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Learning stranger danger / preventing abuse

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

I couldn't decide what to title this post. Sorry. :-/

 

DS (3) is in a Little Dragons karate class (ages 4-6, he's the youngest) and I'm thrilled that the instructor spends a lot of time teaching/quizzing/role playing with the children life skills such as saying their address and phone number, fire safety, and stranger danger. More than just drilling the kids, he role plays with them and allows them to practice telling an adult "I don't talk to strangers" or running away yelling, "She's not my mommy!" The kids in the class all know what to do if they find themselves stuck in a trunk, or if the fire alarm goes off because Dad's burning dinner. I love these lessons, and IMO the children are learning SO MUCH more than how to do a good roundhouse kick.

 

Today they were talking about what to do if an adult tells you for example, "You are so special. Such an awesome kid. I have something really special for you, but it has to be just our secret. Don't tell your mom and dad." He stressed the point that no matter what, you ALWAYS tell Mom and Dad. If Mom says don't eat the candy bar, and you take candy from the person and you're afraid you're going to get in trouble, you still tell Mom and Dad. You will never ever get in trouble if you tell your parents. He also stressed that some times it may not be a stranger. It could be your Mom, Dad, uncle, teacher, cousin, neighbor...

 

He's gone through this lesson before. I think it's very important and I'm glad he opens the conversation up about it, as well as gives me some good talking points for practice at home. However...

 

This lesson specifically makes me feel... uncomfortable. Not that my child is learning it, but physically uncomfortable. I can't describe it. Admittedly, I am a victim of childhood sexual abuse. I never talk about it, and am a little sick to my stomach just typing the words, so I think it just hits an exposed nerve for me. I feel... vulnerable when he's playing different scenarios. Now, he never tells the kids just WHAT someone might do that tries to approach them when they're alone or get them to keep a secret form their parents, but he uses words like, "I'm going to make you feel good/special" and "You're my special buddy." It just brings on a visceral reaction for me.

 

Is this normal? Is he going too far with the lesson? I feel like I'm grateful that he's #1 teaching this lesson, and #2 giving me a foundation and language with which to continue the conversation at home, but at the same time it is just difficult for me to watch. Input?

post #2 of 23

I also am a survivor of child sexual abuse, so maybe a weigh-in from someone who isn't would be more helpful! I wouldn't want those lessons to be the focus of my child's karate classes. To talk about those things, I'm okay with, but seriously, how many kids get locked in the trunk of a car?

 

The problem to me is that sexual abuse often involves such extensive grooming that those lessons aren't helpful in most situations. It's really not a guy in the park looking for a lost puppy in most cases. It's so much more insidious *and* conspicuous that I just don't think lessons like that are generally helpful for anything other than beginning to break down the stigma around sexual abuse.

post #3 of 23
Thread Starter 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by VisionaryMom View Post

I also am a survivor of child sexual abuse, so maybe a weigh-in from someone who isn't would be more helpful! I wouldn't want those lessons to be the focus of my child's karate classes. To talk about those things, I'm okay with, but seriously, how many kids get locked in the trunk of a car?

 

The problem to me is that sexual abuse often involves such extensive grooming that those lessons aren't helpful in most situations. It's really not a guy in the park looking for a lost puppy in most cases. It's so much more insidious *and* conspicuous that I just don't think lessons like that are generally helpful for anything other than beginning to break down the stigma around sexual abuse.



I wouldn't say it's the focus of the class at all. It probably just sounds like it because it was the focus of this post. Actually, in the month that he's been in this class (twice per week) I'd say this topic has probably been covered twice. Out of a 45 minute class, normally 5 minutes or less might be devoted to the life skills stuff. He moves quickly between activities so the kids don't get bored standing around, so he may talk to them a little bit, then have a race, then talk to them a little more, then play a game, etc. It just so happened that tonight the class was small due to the weather here and he focused a little more on what I wrote about in my OP. And no, I don't think most 5 year olds will ever get locked in a trunk, but I like the idea of DS feeling empowered to deal with or get out of a scary situation, rather than just being afraid. Again, not that I really expect him to be able to get out of the trunk of a moving vehicle... And when they're learning it they all have smiles on their faces, so it isn't a traumatizing lesson. I guess I was just wondering if open discussion about possible abuse and related topics makes other people feel the same way I do, and if they'd appreciate the open dialogue with their kids.

