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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm stuck.... I don't want my daughter to be scared of everyone she doesn't know, all the time, but I do want to be realistic about the dangers of strangers she may come in contact with. Of course I am super careful about where she is and who she talks to, etc. but I still feel the need to teach her *something* but I don't know where to start.

(Of course, people known to the child are statistically more likely to abuse/abduct/etc them, I believe, but I think I have a better handle on teaching my kids about that for some reason.)

What do you tell your kids about strangers? I get the impression she feels that "bad" people will look bad, and "good" people look nice, you know? I don't want her to fear everyone she doesn't know, but I don't want her to think that it's ok to walk off with or talk to just anyone. Make sense?

I'm not sure if this made sense... I hope it did. I'm in a rush to get kids bathed and read to and all that, and wanted to get it out there before I shut down.

Oh, my older daughter is almost 4, fwiw.


Thank you!
 

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I always hated the "Don't talk to strangers" line that a lot of people use.

What I told my kids is, it's perfectly fine to speak to strangers, but they are never to go anywhere with a stranger without telling me first. I figured that, as long as they were with me, I could watch out for anything inappropriate. As they got older and began to go places without me, we expanded on the issues of safety, mostly focusing on them trusting their feelings. But when they're this young, it's up to US to make the judgement call. I think you're right in that kids this age believe that "bad" people will look bad. (If only it was that simple, huh?)
 

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I, personally, consider "stranger danger" to be a crock.

As you're already aware of the vast majority of abuse and kidnappings are perpetrated by friends & family... true stranger kidnapping/abuse is very rare.

Additionally, your child sees you probably on a daily basis talk to strangers--- the person at the library, the checker at the grocery store, etc... And how do strangers become friends? You *talk* to them.

We have talked about what to do if you cannot find the adult you are with. Look for a "safe" adult. And we define safe as a mother with other children WITH her. Not a person in uniform (could be a costume, kids can't really tell the difference). Not the person who comes up to you and asks if you need help (pedophiles are often "good" with kids). Mom w/kids.

And both my kids hopefully know (you can tell them again and again, but you never know if they "know" you know?
) to never go with someone I have not *specifically* given them permission to go with.

(and, of course "Protecting the Gift" is a common suggestion on these threads).
 

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:

She knows not to go off with anyone. I don't even try to prevent DD from talking to people. I also don't make her talk to someone if she doesn't want to. I respect her feelings, and this helps her trust her instincts about people. Some people she really likes, some she doesn't. Some people she will just start a long conversation with, with others she hides behind my legs practically shivering in fear. For my daughter, who is also 4, it has nothing to do with how they look, or even how they act towards her.
 

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stafl, your quote cracks me up. :LOL

i agree with tiredx2. stranger danger was huge when i was 5 (i'm almost 26) and i remember my mother saying "but if you don't talk to strangers, how do you make friends". i remember thinking that was a great point, lol. i still do. i do need to talk to him more about not leaving with people he doesn't know, etc. i assume he knows this, but i still should talk to him.
 

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Yeah, stranger danger makes kids LESS safe, I think. If for no other reason that it makes absolutely no sense! I went off on my FIL just the other day for telling Ds if he talked to strangers he could get stolen, taken away from his Mommy and Daddy. About an hour after that, FIL took Ds to the carnival, where it was necessary for them both to talk to a whole lot of ... you guessed it ... strangers!


Here is an analogy about "stranger danger" that I am totally ripping off from Protecting The Gift: If somebody told you that every place you went there would be a bag of gold hidden, at first you'd be supervigilant about looking out for the gold. But after a while of looking hard and finding no gold, you'd be far less vigilant. You probably would forget about the whole thing.

In order to be safe, kids *need* to know how to interact with strangers. They need to know how to interpret their intuitive cues, how to assert themselves and how to suss out a trustworthy person. They need to know how to get information and assistance. All of that takes practice.

And what can happen, really, from talking to a stranger? Mom or Dad is right there. Talking isn't dangerous. *Going* somewhere with an untrustworthy person is dangerous, and this includes people we know as well as strangers (our conversations with Ds are always about how you don't go anywhere with anyone unless you ask first).

Final thought: PTG points out that if all kids are taught is "never talk to strangers," if they find themselves in a situation where they *need* to talk to strangers (like lost at the mall) they may be more likely to go somewhere with someone they don't know, because they figure they have already crossed the big threshold already simply by talking to them.
 

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I always give the speech, This is a busy place/ many people/ cars driving right there/ and please make sure that we stay together. When people say hi to my boys, later in the car we usually talk about it. They'll comment how that person was nice, and I'll reply that they were friendly to say hi to us......but I don't know them very well. I just want them to be aware that people are different and sometimes not what they seem. I don't want them to be paranoid, either. We always remind them in some way that some people are so nice and some are up to no good. And if they can't see us, they are too far. We encourage them to be loud if they happened to feel lost. Sometimes they are right there, just looking in another direction and look right past us.......

