Stranger Danger vs. being social - Mothering Forums
Family Safety > Stranger Danger vs. being social
Jade's Mom's Avatar Jade's Mom 04:25 PM 10-03-2010
My 4yo is very social. She is very comfortable talking to people she doesn't know, kids and adults alike. I love that about her and I don't want that to change. But, she's getting to the age where I need to start talking to her about "stranger danger."

I recall years ago reading an article in in Mothering about how the whole stranger danger thing has created a society where people are afraid to talk to anyone they don't know. I don't want her to stop being social, but I also want her to be safe. How can I teach her to be safe without squashing the social part of her personality?

TheGirls's Avatar TheGirls 05:21 PM 10-03-2010
Have you read "The Gift of Fear"? It's a good book, with a lot of discussion about just that topic. DeBecker thinks that teaching "stranger danger" is quite counterproductive to teaching kids to handle themselves in the real world. It makes a lot of sense to me. He makes two points that really stuck with me

1) the odds that a total stranger will ever (molest, kidnap, whathaveyou) your child is close to zero. The vast majority of these things involve people we know and trust, so teaching kids that strangers might hurt them kind of puts the focus on the wrong folks.

2) Teaching kids not to talk to strangers makes very little sense to a kid. They see you talk to strangers every day (cashier, waitress, person behind you in line, etc). Talking with strangers is a part of negotiating our everyday life. And if you ask kids who have been trained in "stranger danger' they'll tell you that a stranger is "funny looking" or "scary looking" or has some other identifying feature. Plus, if a kid is in trouble, you WANT them to ask a stranger for help, not wait for someone to approach them.

For us, we will teach DD never to get in a car with someone unless we say she can. If she needs help, we will teach her to look for a mother to ask for help. And when she's old enough, explain that adults generally don't ask kids for help (finding a puppy, etc). And most importantly, teach her to trust her instincts.
Drummer's Wife's Avatar Drummer's Wife 05:28 PM 10-03-2010
Also, Protecting the Gift by DeBecker addresses this. Definitely pick up one or both books when you get a chance.
Jade's Mom's Avatar Jade's Mom 06:43 PM 10-03-2010
Thanks for the reminders. I love Gavin DeBecker and have been wanting to read his books ever since I saw him on Oprah more than 10 years ago when he was on after the Columbine Shootings. I've had his books on my wish list for years. It might be time to go ahead and read those.
traceface's Avatar traceface 06:56 PM 10-03-2010
yes, I think the main thing is teaching that if an adult ever asks you for help, to walk away from them and tell a trusted adult. Adults do not ask children for help!

there is really no danger in being "social" if the child knows to not go anywhere with the person under any circumstances.
Hokulele's Avatar Hokulele 07:22 PM 10-03-2010
OP - I think I read the same article as you, and I took it very much to heart. DD1 is now 5 and she will walk up to just about anyone in certain settings (grocery store, DH's work etc) and start talking to them. We live in a small town where people are overly friendly but not small enough to know everyone by any means.

I have taught her that if she needs help, she should find the nearest person who looks like a mom. And she (kind of) knows how to dial 911 (sometimes she thinks it is 119!) But I need to give her more awareness. Thanks, PP, for the idea of telling her that adults don't ask kids for help. That's an important one!
Marsupialmom's Avatar Marsupialmom 09:56 PM 10-03-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by traceface View Post
yes, I think the main thing is teaching that if an adult ever asks you for help, to walk away from them and tell a trusted adult. Adults do not ask children for help!
My 12 year old found out this is not true today. She was walking to her friend's house and an elderly man was stooped over, asked her to go in his house can call 911. She whipped out her cell phone and called 911. He was having a heart attack I am glad I taught her to think, trust her guts, and always ask us first before helping anyone. So she didn't ask us first, but she thought (more important) and knew this guy needed help not ignored.

My son has been asked directions - against most of the time it wasn't an issue but one time he walked in and said mom that guy gives me the creeps. He has been asked by more than one elderly woman to help them get grocery's in or something.

My kids have seen me help people out. They have seen me help a elderly man fallen and couldn't get up, but threating to call 911 unless have gave me a phone number to call someone that could help. We were walking on the wrong side on a unclimbable fence.


Quote:
Originally Posted by traceface View Post
there is really no danger in being "social" if the child knows to not go anywhere with the person under any circumstances.
I agree there is no reason not to be socialable.
sapphire_chan's Avatar sapphire_chan 10:48 PM 10-03-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marsupialmom View Post
My 12 year old found out this is not true today. She was walking to her friend's house and an elderly man was stooped over, asked her to go in his house can call 911. She whipped out her cell phone and called 911. He was having a heart attack I am glad I taught her to think, trust her guts, and always ask us first before helping anyone. So she didn't ask us first, but she thought (more important) and knew this guy needed help not ignored.
I think you're always going to be safe calling 911 for someone when you have your own phone.
IdentityCrisisMama's Avatar IdentityCrisisMama 07:55 PM 10-04-2010
I agree with everyone here about Gavin de Becker's book(s). I think his opinion of stranger danger is spot.on! TheGirls summed the ideas up very well, IMO.

