In our last e-zine we talked about the need to allow children to be independent. And I promised that this time we would talk about how to teach our children to be safe on our streets.When we see letting out kids go as a healthy and typical process we re giving them the gift of independence so they will grow to be capable young men and women.
Stranger danger has become a frightening concept. It is the boogie man, a monster and a predator all wrapped up in one and we are terrified. It seems that there are these evil strangers lurking around every corner waiting to pounce on our children.
The written information about stranger danger implies that the world is a scary place and we need to educate our kids about the inherent dangers of venturing out of our sphere.
At the same time, we’re told that we need to instill confidence and not fear. If the world is a scary place, then fear may be an appropriate response. But, I believe it simply isn’t. There are many strangers and almost all of them wouldn’t dream of hurting a child.
We need to stop talking about strangers. It’s not about strangers. It’s about teaching children how to become independent and safe in our world. We need to help our children learn how to venture out into the world one step at a time and to have the instincts and skills to be safe.
Once we see that the goal is helping our children to slowly but surely become independent and eventually capable young men and women, it all becomes easier.
A toddler can be asked to go into the living room and bring you the dirty plastic cup. She is learning how to leave your presence for a moment, remember the goal, carefully pick up the cup and bring it to you. She is learning to plan her route, pay attention so she doesn’t drop the cup and succeeding in bringing it to you. And she’s contributing to the work of the family by saving you the trip to the next room.
And that’s how it starts. A preschooler can run next door (you can watch through the window) to play with a friend or deliver a letter that was mis-delivered. It’s a process.
At each stage we talk to our kids about what to do, what to watch for and how to handle themselves. These simple beginning steps are part of helping our children learn how to be safe.
It’s also important that we teach them the basics such as their full name, the name of their parents, their address and phone number.
As they become ready to venture further, to the park or local school they should be walking with other kids.
Teach them that they are never to go anywhere (including helping someone find a lost puppy) without checking with you first. Encourage them to trust their instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, come home.
The child who has been allowed to become independent as a slow and steady process will develop the instincts to know what feels right. The child who has always been under direct supervision will only know how to follow the adult in question and go where he is told to go. He will not learn how to read a situation. These kids are more likely to go with an adult when asked to do so. The adult may not be a known person (i.e.; may be a stranger) but is likely to be recognized as someone from the community.
When it comes time to go for job interviews, to register for college or university courses, to move away from home for work or education he will be lost.
When he’s never gone downtown on his own or taken a bus to get to a friend’s house the concept of going to a new city will be daunting indeed.
We also do need to ensure that our kids know what to do in the extremely unlikely event that someone does try to take them. Let them know that they should fight, kick, scream and yell. Tell them to call for help and bellow that the person taking them is not their Mommy or Daddy.
Let’s raise our children to be children of the community and let them move into their world as a slow but steady process.
Digital Books Make Parenting Information More Accessible.
Two of my parenting books started as print versions but the third is only digital. The first two are now also in digital format.
For busy parents, digital is often much more convenient. You can pull out your phone on transit, in a waiting room or while holding a sleeping baby.
When we are raising children we know that we need to give them roots and wings. Then we need to consider their particular and unique temperament.
Who’s in Charge Anyway? talks about roots. It provides a clear road map for parent to focus on the tough but rewarding job of raising children to be responsible, self-disciplined adults.
But Nobody Told Me I’d Ever Have to Leave Home talks about raising children to become capable young men and women.
And Vive la Differénce takes a look at different temperaments of children and what that means for child raising.
All three are readily available on my website. Just go to the website.
In the summer we think about reading great, fat beach books. But spending a little time also reading about parenting is not a bad idea.
How Can I Bring Kathy to My Community?
I offer keynotes and workshops, have written books and have ongoing newspaper columns, books, blogs and newsletters.
And, no matter what the actual topic, they all share a basic value that I call:
P — is a parenting plan
U — is unconditional love
R — is respect for your child as he is right now
E — is encouragement
I look forward to working with you for your professional development, workplace wellness or parenting education event.