What do you tell tinies about 'stranger danger'?(71 Posts)
I watch DD like a hawk, but there is always a chance of her going astray, isn't there? Now, something just happened in the supermarket to freak me out involving someone I don't know but have noticed and been susicious of for a long time now. After today, I am extremely suspicious of him.
I realised I haven't ever really told her anything about saftey except to stay with mummy. If she did get lost she wouldn't have a clue what to do.
So what do you tell really young children about what to do if they get lost and / or someone approaches them?
DD has just turned 4. I feel I have been remiss so help me now!
DD asked me the other day what was a stranger, so we have been practising what a stranger is which I think helps. At first I asked if FriendFromPreschool's mum was a stranger and she said 'no' (DD doesn't know the mother), but has been getting the hang of it as when I asked her again she said 'yes she is a stranger because I don't know her.'
I also said to her if she loses me to tell them my name and what I look like (I am Chinese & DD is not, so she is planning to say 'my mum has a Chinese face'). I might have to revise this and say a grown up who works in the shop we are in, or a grown up with other children.
But not had the what if someone approaches her conversation. Looking to this thread for help too.
DD is three and has recently been worried about getting lost. We've told her to tell a policeman or another mummy or daddy that she is lost and to give her name, our names and our address and that they will help her. In terms of speaking to strangers, DD is shy and so generally doesn't, but I've told her that it's fine to chat to people as long as mummy or daddy are there and she can see us. I have no idea how any of this would work in real life, of course... I suspect that she is as easy to tempt away/distract as any child and that safety really lies in the fact that most people are completely harmless.
DD will talk to anybody and is extremely outgoing.
That's a good idea about finding a description of me she can use. I have red hair.
I am still reeling that my suspicions of this boke seem to have some validity and I thought I was being a bitch being suspicious of him.
I have told my DD that if anyone tries to make her go anywhere without mummy or daddy she must say no and if necessary she should scream and kick.
I havent taught her anything else about strangers. I dont want her to fear strangers and dont think theres any reason she should. A stranger is far more likely to help her than harm her and abductions by strangers are extremely rare.
Sorry i posted before I'd finished: i think its all much trickier if you have suspicions of somebody in particular You could tell her not to speak to him unless you are there if you think she would listen to that. Otherwise you will have to keep by her side when he is around.
Ds isn't yet 3 but we do talk about it by referring to Finding Nemo
these might be useful:
you could tell them to show this to people but to stay standing where they are until mummy or daddy gets called
Rather than strangers being someone you don't know I think the best message is who is the responsible adult, they might see someone regularly but they shouldnt go with that person without asking their responsible adult (babysitter, nursery nurse, mum, dad, friend's mum..)
maybe "who's in charge" is an easier concept than responsible adult
every time you leave them with someone else say "right I'm going now so _ is in charge, if you're not sure about anything tell __"
and teach them that if other people tell them to go somewhere they must check with who's in charge
remember it's not just adults, older kids too
I tell my daughter if she gets lost to find another mummy and ask for her help. Then we went through how she would know who was another mummy (surprising how daft they are - she pointed at a woman on the street and said she'd ask her because she had a big tummy which meant she was going to have a baby!). So we identified that it had to be a woman with little children or with a baby in a buggy and that helped her understand who precisely to ask for help.
I think we overestimate how much they understand - and how biddable they are. If an adult tells them to do something, typically, they do it. So we have role-played:
- an adult comes and asks you to help them look for their little girl, what would you do?
- an adult comes and says your mummy told me to come and get you, what would you do,
- an adult comes and says would you help me look for my puppy, what would you do.
So specific examples and role play not conceptual instructions.
cartoon jane and RRR- a combination of those things is pretty much what I said too on the spur of the moment but then wondered if it was the right thing, so thought I'd ask.
I really don't want to draw any attnetion to this person, partly because a long time ago I decided I didn't want to give him any excuse to talk to me or DCs and partly because then DD mightnotice him and talk to him. She is only 3 after all.
in terms of scenarios, its okay to be polite and TELL adult things, like point to where something is, TELL them if you saw their stray dog, tell them the time.
Not okay to GO with adults to show them where something is, to GO to help them find a stray dog etc
good adults may ASK you questions and it's okay to be polite and answer, but if good adults need someone to help them GO somewhere they will ask another adult to help
latrushca - what exactly are you worried about? Is it something you could/should talk to the police about?
Teach them their name, address and telephone number as soon as possible-and your name -especially important if your surname is different.
At 3/4 yrs they are going to be with you and the most likely thing is getting lost in a shop, theme park etc so tell them to find a member of staff.Failing that look for a mother with children.
Later on play 'what if........' as explained by margoandjerry. I am always surprised how many parents don't bother.
margoandjerry I remember hearing the role play suggestion before. Sounds an excellent one. DD is extremely verbal but her vocab far outstrips her clear understanding.
Do not make them fearful of all strangers-most are OK and they can talk to them if they are with you! Do not put the unknown dread of 'you might be taken' into them.
no of course not, that's why its good to talk about what a good stranger would do, a good stranger might ASK children questions, but if they needed help finding their dog they'ld get an adult to GO with them etc, a good adult will want you to tell your responsible adult before you go anywhere with them..