post #4 of 23

My son also takes karate and they do a similar life skills kinda thing, but they have never tackled such a sensitive subject.  At his dojo, they seem to switch off between "manners," "public speaking," and "how to succeed."  I think I would be a little freaked out if they started talking about abuse and abduction type scenarios.  It is really important to me that my little ones not be infected with the hysteria and fear that seems so prevalent nowadays.  And as pp said, if something does happen to them, it is not likely to be the sort of thing a little five minute dealio at karate is going to address.  It doesn't sound to me like the guy is covering material that is too inflammatory, but I'd just be on the edge of my seat thinking I don't know where he's going, kwim?  I know that it's all the rage to sit children down and tell them all sorts of scary things that strangers can do, but I have told Milo very little about the danger of strangers and I wouldn't want him to feel scared and worried about strangers.

post #5 of 23

I would think that it is normal *for you* as a survivor to be triggered by something like this.  Why wouldn't you be?  It's touching on a very deep and painful wound.  And really, who wants to even think about the potential for their own child to be harmed in such a way?  It makes me uncomfortable too, but it's totally understandable that you have a real, visceral reaction to the whole thing. hug2.gif

 

For myself, I'd be glad that someone else my children look up to is reinforcing what we teach at home--and those are the very same themes.  I make sure that my children know that they need to tell me about "secrets" if *anyone*, even a close loved one is wanting to keep them.  I don't want them to fear their relatives, but I want them to know that they will be listened to and kept safe no matter who it is that they need to tell me about, whether stranger, or friend, or cousin or even sibling.

post #6 of 23
Quote:

Originally Posted by kittykat2481 View Post

 

Admittedly, I am a victim of childhood sexual abuse. I never talk about it, and am a little sick to my stomach just typing the words, so I think it just hits an exposed nerve for me. I feel... vulnerable when he's playing different scenarios

 

 

...I feel like I'm grateful that he's #1 teaching this lesson, and #2 giving me a foundation and language with which to continue the conversation at home, but at the same time it is just difficult for me to watch. Input?


 

I'm also a survivor. I did a lot of work in therapy before I got married and had kids, and I still had stuff come up as I raised my children, esp. when my DD who looks very like me reached the ages when specific things happened.

 

There are soooooo many options for you for ways to deal with these feeling. A counseling group of all adult survivors, private counseling, yoga, books that you can work through, etc. There are lots of options for you.  You could journal how you feel and burn the paper.

 

It sounds like you are very comfortable with the teacher and how he is doing things, but that buried gunk from your past is percolating up. You really can release it and be free of it. You don't have to carry it around any more. You can let it all go.

 

(the sick to your stomach feeling could be caused by a feeling of powerlessness. Our third chakra is between our naval and breastbone, and is the seat of personal power in our bodies. Sometimes just sitting nice and straight and breathing right into my 3rd chakra, imagining it glowing like a big yellow sun makes me feel better, and gives me a feeling of relief)

 

PEACE

post #7 of 23

I would be THRILLED for my child to be in such a class.  The truth is, even though sexual abuse usually is someone known to the child/family, it usually DOES begin the way the instructor described: "You are so special.  I'm going to make you feel good.  This is our little secret.  Don't tell Mommy/Daddy."  As someone who's been to numerous trainings on preventing sexual abuse (and I work for CPS so deal with sex abuse on the job) I can tell you that it is ALWAYS ALWAYS good for kids to have their antennae up for these kinds of messages.

 

Also, the "Come look at my puppy" types of abduction usually don't bother with the grooming - they may build some relationship with the child bust mostly those types just grab the kid and run.  Still always key to teach kids not to talk to strangers and not to go near vehicles with adults they don't know, no matter what they're saying.  But the conversations about "You're so special" etc, that is usually the grooming that comes with a relationship/regular access to the child.  Those are the much more common sex abuse scenario, and the msgs this teacher is telling these kids to beware of, those are the right ones.

 

If a child hears the beginnings of this and knows to tell an adult they trust, it can seriously nip it in the bud if that adult coaches the child or addresses the adult directly.

