By Nathan Barton
Along with clinging to guns and our Bibles, many American lovers of liberty have a lifetime love of, and use of, knives.
Almost certainly the first tool to come after the rock, knives are both important hand tools and an essential part of living in freedom. (Yes, even in urban America.) Like firearms, many parts of the world want to ban knives, or at least anything more than a butter knife. There are many thousands of types, but the standard Euro-American pocket knife (folding knife) and the standard fixed-blade belt knife are ubiquitous (yes, even still in England’s modern nanny-state).
Children (girls AND boys) should be introduced to knives, and own one of their own, at a very early age. Suitable for their gross and fine motor skills, of course, and suitable for their temperament and ability to understand.
A knife is a tool, a tool which can be easily used as a weapon. But one which makes life both better and easier. We find that children are fascinated by knives, whether it is older siblings or neighbors, or their own parents, who use them. Even without television and other media, it is natural to use fingers and sticks as play knives (and swords).
It is therefore important to teach them early and well, that like ALL good tools, knives can be dangerous and must be mastered. Starting with plastic play knives (and forks and spoons) at age one or two, the child may be able to have at least a pocketknife as early as age three or four. And earn the right to have a fixed-blade knife as young as seven or eight.
But each step up must include careful and constant teaching by word, exercise, and example. It is an important responsibility of parenthood and adulthood in general.
Here are some very good rules for a child, especially with a fixed-blade knife.
- Be careful with your knife at all times. Put it away if others are close to you, especially children (younger in thought if not time).
- Always keep a firm grip on your knife. If necessary, secure your knife with a cord to yourself: belt or wrist.
- Always use your knife in a safe place, as free from distractions and interference by others as you can be.
- When asking for a knife from someone, always ASK and do not tell, even if it is a bad situation. Ask please.
- When accepting a knife from someone, always thank them for handing it to you.
- Always cut away from any and all body parts (yours and others!). Ask yourself, if my knife slips, where will it go? What could it cut?
- Remember that a knife is a tool, not a toy. If properly cared for, it is dangerous.
- Don’t use your knife for anything but its intended purpose. Knives can be as general or as specific in their use as any other tool. Don’t drop or throw a pocket knife.
- If you do drop your knife, step away from it. Do not try and catch it or let someone else.
- When closing a pocket knife, keep your fingers out of the way. When removing a knife from its sheath or pouch, hold that sheath firmly.
- After using your knife, clean it up. Don’t put it away dirty. Remember that steel rusts, and rust can quickly ruin a knife.
- Keep your knife sharp. A dull knife is a danger to everyone, especially the person using it.
- Keep your knife in a safe place, even if you are carrying it or wearing it on you. Don’t make it easy for someone to take it from you.
Their first knife (and most every one after that) is a treasured moment for a youngster, boy or girl.
In teaching, remember that children learn more from our example than what we say or what we demonstrate as “training.” An important part of teaching how to use a knife properly is to show them what a knife can do – that indeed, knives can kill animals and people. Children can be cruel and unthinking, and you do not want to have a child live with the bitter memory of accidentally badly wounding or even killing a pet or wild animal accidentally because they did not know better.
So at a minimum, show and talk to a child about what a knife does to a piece of meat, a piece of paper, a cloth or a pillow or old mattress. If you hunt or have friends and family that do, show the child at an appropriate age how knives work on formerly living creatures. If a family member cuts themselves preparing food or in some other task, show the child (within reason, of course, which will vary from family to family and child to child). (I am not saying that you have to be gruesome or vicious.)
Because inevitably, knives cut people: whether it is that paring knife in the kitchen or in some more dire situation. We’ve all gotten cut just as we’ve gotten burned on a stove or scalded by hot water. The chances of getting cut (and of the cut being serious, let alone deadly) are NOT reduced by keeping that boy or girl away from anything but plastic dinnerware. The best way to prevent that is to teach them well.