Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Myth of Stranger Danger!

Most of the time the word stranger is as complex as a mathematical code or some scientific formula.  You may be asking yourself, what is this guy talking about it isn't that difficult to understand?  Here is my logic:  Have you ever had a conversation with a child and asked them who a stranger is?  If you have - mostly they will answer you by saying - people they do not know.  This is Step #1 in the myth of stranger danger.  A good majority of abductions come from within the circle of awareness and influence.  For example: A child see's a stranger as someone who they have never come in contact with, someone they have never seen before. 

So they do not see strangers as people they have come in contact with or who they know, even if it is on a very superficial basis.  Barriers are easily broken down by a parent telling their child to say hello to or introducing them to an old friend.  The child immediately is taught to trust their parents and rely on them to make the best judgment on their behalf.  Remember strangers come in many forms.  When I teach courses at schools, I often ask the students - "who is a stranger? The answer is commonly what I mentioned above, so to educate the students I give examples in the form of asking questions - Is your aide at school a stranger?" the kids normally reply "NO!"  I then ask how about your neighbor or school teacher - the reply is "NO!" Again.  I then ask and this can be quite confusing and is a touchy one, how about a Police officer?  They say "NO! Of course Not!"  Well in reality this is all wrong, each and every one of these people are strangers.  So how do we overcome this?

Establish Stranger Danger Rules

Rule #1.
The only person who can determine who is not a stranger is their parent. This is when we develop the approved person list.  The parents will complete this at home - with our supplied sheet "The Approved Person List."

A parent and child must establish who is within their circle of trust.  At this point I urge the parents to be very careful who they chose and to make sure they do their due diligence before making decisions.  There are many websites where you can check, pedophiles with the neighborhood or do background checks on hired help, such as nanny's or babysitters.  I have seen some horrific situations with people whom a child trusted - becoming their worst nightmare.  This is a very difficult decision and something I do not take lightly.  As a parent I am always second guessing myself.  Who do I trust?  Well, you assume first choice is family, then second close friends and possibly a neighbor whom you have established a long lasting relationship with.  We do have to make decisions and hope for the best, I know this is a hard one my advice is trust your gut.

Rule #2 - Trust you gut.
A Child must know what "Trust your gut means." It is hard to teach this skill, but one method I have used is teaching children how to understand their emotions. The first step is to ask them if they ever felt someone looking at them from across the room.  Have they ever felt it, and they turned and looked and saw the person starring or looking in their direction.  This is actually a phenomenon known to the Ninja world as "Proprio-ception."  The receptors in the body fire, giving you the feeling of uneasiness.  It is still not know why the body does this exactly, but I believe it comes from the fight or flight survival skill.  Before we were an established society we were much more aware of the dangers around us, such as Protecting ourselves from animal attack or possibly enemy attack, when life was more simpler.  In any event I can go on and on about this very topic but this is one good way to teach them how to sense this and trust their gut. Plus it is fun. 

Rule #3 - Consequences.
Throughout our child's entire lives they have been taught to respect authority.  Be respectful of their elders, be polite and listen when told to do something by authority figures such as teachers, school aides, police officers, grandparents, martial art teachers, etc.  There is a fine line drawn between compliance and danger. How does a child know when to be respectful and comply and when not to?  I believe this is also up to the parent to establish.  The parent has to be specific and teach their child will be "NO" consequences when they refuse to do something, because they were practicing the trust their gut philosophy.

For example: The Janitor at school (no offense in any way to Janitors) says, hey - Kiara come with me, you need to do me a favor and come into this room with me.  A child has to be able to NOT obey and say NO, knowing their will not be any consequences.  They need to know their parents have their back and will not be angry, if they feel it is not a normal situation.  Even if it leads to them getting in trouble and being a false alarm.  You see, most children do things, that lead to bad things, because they are led into dangerous situations due to mixed emotions and poor choices.  I want my daughter to do what she feels is right and I will deal with her and make the necessary judgment as to whether it was unfounded or not.  No official, teacher, principal or authority figure has the right to override me.  Remember a child has to know there is somewhere safe to go to, when all else doesn't make sense.  This goes for physical self - defense as well.

Rule #4 - "Code Word Protection."
Many children make mistakes during the decision making process.  The sad reality is predators/strangers, are older, wiser and good at what they do.  They will do whatever it takes in the form of trickery, bribery and illusion in order to get at your child.  For safety purposes and to relieve your child of decision making and to rid them of the pressure of making the right decision all you have to do is establish a personal "Code Word." A code word is established for only the people on the "approved person list" (we spoke about this above). If your child is in need of being picked up or taken home by someone for reasons unknown it is easy for the child to understand they are safe.  The approved list is not to be taken lightly.  If for an emergency or at the last minute you need someone to take care of your child this list should be enacted.  I don't ever recommend stirring from the list because if fact it creates doubt in the child's mind but the override is in some extreme cases the password protection can override everything else.  . 

Once the parent has established a code word, this word should not be shared with the anyone.  The next exercise is a fun drill in which you can have sit with your students who are in attendance and establish a sample code word.

Ask all of your kids to think of a cool code word. Give them examples - like using super heroes or a saying.  Then ask them if they all picked one out. Then tell them this is secret for them to keep to themselves and share with their parents only.  Have them run over to their parents and tell them.  At that point have them sit back down and listen to you some more. Normally I say "Okay you guys. I came up with the coolest code word. Mine is Batman."  I then look the kids in their eyes personally and ask what is yours?"  60% of the room will fail and give it to you.   There will be one kid who is aware and will understand and keep it to themselves but the majority will not.  The first lesson is taught.  Do not share with anyone who is not on the approved list your password. 

Rule # 5 - Heightened awareness for parents.
I continually recommend the book "The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de becker."  You may even want to purchase a few wholesale and have them on hand to sell to the parents afterwards.  This is an amazing book teaching the art of awareness and how to trust your gut.  To follow instincts while shopping, or in a dark parking lot, or after some stranger keeps appearing in the local mall, making small talk.  The goal is for parents to know the rules of safety and to establish them while in public. 

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