 

I see a PP's point about not wanting to be alarmist about the whole thing - you don't want kids leaving karate class feeling like the world is too scary to leave the house - but I didn't read the description as sounding alarmist.  And if you include these kinds of life lessons along with fire safety, knowing your address, and manners, it can be received by the kids in the same spirit: this is all part of being prepared.  The best prevention is preparation/education.  And then they can have fun and kick butt in class!  Sounds like a very good balance and very useful.

 

Sounds like a great class to me, and if that teacher teaches 100 kids and only 2 of them are every approached by would-be molesters, if that message helps those 2 kids... it is so worth it.  Because we never know which 2 kids that might be... and I'd want my kid prepared as much as possible and ready to come straight to me if ever they were uncomfy.

 

As for your feelings, that sounds so completely natural that it would trigger you.  Perhaps you could either talk to a therapist about how you support your child but also protect yourself... or maybe you step out for that portion and ask another adult you trust to go or update you on how the class went?  Feeling uncomfortable given your past history is totally understandable.  From the way you describe it, it's less about the teacher really saying anything inappropriate, and more about your totally understandable discomfort with the whole subject and triggering of bad memories.  Can you talk to a counselor about this specific situation and get advice or ongoing conversation about managing your feelings on this?

post #8 of 23

I hear what the OP is saying.... I think it is a very hard (and important) topic to introduce.  Especially when the reality is, it is the people who are kids already know who hurt them the most.

 

I was really helped by reading "Protecting the Gift" by Gavin de Becker https://www.gavindebecker.com/resources/book/protecting_the_gift/

 

It helped me make the conversations with my DD more about her instincts and inherent abilities than making it about all the bad things that could happen.

post #9 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by SilverLace View Post

 

 

It helped me make the conversations with my DD more about her instincts and inherent abilities than making it about all the bad things that could happen.


I agree that if the focus of the class isn't  about scaring kids, I would be OK if it was just discussing safety.   I always taught my daughter things like "If there is a car full of people parked along the sidewalk, cross the street and walk on the other side of the road".  "If you are walking home, and someone tries to talk to you, run to the first home and ring the doorbell".  But, my child was old enough to be walking around the neighborhood alone, so it was relevant.

 

 

post #10 of 23

I'm not a survivor and I think I might feel ... something ... hearing those words. It's scary stuff, bad stuff. I'm a mom, you know?

 

I am not a survivor and I would not have had the slightest problem hearing this stuff as a kid. It would have been cool. How to get out of a locked trunk? Cool. I didn't know how bad the world could get, so hearing this stuff wasn't personal, it was just interesting at most.

 

Some kids are more sensitive. Some kids are more sensitive because they know how it can be. Others just seem a little more aware. Most kids in my experience are not that fearful, though. It all seems so hypothetical to them. Most kids can hear your average Brothers Grimm tale and think it's a fun story.

 

I like the sound of the class, seems useful and well done. Hearing actual examples of words predators use is really, really useful. Of course the instructor can't cover every possible approach a predator might take, but the common ones are well worth it, and some kids might even be able to be suspicious of another approach based on what they've learned.

post #11 of 23
Quote:
"If there is a car full of people parked along the sidewalk, cross the street and walk on the other side of the road"

??? I don't even understand this. What is the perceived risk of a parked car "full of people"? Sounds a lot less risky than a parked car with a single man in it, TBH.
Quote:
allows them to practice telling an adult "I don't talk to strangers"

I don't like this rule myself. As has been pointed out to me, if a kid gets lost and is in trouble, he/she may well NEED to talk to a stranger to get help. Or what if something happens to me, or to my other child, and only strangers are nearby? I have taught her to look for a mom with kids, or failing that, a grown woman.

I would be a little annoyed by what you describe because it's so stranger-focused. Stranger abduction is very, very rare. Abuse by friends and family members, unfortunately, is common. I do talk about safety with my kids a lot, but it's more focused on that.
post #12 of 23

I think it is normal for it to cause a visceral reaction. Shoot. It makes me squirm too (I'm not a survivor- but just *the thought*...). This is tough stuff.

