number of things he’s learned from his experience including “Sunscreen is not just for sissies and parents are not out to make their kids look uncool outside. Sunscreen can actually prevent serious stuff from happening.”
When consequences are years away, telling our children other people’s real life stories may help them learn from other people’s consequences. Children may also reject these stories with “that won’t happen to me”. In that case if children can actually talk to someone who has experienced the consequences, the story will likely have a greater impact.