I have a theory.
The way Disney used to create movies portrayed villains in an obvious way. Ominous, dark clothing, creepy voices, and accompanying creepy music. It would be hard for anyone not to discern who the “bad person” was.
(To their credit, however, I think they’ve come a long way of shifting that mindset (ie. Hans from Frozen.))
We all know, however, that real bad people aren’t as obvious. They can be charming, approachable and–most frightening–usually someone in our children’s trusted circle of adults. Now, I’m not suspicious of every adult in my child’s life, but I do teach them to be suspicious about certain behaviors.
As such, I’ve created lots of safety rules and mock practices with my kids from reading a plethora of online articles on it. Here’s what we run through at our house:
Who can see you naked?
When my girls were a bit younger and we would be in the bath, I would quiz them on who could see them naked. It started as an open-ended question, but then I would narrow in on random people to see if they would respond with “yes” or “no”. It’s not that these people were predators or even people I feared having around my children– it simply wouldn’t be appropriate or necessary for them to ever see my kids naked. We did this several times, and I feel that they have a good understanding of what that constitutes.
When you’re lost, always run to a mom with kids.
I believe this was from one of the “tricky people” articles floating around the internet, but I told my kids if they ever get lost, they should run to a mom with kids. Why? The general perception is a mom with kids will likely help them get to safety. Along the same thread of the first point, we sometimes point out strangers in public that are “safe people” to run to. Sorry if we ever looked at you funny. 😉
What if they said they had a trunk full of _______?
Joey Salads has a great YouTube channel where he does a lot of “child abduction” experiments. The good thing is that they’re experiments. The alarming thing is how many well-informed kids were susceptible to his tactics. Predators are smart and they know what interests kids of different ages. Maybe it’s cute animals, toys, sweets, etc. I often role play with my kids and say, “Well, what if this person said they worked at a toy factory and they had extra LOL dolls, would you follow them?”
I often change this scenario to include toys or items that they’re currently obsessed with. It’s best to be extra specific instead of vague because sometimes it’s harder for kids to make that connection unless you’re extremely specific. In our case, we specifically pick the things that are their favorite toys, foods, places to visit, etc.
This is the only time you are allowed to bite and hit.
If worst comes to worst, we’ve told our kids that they have permission to bite and hit as hard as they can. The physical aggression rules go out the door when they’re in danger. Instinctively, the rule followers may follow rules even in a situation that they know is not right. I want to mentally prepare them to unleash every fighting power they have should the worst situation come to light.
(Side story: Around the same time, we were teaching our kids about the implications of the middle finger. One of my daughters asked, “Can I do my middle finger to bad guys?” and I responded, “Yes.”)
Adults never need your help.
Again, I think this comes from one of those “tricky people” articles, but I’ve taught my kids to be suspicious of people who ask for their help. If an adults asks for directions, help to pick a puppy, help to decide on a dessert, or anything that might seem ok…it’s not ok. My kids know that Google Maps can provide directions and it should be a red flag if an adult ever approaches them for help (if neither of us are around).
These rules, hopefully, are timeless and universal. It’s not pleasant to think our kids will never be susceptible to these situations, however, we can’t ignore that they exist. We are our child’s strongest advocate and sometimes, that means teaching them how to act when we’re not around to answer for them. Good people can come in unsuspecting forms and likewise so can bad people.