 

But I think it is really important to talk about. I second Gavin DeBecker's work "Protecting The Gift". It really resonates and works from a place of understanding vs. giving lists or pat phrases or fear mongering. For example, he recommends to tell your children that if they get seperated from you, to find another mother with children or to find a woman and tell them that they are lost (not "a police officer" who would not likely be around or a "store employee" which a very young child might not recognize and is probably busy, but deBecker describes how women would be the safest and most secure option and how they are significantly less probable of being someone who would harm them and that most women would immediately commit to that child in going through the process of finding their adult... The book has lots of gems of wisdom and logic!).

 

And, kids get locked in trunks more often than you might think. The "kidnapping" scenario is obviously rare, but kids playing around and locking themselves in... happens. My own niece did this by accident and thank god her parents heard her knocking, as the temperature can soar in there :(.

post #13 of 23

De Becker also has a very thorough examination of the "Don't talk to strangers" approach and why it doesn't really work (part of it is about child development and their lack of ability to really  undertand what a "stranger" is, the fact that we actually encourage our kids to "talk to strangers" all the time when we tell them to thank a waitress or go with a new baby sitter or whatever, the fact that strangers are rarely the perpetrators of the crimes we fear, that truly scary criminals know how to "not seem like strangers", etc.). DeBecker gives much more logical, practical advice for parents and children.

post #14 of 23


hmmm at 3 i would be very uncomfortable that anyone can have those kinds of talks with my dd. simple safety stuff yes. but no - not stranger danger. i absolutely never wanted my dd to have any inkling of stranger danger till she was older. dd knew that no one had the right to touch her body without her permission - neither her daddy nor mommy. she wasnt supposed to take anything with anyone till the parent present there said ok. 

 

for me he is going too deep into the subject than i would prefer. I myself would like to teach those things to my dd - not have anyone else do that. 

 

and yes as a survivor absolutely that triggers things. 

 

i am really not comfortable the karate teacher teaching these kind of life skills. i see him as having the possiblitiy of really scaring my dd and making her view the world as an evil place to live. 

 

for me him covering stranger danger - he has gone too far for my liking. if he were to continue without letting the parent know what else he was going to cover i would pull my 3 year old from that class.

 

post #15 of 23

My son is in kung fu, which starts at age 6. He is learning lots of techniques to physically get away from someone - the whole "fire fire, this is not my mother" thing along with break holds and escape methods. The verbal lessons though don't go into that kind of role playing with that kind of language you describe.

 

After about a year the teacher physically attacks the child and they have to use all their maneuvers to pass their self defense review. It is incredibly difficult to watch. There have been times I've sat through kung fu with tears in my eyes - because of so much pride that our children are learning to be empowered and because it breaks my heart that they have to learn these things. And watching a big grown man put his hands around a child's neck is just jarring (obviously he only uses enough force to make them work at their technique, not really hurt them).

 

I think it's normal to have that reaction. These things trigger our worst fears. Our class is different from yours and I do think that kind of role playing would make me uncomfortable and sad as well.

post #16 of 23
I am a survivor of sexual abuse also...

I would love those kind of lessons for the younger children, BUT not under maybe 5 or 6?

I would feel a little nervous with the language part though, I mean... I have some of my family that would call my youngest a special buddy (usually its special bud or hey buddy) usually its when my youngest is doing anything sport related with them. I think as long as the children know... not all bad people use those words, but that would be really confusing.

Am I the only one who feels like this?
post #17 of 23

So weird, I had a totally different feeling about the opening post than I did the last time I responded.  That is  --  how freaking scary for a kid to have to worry about being stuffed into a trunk!!!  I would die if someone brought that up even with my 8 year old.  That is just too scary and I wouldn't want him worrying about that.  Alexsam says that it happens more than you'd think, but I kind of doubt that it happens any where near often enough to justify putting it in my kids' head.  Clearly it is less than one in a thousand, I'm guessing much much less.  I've never even heard of it happening and before kids I was a criminal defense attorney.  I certainly don't know of anyone who's had it happen to them or a family member or a person they knew.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by alexsam View Post

I think it is normal for it to cause a visceral reaction. Shoot. It makes me squirm too (I'm not a survivor- but just *the thought*...). This is tough stuff.

