Protecting your kids without being overprotective - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 13 Old 05-16-2012, 04:51 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Just read an article "Can a Kid Be a Psychopath?" on Yahoo which I find very disturbing. 

http://ca.shine.yahoo.com/blogs/parenting/kid-psychopath-221400341.html

There is also a very high profile criminal case that is in the Canadian press right now (I live in Canada) - two people, a man and a woman, lured an 8-year old girl, then raped and killed her. 

My daughter is 7 months old now, and I feel unprepared to raise her when I read stories like this. How do I ensure her safety without teaching her to be suspicious of every person she meets? How do I prepare her to the fact that not all kids are nice and well natured (the article is talking about very extreme cases but there are always kids around who are more agressive, cruel or manipulative than others). My daughter is cute, and wherever we go we get lots of attention - people comment on her cuteness, smile to her, try to talk to her which seems perfectly normal and natural. I teach her to smile back and to wave "hi" - e.g. if we are in the lineup in the supermarket. She is getting used to it, and she smiles to people easily. Yesterday we were in a clinic, and she gave a really broad smile to someone behind my back. When I turned around I saw a somewhat creepy looking young man smiling to her. Am I wrong to teach her to smile to strangers and to say them "hi"? Do I put her at risk by making too friendly? Of course she is supervised now 24/7 but there will be a long time before she is old enough to understand what she can and can't do. How do you teach safety your kids without making them (and yourself) paranoid?

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#2 of 13 Old 05-16-2012, 05:00 AM
 
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I worry about this, too. It's hard to be a mom when you're a worry wart like me! Check out the blog (and book) free range kids.
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#3 of 13 Old 05-16-2012, 05:21 AM
 
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Cases like this are incredibly uncommon. They happen very seldom, but writing about them sells papers (or advertising space on web pages and tv shows) so they are talked about over, and over, and over, and over again. The same cases are talked about for years and years. Even after decades, there will still be news articles about these cases. The bad thing about them being talked about so much is that our brains unconsciously take every time we hear about them as an incident to worry about, making them seem much more common than they are. The good thing about them being talked about for decades is that it is proof of how rare it is. If it happend very often, the same cases wouldn't be brought up over and over again for years and years, because there would be other cases to talk about.

Being overly diligent about abduction is not a zero-sum game. That is, it doesn't just make abduction less of a potential. It also causes other things to happen. Kids who are allowed to play freely are less likely to have weight problems, grow to be greater problem solvers and have better social skills (because they grow up working problems out with other kids without adult intervention), watch less TV and play fewer video games, and have more fun!

Really educate yourself about the realities of this. There's a great book called Protecting the Gift, that gives you real world practical ways to minimize the risk, and at the same time helps show how rare the risk is. It's a great book both for knowing how to spot and respond to trouble, and for not allowing that slim potential to control your and your kids' lives.
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#4 of 13 Old 05-16-2012, 06:23 AM
 
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I don't think teaching your child to be friendly increases abduction risk. Most children spend little unsupervised time when really young. By the time they start spending more adult free time they are often old enough to have a talk about appropriateness with strangers. A man attempted to lure my younger sister and her friend into his car outside their elementary school. They were about 6 at the time, but knew to run away screaming back to school. A very similar story was in the local news recently. My sis was always a friendly girl, but she knew better than to go off with strangers.

 

As for the article about the kids, yeah those stories are very uncommon. That said if I got a weird vibe from a child I would not hesitate to stop my ds from spending time with said child outside of my presence. I'm not particularly over protective, but I trust my intuition.


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#5 of 13 Old 05-16-2012, 06:26 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Ramzubo View Post

As for the article about the kids, yeah those stories are very uncommon. That said if I got a weird vibe from a child I would not hesitate to stop my ds from spending time with said child outside of my presence. I'm not particularly over protective, but I trust my intuition.

