Too Friendly of a 3 Year-Old??? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 12 Old 10-01-2008, 11:50 PM - Thread Starter
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I have 3 year-old twins who are unbelievably outgoing and friendly. I'm more reserved, so I'm generally just left speechless.

I don't want to dampen their confidence and trust, yet at the same time, I worry about whether they might be exposing themselves to stranger danger. My daughter ran up to the "engineer" at a model railroad garden, put her hands in his, and led him with her to look at the trains.

We've started taking subways and buses a lot because of gas prices. My son makes eye contact and faces with people until he engages them, and then laughs and plays with them. In part, I think it's wonderful. Yet, I worry about their outgoingness.

As I think about it, I'm not sure telling them "don't talk to strangers" is really very useful in protecting them. I think it's overbroad. Not every person they haven't spoken to will hurt them. And many pedophiles prey on kids they befriend.

I welcome any thoughts or suggestions.

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#2 of 12 Old 10-02-2008, 12:06 AM
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A few guidelines we've given DD:

MOST strangers and people we don't know well are "kind". An overwhelming majority. (I really stress this with DD, and it seems to have helped prevent anxiety.) Only a few are "not kind." We have to be careful, though, because you can't tell if a stranger is "kind" by looking at them, so we use the same rules with EVERYBODY we don't know well. (This leads into discussions about accepting gifts, getting into cars, etc.)

Anytime you're with Mommy or Daddy, it's safe to interact with people you don't know. (DD telling a lady she likes her shirt, while holding Daddy's hand, for example. Totally safe.)

And though she hasn't yet linked the above stuff with the following subject, and doesn't know that the two topics could be related, we've also given her a keen sense of which parts of her body are private- we've stressed the "parts that are ONLY for you" angle, so that there's a sort of pride of ownership in the privacy, instead of wondering why those parts are so shameful they have to be secret.

Kind of a rambling answer, but these things combined have made for a four year old who is outgoing without being blindly trusting, and aware without being frightened.
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#3 of 12 Old 10-02-2008, 12:11 AM
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Honestly, I wouldn't worry too much about outgoing, confident kids being targeted. First of all, predators most often target kids they know. Second of all, when predators do target random kids they aren't really random. They typically seek out children who are socially disconnected or insecure in some way. It sounds like your kids are more likely to be leaders than followers!

Julie - Mom to Elizabeth (Libby) age 6, Penelope (Penny) age 5, Elliott age 29 months, and Oscar who is 1 year old!
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#4 of 12 Old 10-02-2008, 12:31 AM
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I'm in the same boat. I'm somewhat shy and my daughter is super outgoing. Most of the time I am just thrilled because I don't know what I'd do with a kid like me, but sometimes I just don't know how to react. I want her to be able to trust her instincts about people, so sometimes I will ask her, "was that lady you talked to at the mall nice?" "What made you like her?" "Why didn't you want to talk to that boy?" That kind of thing so that she begins to get a feel for why some people are safe to talk to and why some are not and trust her gut.
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#5 of 12 Old 10-02-2008, 09:52 AM
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One suggestion I've read - forgot the source, but likely others on this board know it - is to sharpen your children's instinctive judgement skills through discussion.

For example, after your daughter ran up to the engineer, later you might ask your kids what they thought of the man. Did he seem kind? Friendly? Honest?

And then some other time, when you're at a store and a man takes "too much" interest in your kids (in a smarmy and not cool way), talk to them about it later. "I didn't trust him - what do you think?"

Kids also need the ability to talk to strangers - and judge which ones to choose - in certain situations like if they are separated from you. You can give them guidelines, like preferably picking another mother with children as their first choice. But if their first choice isn't available, they need to be able to decide for themselves who they can trust, based on their experience and discussions with you.

You would also want yourself to "allow" non-PC judgements on who makes you uncomfortable. I've read stories of people who were, say, on elevators with people of other races or passing a disabled person on the street - and ignored their feelings of discomfort because it wasn't PC. And indeed you don't want to judge based on those factors alone. But if you're uncomfortable, it's probably for another reason other than the race, disability, etc. Don't ignore it (doesn't mean you have to panic - but acknowledge the intuition and remove yourself from the situation if at all possible). Sandford Strong (an LA police officer) says: "My safety first, your feelings second."

Homeschooling mama to 6 year old DD.

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#6 of 12 Old 10-02-2008, 11:12 AM
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this is becoming a thought for us too. My dd is 2 so I'm limited in a way to make things simple enough for her without bringing in the fear factor. We have been moving around alot and so it seems we are aways in the company of strangers. We just moved to an apartment with elevators that she can reach and hallways after hallways of doors. We will be moving to a large city in the up coming months so keeping her safe is now something I think of more. Especially since she is extremely friendly, hands on, and loves other peoples' cars.

Basically I feel that if I continue a dialogue with her. Like we just sat down with her (both of us) and basically told her that she could not ride the elevator by herself or with somebody other her mama, and dada, and that she can smile and talk to eople, she isn't to go in anybodies house without us there. Just making the distinction of with or without, and also giving emphasis on her being lost as opposed to be with a stranger, is something she can relate to.

I love the suggestions of passive teaching of intuition. I will def bring that to the table as well.