I am usually friendly to people I cross paths with. They are watching me and are learning...... If someone seems mean or rude, I will comment about it....saying " that man sounded grumpy, and I don't want to talk to him..."

Also, we make a BIG deal about how important it is to not answer the door or phone. I tell them that when I am ready to answer the door then I will, and that I don't have to if I don't want to. I tell them I care about us more than who is at the door/ calling on the phone...ie: baby is nursing, we're having lunch, reading a story.... and I don't want to be interrupted. Kids can get so excited over a knock on the door/ ring on the phone......it has made them act impulsively and go unlock the door, etc...... So, that's why I have tried to downplay the concern for the knocker or caller....."They can leave a message, while we finish the story."

This is just what I feel comfortable with. They seem to understand so far. (3 & 4 yr olds)

*Great topic*

Lori
 

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We don't even use the word "stranger" at my house, because from everything I've read, it's not a word that kids understand.

Our rule, which my (at the time) 2-year-old DD made up, is "We can talk to anyone we want to, but we don't GO anyplace with anyone besides Mommy or Daddy." And our more-recent corollary is, "If someone tries to get you to go someplace with them, yell 'Stop! You're not my daddy!' "

After everything I've read and heard, this seems like the most-specific rule I can give my DD. And it's even better, because she made up the rule herself.

We're also practicing how to tell who's a mommy when we're out places, but that's not "taking" yet. :LOL

HTH,
Nichole
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thank you all for the great responses.


Nichole, I like the idea of teaching the kids how to tell who is (more likely to be) a mommy. Neat thought.


Lori, I had to smile when I read your post because Emmaline thinks I am committing a mortal sin when I don't answer the door or the phone.
: Like you though, we talk about how we can choose when to answer and when not to.

I'm going to get a copy of Protecting the Gift and read it with a friend of mine who has kids the same age.

Thank you again for all the good input.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by mysweetfiona
I tell them that when I am ready to answer the door then I will, and that I don't have to if I don't want to. I tell them I care about us more than who is at the door/ calling on the phone...ie: baby is nursing, we're having lunch, reading a story.... and I don't want to be interrupted.
How interesting to see you say that ... this is one of the ways I also model for my kids that we don't have to fall all over ourselves being "polite" to everybody in the world. That taking care of our family takes priority over catering to other people's expectations. (It sounds a little callous when I say it that way. Of course I model empathy and helping others out, too. My point is, I don't want them to grow up thinking that social niceties take priority over genuine needs they or our family have, YK?)

I think I picked this up from PTG, too: we don't ever have secrets. Suprprises, yes, secrets, no. I explain that a surprise gets found out and makes someone happy; a secret is something someone says you can't tell because it would make someone sad or angry. Dd is preverbal but Ds knows that people we can trust don't ask us to keep secrets.

I agree about not framing it in the context of "strangers" at all. I focus on how Ds might feel inside (comfortable or yucky) with the things a person says or does. We talk about "people we can trust", but I try hard to frame it in terms of actions rather than people because I don't want them to be conflicted about a "nice person" doing things that make them feel bad.
 

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I agree with the previous posts. My problem is that when DD is talking to people, she's telling them EVERYTHING! Her whole name, my whole name, where we live (sometimes including the address, though our street name is hard for her to say). Is there a way to stop her from telling people all this without squashing her outgoing nature?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Quote:

Originally Posted by girlndocs

I think I picked this up from PTG, too: we don't ever have secrets. Suprprises, yes, secrets, no. I explain that a surprise gets found out and makes someone happy; a secret is something someone says you can't tell because it would make someone sad or angry. Dd is preverbal but Ds knows that people we can trust don't ask us to keep secrets.
This is interesting...thank you.
 

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We talk about "trusted grownups" rather than strangers, and we do the no secrets thing, too. My kids know that pretty much anything- treats, gifts, candies, anything- needs to be cleared with us first.

Some well-meaning church person got Michael this horrible electronic fire truck when you pushed a button it screams "DON'T TALK TO STRANGERS." Michael was really upset by this. He didn't understand WHY he couldn't talk to strangers. He loves talking to strangers. Half the church is still strangers.
 

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How awful!

Ds was really upset the first time he was told not to talk to strangers, too (by his Nana, a couple years ago; we told her not to tell him that anymore, but apparently she didn't pass on the memo to FIL). I guess she gave him the stranger danger talk at the playground, and the next time *we* took him to the playground he was scared to go play without us right next to him, because there were "strangers" there.


So when we tell kids these things that they don't understand fully, accompanied with an aura of fear and/or danger, it does upset them, a lot. I can totally understand why.

Ds was very relieved when I reamed FIL out for scaring him and made it clear that he (Ds) was to talk to anyone he felt comfortable interacting with. I wasn't really sure why at first, but now it's clear to me that FIL was putting a burden of fear and confusion on him, and I lifted that burden.

And again with quoting DeBecker, but he points out that children who are afraid are very easily taken advantage of, because their fear can be used against them. I'm sure being confused as to what, exactly, they're supposed to be afraid of doesn't help any.
 
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