The one thing I don't remember in the book is the bit about adults not asking kids for help. I'm not sure how I feel about that advice for a similar reason as Marsupialmom said. I feel like plenty of adults may try to engage with young kids by asking for help. I feel like that's even something I would do or have done with stranger kids.

The other thing I loved about DeBecker is this idea that for very young kids it's *YOUR* job to keep them safe. What I took from that part of the book was permission to not burden my young child with talk of danger, abduction, abuse. I just kept her safe. Now that she's 9 I'm feeling like we can take the discussion to the next level...slowly.
Yulia_R's Avatar Yulia_R 03:11 PM 10-05-2010
First of all, thank you OP for this thread, very interesting discussion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by traceface View Post
yes, I think the main thing is teaching that if an adult ever asks you for help, to walk away from them and tell a trusted adult. Adults do not ask children for help!

I have a problem with this because in reality, in traditional societies (the way we wired) this should not be the case. The kids should not be made feel like they are a useless peice of furniture that is so helpless and not self-safficient that they would never be asked for help.

Also, about the suggestion of looking for a mother to ask for help. Don't you think that in a long run it will give her a strong message that men aren't to be trusted.

I know this does not answer what would be the right way of educating the kids on the matter, but these two raised a big red flag for me and I wanted to discuss it a little if you mamas don't mind.
Yulia_R's Avatar Yulia_R 03:22 PM 10-05-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marsupialmom View Post
My 12 year old found out this is not true today. She was walking to her friend's house and an elderly man was stooped over, asked her to go in his house can call 911. She whipped out her cell phone and called 911. He was having a heart attack I am glad I taught her to think, trust her guts, and always ask us first before helping anyone. So she didn't ask us first, but she thought (more important) and knew this guy needed help not ignored.
Good for her for helping that person. Trust me, for her it will be one of the most meaningful experiences in her life. I had that experience when I was a teen and I still remember it as if it was yesterday and am still very proud of myself.
I was in the woods (not too far from home, but in the woods nonetheless) all by myself (doesn't get any worse than that as far as 'stranger danger' goes lol). There was a young men (maybe 18-19) there who called me and asked for help. Turned out he had a serious injury right on his knee area, it was possible to see his knee bone (hope the details aren't too colorful), he was in shock, scared, pale/white from the shock and thought if he tried to walk his knee would fall out (you know people can imagine the weirdest things when they are in shock), so he just sat there getting more and more scared. I helped him to walk to the nearest house (which was neither mine nor his, but had the phone) and called 911. I was SO proud of myself as if I saved his life (no less )
IdentityCrisisMama's Avatar IdentityCrisisMama 03:53 PM 10-05-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yulia_R View Post
Also, about the suggestion of looking for a mother to ask for help. Don't you think that in a long run it will give her a strong message that men aren't to be trusted.
I felt the same way when I was talking to DC about this. For me, DeBeckham's book was just so wonderful that I was really tempted to follow his advice.

When it came down to talking to DC about who to look for for help (we talked mostly about getting separated in public) I said she should look for a parent or someone who looked like a mom.

I felt like that was a good compromise - I used the sex-neutral term parent but also added the idea of looking for a mom.
Yulia_R's Avatar Yulia_R 04:00 PM 10-05-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by IdentityCrisisMama View Post
When it came down to talking to DC about who to look for for help (we talked mostly about getting separated in public) I said she should look for a parent or someone who looked like a mom.

I felt like that was a good compromise - I used the sex-neutral term parent but also added the idea of looking for a mom.
good idea, thanks!!
morgansmith's Avatar morgansmith 08:01 AM 11-16-2010

I actually have the same issue with you. I also have a socially inclined kid who really doesn't care who she is speaking with. And I worry a lot about her safety especially nowadays that child abduction is very rampant. I have already opened up to her about stranger danger just to make her realize how unsafe it is to talk to strangers but it seems that she really couldn't help it. Of course, having a socially inclined kid is pretty amazing it shows how smart a kid is. However, we need to do some safety precautions to ensure their safety all the time. In relation to this, what I did is I registered my daughter to "SafeKidZone” that with a press of a Panic Button she can summon help and ask for immediate response in the event that she will find somebody suspicious. You can check on their website it is http://safekidzone.com/.
 


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