That is precisely the main theme of Protecting the Gift. smile.gif
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#6 of 13 Old 05-16-2012, 08:22 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for the book title mamazee, I've found it already in the local library, will get it today. You are absolutely right about these cases being uncommon but on the other hand not taking chances - since I don't know much about teaching kids safety nowadays such a book is definitely something I'd like to read.

 

I have heard recently about "free range kids" book, and I'm all pro this idea. Our parents worked full time and never kept close tabs on our whereabouts during the day - we were taught the rules of safety (not to go with the strangers, not to leave the neighbourhood, not to go to the park without adults, etc) but as for the rest we were pretty much free to go outside to play with other kids, go to a nearby grocery store, walk back home from school, etc. I feel that things changed nowadays, and that's what make me worry - I guess the best thing is to just get prepared by educating yourself about today's realities and teach the kids. 

 

Thank you all for replies, feel better after reading your posts :)

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#7 of 13 Old 05-17-2012, 07:51 PM
 
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Originally Posted by mamazee View Post

Cases like this are incredibly uncommon. They happen very seldom, but writing about them sells papers (or advertising space on web pages and tv shows) so they are talked about over, and over, and over, and over again. The same cases are talked about for years and years. Even after decades, there will still be news articles about these cases. The bad thing about them being talked about so much is that our brains unconsciously take every time we hear about them as an incident to worry about, making them seem much more common than they are. The good thing about them being talked about for decades is that it is proof of how rare it is. If it happend very often, the same cases wouldn't be brought up over and over again for years and years, because there would be other cases to talk about.
Being overly diligent about abduction is not a zero-sum game. That is, it doesn't just make abduction less of a potential. It also causes other things to happen. Kids who are allowed to play freely are less likely to have weight problems, grow to be greater problem solvers and have better social skills (because they grow up working problems out with other kids without adult intervention), watch less TV and play fewer video games, and have more fun!
Really educate yourself about the realities of this. There's a great book called Protecting the Gift, that gives you real world practical ways to minimize the risk, and at the same time helps show how rare the risk is. It's a great book both for knowing how to spot and respond to trouble, and for not allowing that slim potential to control your and your kids' lives.

 

This is really interesting info (weight issues, social skills, problem-solving)... and makes good sense. I definitely struggle with the balance of being protective vs. overprotective.

 

I think that saying these cases are "incredibly uncommon" is a little misleading though. It really depends where you live. I live in a large urban center in the northwest and a quick search on my city's crime mapper website told me that in the last year there were 21 assaults, 5 rapes and 1 homicide (and all of them within just a four block radius of my home - I live in a moderate income neighborhood). And I found eight registered sex offenders within a half mile of my home, half of which have multiple minor-child offenses on their record.

 

It's a scary place out there, but you're right. We can't just keep our kids at home or never let them interact with their world... if anything it makes them MORE vulnerable to predators because they don't learn how to spot the creepy people. There is definitely a balance to be had between the two extremes... it's always tough to find the right fulcrum for your own family though.

 

Even so, once he gets older I hope I can move to the suburbs...


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#8 of 13 Old 05-18-2012, 05:22 AM
 
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The crimes of the nature you're talking about - crimes against adults - are more common than unrelated people abducting children. The vast majority of child abductions are by someone the child knows, usually a non-custodial parent. Stranger abduction of a child is a very rare event. And rape of an adult, or of a teenager, is much more common than abduction of children. Once people hit puberty, the number of strangers attracted to them increases by a huge amount, and they become much bigger targets. In the book I talked about above, the author says that teenage girls are the most common victims of the kind of crime we worry about, and we ironically hire teenage girls to make our pre-pubescent kids safer, when they're in more danger being in the way of someone trying to get at the teenage girl than they are on their own.
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#9 of 13 Old 05-18-2012, 07:38 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I think that saying these cases are "incredibly uncommon" is a little misleading though.... And I found eight registered sex offenders within a half mile of my home, half of which have multiple minor-child offenses on their record.

