I can’t tell you how often I have heard someone say “teach the kids, and they will go home and teach the parents.”
Others often support the statement with nods and expressions of agreement. “Yes, it is the best way to reach the parents,” someone will almost always add, to back the point up.
And often someone else will describe a time they were about to throw a can in the garbage, and “my granddaughter said ‘Grandpa, you don’t put the can in the trash, it goes into the recycling.'”
There are many cute anecdotes about kids teaching adults. While children can raise awareness in grown-ups, but they don’t have much effect on adult behaviour. Grandpa may have learned he should recycle cans, but it doesn’t mean he will.
Effective Behaviour Change programs are designed to have direct contact with people. During those contacts, we dispel myths, remove barriers and seek commitments. No child coming home from school has the knowledge and training that is required to foster effective Behaviour Change.
Does that mean that it is a waste of time to teach kids about environmental programs in schools? Not at all. It is critical to teach children about taking action to protect the environment, as they are the future and have a whole lifetime of opportunity to protect our planet. I have spoken at schools often over 30 years, and have designed and developed school education programs and materials. We encourage education in the schools as part of environmental program promotion. And sure, they may convince a few parents and grandparents. If they do, that is a bonus.
If your goal is to change the behaviour of adults, you have to target the adults directly. No matter how cute the anecdotal evidence may be.