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#7 of 12 Old 10-02-2008, 11:33 AM
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I recommend you read Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe by Gavin DeBecker. Good discussion of how teaching kids not to talk to strangers is a bad lesson. Lot of good info in there about how to identify actual risks vs our perception of what may be risky. Gift of Fear is his book for adults, really good, about trusting your instincts. There have been other discussions on MDC about his books.
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#8 of 12 Old 10-02-2008, 02:12 PM
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i have one of those too. the thing is early on i watched my dd interact. and it was truly amazing. she kinda picks up on who is safe and who is not. i have people watched with her and discovered how well she can tell who is safe and who is not. i recall doing this as a child myself. and slowly losing it as i grew up.

in fact i trust my dd's instincts more than i trust myself. even as an infant i could see she avoided some people - and it wasnt just those quiet people but even seemingly smiling nice 'safe looking' people.

she is 6. and i have never ever spoken about strangers to her. ever. she went to dc and that's where she learnt the term. instead i have talked to her about 'nobody'. when she was younger no one was allowed to give her food without me being aware of it first. she wasnt allowed to go with no one without my permission. no one was allowed to touch her vagina or bottom without her permission. later on when she learnt the facts of life, she asked me if her daddy wasnt also allowed when we were still married. and i said no - not without my permission. i have made no gender or age distinction. a pedophile could be a man, woman or child. i dont emphasise on pedophiles. i emphasise violators of any kind. not just sexual. anyone disrespecting anyone's wishes.

what i have done is kinda tried to develop her instinct. well maybe not develop but just understand it. we have sat and people watched and said why we dont want to approach any of the adults or children.

coz children can be equally dangerous too. not just adults.

and i have found she has been right on with all the people i was able to research later on.

its all about the energy. appearances can be deceptive. a crazy looking person might not be dangerous at all. whilst a normal looking person might.

but having said all of this i refuse to live in fear. i refuse to believe that i have to watch out for dangerous people. i refuse to live in a world where i have to imagine that suspicion is the norm. i think when my dd and i live that way - making full eye contact and greeting everyone with a smile that somehow even the 'bad' people will be able to see the humaneness in us and thus be able to connect with the humaneness within themselves.

how i started was to give my dd action words. limits. but no lengthy conversations or explanations, details. so if we were going into a crowded place i would remind her (not every time but once in a while) dont take food from anybody. dont go with anybody no matter what they said. she could do anything she wanted as long as she checked in with me. i have never read a safety book with her. i have never ever just brought up the subject during cuddle time. i have only done it when the issue arose. and she has pretty much kept those boundaries.

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#9 of 12 Old 10-02-2008, 02:32 PM
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My oldest child is very outgoing as well. To keep her safe (and to keep my sanity!) I have always had the rule "it's okay to talk to strangers if you are holding mom or dad's hand". That way I am aware that she is talking to a stranger. Also keeps her from striking up a convo while I'm picking out cereal at the store and walking off chatting with someone (she's easily distracted). I also taught her at a very young age (like 18 mos or so) not to take food from anyone without my permission. We have a lot of severe food allergies in my family (my dad is ana to tree nuts) so I was very cautious in introducing new foods to her.

I think it's nice for my DD to have a chat with the older couple in line behind us at the store. It usually makes her day as well to be able to tell ppl all about how she's in K and has a younger sis and a baby brother. And I have absolutely no problem with her talking to strangers as long as she's holding my hand (or, if I'm busy she'll put her hand in my pocket).

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#10 of 12 Old 10-02-2008, 03:03 PM
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I think it's perfectly safe, as long as you are there too. Which obviously, you are.

As long as they aren't bothering others, and you are watching to make sure they aren't being annoying, I see nothing but good in having outgoing kids.

My mom's friend's granddaughter is TOO outgoing. She will climb in the lap of a total stranger and touch their face. It really freaks people out. But, her MOm thinks it's normal and perfectly fine. She's six now, and still does it. No matter how much you like kids, that's just an invasion of personal space.

So, if your kids are just being charming, then enjoy it! Us the opportunity to make new friends. But, if they are invading other's personal space, you should put a stop to that.
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#11 of 12 Old 10-02-2008, 06:35 PM
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Hmm, that holding hands rule is good, because my son will approach (sometimes its more like "acost") anyone and start chatting and would probably happily walk off with them. I don't want to make him scared...he has enough anxiety about other things, I really don't want to add this to the list, but he's just so friendly and talkative and sees no real boundries between people he knows well and those he doesn't.

The one thing we've done always is help him hone the boundries he does have. Like he actually does go through phases where he isn't as outgoing, so I will help him not talk to people if he doesn't feel like it, or find the words to say "I only like when mommy and daddy tickle me, please don't tickle me!" (and tell him if they don't listen he can yell NO, STOP and run to me for help)
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#12 of 12 Old 10-03-2008, 12:50 AM - Thread Starter
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That is fantastic advice, everyone. I thought it was especially insightful to point out that predators tend to pretty on the more insecure kids. I'm going to work on honing their attention to instincts. I think that is their best protection. After all, I think the real danger is the boy scout leader or coach, etc. who is also a pedophile, or as someone pointed out, an older child acting out sexual abuse, etc.
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