 

I think when mamazee said that these cases are very uncommon she referred to the cases like I mentioned in the first post - child abduction by the strangers, killings by children-psychopaths. I've started reading the book "Protecting the gift", and this is actually something the author is talking about - while the most violent crimes against children are not very common they get the widest media coverage, and therefore, the risks appear to be more real than they are. That distracts us from the risks that are statistically more real - e.g. according to the book "The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that on average, there is one child molester per square mile.". Another statistics from the book is that nearly 90 percent of sexual abuse is committed by someone the children know, not by strangers. 

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#10 of 13 Old 05-18-2012, 08:46 AM
 
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My kids are 5 and 7 (I know this thread is in life with a babe, but I wanted to speak to the issue anyway). They are getting older. They are out in the world. They explore. They have friends and playdates and school experiences that I'm not a part of. It makes me nervous sometimes, but I try to teach them to trust their own instincts and be honest when somebody makes them uncomfortable. I don't force them into situations that seem "off" to any of us.

 

I do let them play outside with their friends. We live in a very child friendly neighbourhood, but it is in the city and we don't know everybody. But we do know enough of the people on the block that when 4 or 5 of them are playing in the front that I know there are enough eyes on them to keep them safe. Often they think they're playing on their own, but I'm standing in the window watching them or sitting on the porch listening for trouble. We also have lots of at home parents, retired people and families with at least one working from home parent on the block. I think kids play differently when left to their own. They are more creative and they have the opportunity to solve their own problems.

 

We talk about the kinds of tricks adults play on kids when they want to hurt them and that I would never send anybody to pick them up that they didn't know intimately and without speaking to them about it first. If there was an emergency, their teacher or principal would speak to them about it, not a stranger. They know who to go to in an emergency. They know it's ok to bite, kick, scream or hit if anybody tries to snatch them or make them do something that feels wrong.

 

I know there are no guarantees, but I value their freedom and their right to exist in the world without excessive fear. I feel we really have created a culture of fear and it has had a negative impact on women and children by limiting our movement and requiring us to look over our shoulders all the time. I feel so sad about that. 
 


Diane, SAHM to DD (June 05) and DS (April 07).
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#11 of 13 Old 05-18-2012, 09:12 AM
 
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Originally Posted by amama2011 View Post

I think when mamazee said that these cases are very uncommon she referred to the cases like I mentioned in the first post - child abduction by the strangers, killings by children-psychopaths. I've started reading the book "Protecting the gift", and this is actually something the author is talking about - while the most violent crimes against children are not very common they get the widest media coverage, and therefore, the risks appear to be more real than they are. That distracts us from the risks that are statistically more real - e.g. according to the book "The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that on average, there is one child molester per square mile.". Another statistics from the book is that nearly 90 percent of sexual abuse is committed by someone the children know, not by strangers. 

 

I see. Exactly what crime she was referring to wasn't clear to me (crimes against children in general - or that specific type of crime), which is why I felt her statement was misleading, I suppose. Protecting kids from stranger abduction is obviously important, but I don't suspect it happens all that often either. However, I have known a few people who have discovered that their children have been molested by either a friend or family member. I also worry about crime in a more general way though, because I don't want my kiddo to grow up thinking that stuff is okay just because it's more prevalent where we live than in other places.

 

ETA: Two of the three cases that come to mind have been taken to court and the offender locked up for a very long time, fortunately.


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#12 of 13 Old 05-18-2012, 01:44 PM
 
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Sorry - I thought it would be clear that I was referring to the type of crime the OP was talking about in the OP.
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#13 of 13 Old 05-19-2012, 04:54 PM
 
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Sorry - I thought it would be clear that I was referring to the type of crime the OP was talking about in the OP.

 

It's not you, it's me. I failed to comprehend "cases like these" as being specifically related to abductions, and thought it was generally horrific crimes. I jumped to conclusions about your meaning, based on my own world view that is slightly more fear-based. It's good for me to be reminded of that sometimes. It helps me to chill out a bit. 


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