We tell parents that you should never tell children to “beware of strangers”. A controversial statement to say the least.
When we ask 6 year olds what a stranger looks like they say, “he has a tattoo…. wears a leather jacket….” They miss the fact that dangerous people look and act like you and me.
Secondly, such a statement puts the onus on the child to protect themselves, when that is the job of care givers. Most would not leave a briefcase unattended for more than a second or leave it more than a few feet away, yet parents often walk away from little ones expecting them to follow or citing that they know not to walk away with strangers.
Telling a child to beware of strangers when every five seconds parents talk to lots of strangers (do as I say not as I do), the grocery clerk, a passer by on the street. Parents will often say, “Jane, say hi to the nice lady.” It’s a ridiculous and dangerous safety strategy really .
Lastly, do you want to instill fear of people or safety and the skills to predict violence.
What to do
I actually suggest that parents do the opposite… teach kids how to talk to strangers. Have your child interact with the people you interact with. Ask them how they felt about that person. Teach them about intuition and to listen to and embrace their inner voice that says, “I don’t like that person”, or “that person scares me” and that it’s a survival signal to get away from that person.
Teach them it’s okay to defy and even challenge adults (including people they know, as this group really poses the biggest threat).
Teach them that there are even instances when it is acceptable to hurt and injure others.
Teach them that no matter what the situation you want to hear about events that scared them or made them feel uncomfortable.
Teach them that when they need help to seek a woman (as statistically men pose the biggest threat).
Teach them about assertiveness.
Teach them “Might” doesn’t equal right.
Teach them to scream, “your not my daddy!!” if ever someone tries to force them to go somewhere. Teach them to do the opposite when someone say’s, “Don’t tell”…Tell….. “Don’t yell”…. yell!!