This weekend I heard a story about a man approching a couple of kids in my neighborhood while they were out riding bikes in the middle of the day. The kids father was on the bike trail just a few feet behind them helping their younger sibling when he saw the man come up to his two older children.... Of course the father raced right along towards them and the man ran away.
When the kids described what happened they said he was watching them and made them uncomfortable and then came and told them he had some really cool stuff in his car they could put on their bikes... That they should come with him.
THANK HEAVENS they were smart enough to stick together and say 'NO!" and luckily their dad was so close! Of course the whole family was shaken up and the parents want to get the word out that this happened so other parents know to talk to their kids about it.
Even of you don't live in my personal close-knit community it's a great reminder to talk to our kids about strangers and in all honesty a great time to talk to them about instincts, because sadly it isn't always a stranger that may abduct or hurt a child.
The sad statistics about child abduction
The amazing thing about the story I heard this weekend was that the oldest child felt something was wrong instinctually and slowed to wait for the younger sibling, to make sure they were together when the man approached them. That protective nature was so important.
We all have that instinct... It's given to us to protect us from danger and it is one of human's greatest evolutionary gifts.
I know I've felt that chill that comes over your body, the way the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when your instincts warn you to beware of someone. It's amazing that we have this and kids have it too. The problem is, we try so hard to be polite.... We have learned to tamp down those first instincts in order to not offend anyone because we are taught to be polite above all else.. It is important to teach our kids that if they ever get a strange feeling about someone they should listen to it and talk to their parents about it NO MATTER WHO it is. Coach, Teacher, Uncle, Stranger this is their INSTINCT and it's priceless.
Which brings me to one of the best and most insightful books we have ever read, Protecting The Gift by Gavin De Becker. We got this book for Christmas years ago when we started having kids and swear by it. We recommend it to everyone.
Our favorite chapter is one about how we shouldn't teach our kids NOT TO TALK TO STRANGERS... But instead, WHICH STRANGERS TO TALK TO it's such a interesting idea. The theroy is, if your child gets lost they should't feel like they need to stand helpless in a corner because that makes them an easy victim while a child who can confidently walk up to a WELL CHOSEN STRANGER and ask for help will most likely get the help they need.
Take your kids out to a coffee shop, ask one of them to find out what time it is by asking a stranger in the coffee shop.... Of course you are watching from a safe distance... But the cool thing about this exercise is you then get to talk to your kid about who he picked to talk to and why. It's a great way to show them how important their instincts are they are able to pick out who looks "Safe" and why they think so.
Your child should know your phone number by heart... Even my 4 year old can recite "Call my Mommy! (310) ***-****! Only because I've made it a song and I chant it in the car with the kids so they have heard it for years. They will always be able to give my number to hopefully the "right" person and help them know who that "right" person is.
For example, I always tell my boys if you ever get lost find any Lady, Mommy or Grandma and ask her to help you. I got this from Gavin De Becker's book.
"Teach your child to go to a woman if he or she is lost.
Why? First, if your child selects a woman, it’s highly unlikely that the woman will be a sexual predator. Next, a woman approached by a lost child asking for help is likely to stop whatever she is doing, get down to the kid’s eye level, commit to that child, and not rest until the child is safe. A man approached by the same child might say, ‘‘Head over there to the manager’s desk,’’ whereas a woman is most likely to get involved and stay involved."
I have encountered lost kids before in a store or a park and what he says is true, I will not leave that kids side until they are back with their parent.
Also, do not tell your kids to "Find a police man" any guy in black boots and dark pants can look like a police officer to a little kid.
Growing up in the 80's and 90's I feel like all we heard about was kidnapping and it was scary. I don't want our kids to live in fear and that is why giving them the right tools and teaching them to trust themselves is the best thing we can do for our children.
Sorry for the scary post, but we think it is important to keep the discussion open for parents and for women in general on how to trust what our instincts tell us! Hold your kids extra tight today.