 

But I think it is really important to talk about. I second Gavin DeBecker's work "Protecting The Gift". It really resonates and works from a place of understanding vs. giving lists or pat phrases or fear mongering. For example, he recommends to tell your children that if they get seperated from you, to find another mother with children or to find a woman and tell them that they are lost (not "a police officer" who would not likely be around or a "store employee" which a very young child might not recognize and is probably busy, but deBecker describes how women would be the safest and most secure option and how they are significantly less probable of being someone who would harm them and that most women would immediately commit to that child in going through the process of finding their adult... The book has lots of gems of wisdom and logic!).

 

And, kids get locked in trunks more often than you might think. The "kidnapping" scenario is obviously rare, but kids playing around and locking themselves in... happens. My own niece did this by accident and thank god her parents heard her knocking, as the temperature can soar in there :(.



 

post #18 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by rubidoux View Post

So weird, I had a totally different feeling about the opening post than I did the last time I responded.  That is  --  how freaking scary for a kid to have to worry about being stuffed into a trunk!!!  I would die if someone brought that up even with my 8 year old.  That is just too scary and I wouldn't want him worrying about that.  


Oh wow I never thought about this till you mentioned it, you could really stress or make a child paranoid if that's what they constantly hear.
post #19 of 23
I would be very uncomfortable with those kinds of topics being discussed with my three year old. I'm a social worker and work with kids who have been abused so I am in no way blind to it and probably super jaded and paranoid...which is part of the reason I wouldn't want my kid learning about the possibility of being locked in a trunk. I'm more concerned my kids mental health would suffer going over kidnapping scenarios at three than I am of him being kidnapped. Five or six is more appropriate but even still, the whole trunk thing wigs me out.
post #20 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by LROM View Post

I would be THRILLED for my child to be in such a class.  The truth is, even though sexual abuse usually is someone known to the child/family, it usually DOES begin the way the instructor described: "You are so special.  I'm going to make you feel good.  This is our little secret.  Don't tell Mommy/Daddy."  As someone who's been to numerous trainings on preventing sexual abuse (and I work for CPS so deal with sex abuse on the job) I can tell you that it is ALWAYS ALWAYS good for kids to have their antennae up for these kinds of messages.

 

Also, the "Come look at my puppy" types of abduction usually don't bother with the grooming - they may build some relationship with the child bust mostly those types just grab the kid and run.  Still always key to teach kids not to talk to strangers and not to go near vehicles with adults they don't know, no matter what they're saying.  But the conversations about "You're so special" etc, that is usually the grooming that comes with a relationship/regular access to the child.  Those are the much more common sex abuse scenario, and the msgs this teacher is telling these kids to beware of, those are the right ones.

 

If a child hears the beginnings of this and knows to tell an adult they trust, it can seriously nip it in the bud if that adult coaches the child or addresses the adult directly.

 

I see a PP's point about not wanting to be alarmist about the whole thing - you don't want kids leaving karate class feeling like the world is too scary to leave the house - but I didn't read the description as sounding alarmist.  And if you include these kinds of life lessons along with fire safety, knowing your address, and manners, it can be received by the kids in the same spirit: this is all part of being prepared.  The best prevention is preparation/education.  And then they can have fun and kick butt in class!  Sounds like a very good balance and very useful.

 

Sounds like a great class to me, and if that teacher teaches 100 kids and only 2 of them are every approached by would-be molesters, if that message helps those 2 kids... it is so worth it.  Because we never know which 2 kids that might be... and I'd want my kid prepared as much as possible and ready to come straight to me if ever they were uncomfy.

 

As for your feelings, that sounds so completely natural that it would trigger you.  Perhaps you could either talk to a therapist about how you support your child but also protect yourself... or maybe you step out for that portion and ask another adult you trust to go or update you on how the class went?  Feeling uncomfortable given your past history is totally understandable.  From the way you describe it, it's less about the teacher really saying anything inappropriate, and more about your totally understandable discomfort with the whole subject and triggering of bad memories.  Can you talk to a counselor about this specific situation and get advice or ongoing conversation about managing your feelings on this?

 

I completely agree.
 

 

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