Not read the whole thread, and I haven't yet talked to DS much about strangers, but we HAVE talked quite a bit about what he should do if he gets separated from me.
One thing I think is quite important to rub in is NOT to go running madly looking for you - I have told him at first to just stop where he is and SHOUT for me as loudly as he can, as then chances are we won't yet be too far apart and I may still be able to find him.
This was after we did lose each other once, and he went looking for me in a panic and somehow managed to get through some double doors into an obscure bit of the shop, and nearly went in a lift on his own God knows how long it would have taken to find him if I hadn't heard him crying before he went into it!
You have reminded me to do a "refresher session" with him though as we haven't talked about it for a while (and to start on the strangers too), so thanks!
My DD is now 4 but from about 3 and a half has known our address off by heart, my first and last name, her dads first and last name, her hans first and let name so that if she got lost and someone asked her for info she could tell them.
She now knows our telephone number too, it is v easy though!
DD knows our address for about five miutes at a time
Great suggestions here. I'll definitely do some role playing with her
It's tricky because you don't want to frighten them, DD asked and I just said it was to keep her safe.
She also said she couldn't shout because it would hurt her throat, so I said to kick. She said kicking would be fun.
Oh, and no this man has done nothing illegal. Yoy would probably say I was being daft, horrible or pfb if I detailed my suspicions. I stand by them though, as they are only mine.
my mum has been proved right over time about a few people she was suspicious of
Luckily I was safe (and still fairly confident around adults) but other kids not so much.
So in terms of supermarket person YANBU just because you cannot put your finger on it just yet
ok. I will say then! I am dying to check out what people think in fact but may get flamed.
Since DD has been of an age to go the playground, I have noticed this man walking past palygrounds extremely frequently. We go to two different playgrounds at opposite ends of town at different times of the day. I would sat I see him at least 7 out of ten times I go. No children, just walking along the perimeter and looking. I decided while it was in all likelihood innocent, I would never give him an opportunity to get to know us or talk to us. We live in a small town and you generally do get talking to people you see regularly. He has give me the 'I know you, shall we say hello' look a few times. I don't.
Today, we were walking into the small in-town supermarket and he was walking out. No shopping. On our way round the supermarket I twice found him standing behind us, and when I turned round trying to start conversation. I didn't respond, and went on my way as if I hadn't noticed. He still had no basket. Then, when I was at the till he was behind me, still no noticeable shopping. DD was nosing a couple of feet off. He made some sort of converational noise again, I called DD to heel and by the time she'd got back to me (two seconds?) he was gone.
Am I wrong to be suspicious about this?
I am unsure about "stranger danger" as a concept - I'm not sure kids will understand it in a way that keeps them safe? E.g the pre-school mum you don't know is a stranger, whereas (in a child's mind?) the man in the corner shop you see and say hello to every day isn't. Children are more likely to be abducted and abused by people they are familiar with than a stranger.
I think I would rather tell DS that he can say "no" to an adult if he doesn't want to go/do what they ask, to never go anywhere without telling the adult who is looking after him, and to find a mummy or a lady at the till in a shop if he is lost.
when dd was very young 2 - 4 maybe, i told her that strangers are people she she does not know like her family ie mum dad aunts uncles teachers and not all grown ups are kind like these people, so never talk to strangers or go away with anyone as you never know if they are kind or unkind.
Now she is 5 I tell her never to go with anyone full stop wether she knows them or not unless I OK it, as some times people are very unkind and hurt children or touch them privatly in a way that is wrong and this is called abuse and even someone we know very well can hurt or abuse us just like someone we dont know, I am afarid to say and dont want to bring it up on such a thread but I do sadly talk to dd about madeline McCann as she seen a poster on a passenger ferry and asked me about it so i explained some possible sad out comes that where child friendly but fairly honest.
another thing I do with my DS is tell him that surprizes are okay but secrets are not, we do surprizes which are told in a few days but never tell secrets in an innocent context.
We also never tell him "not to be silly", we listen to his feelings about things, like if we ask if he had fun somewhere and he said no we don't correct him, things like that, we don't belittle his instincts any more than our own
rita. I tell my dd if she is lost to stay where she is and do not move for anyone and if someone attempts to make her move scream shout stamp, starnger!!! stranger!!! Help!!! Help!!! and make as loud a fuss as she can. I tell her to stay where she is as I am more likely to find her if she stays in one spot.
apparently "stranger" or "fire" gets more heads turned than "help" but dunno if that's true?
latruch I would go to the police station and talk to them about this man and give them a description, if he is known they can flagg it up with any known authorities, probation mappa etc, if he is not then hopefully they can put some pcsos in and around the parks to notice him.
One tip I got off MN, was to write your mobile number on their leg or forearm, so that if you get separated in a shop, your LO just goes to the till and shows the number.
I didn't tell my kids about 'stranger danger' when they were tinies - didn't want to freak them out. I held their hands or had them on reins when we were in crowded areas. I tried to coach them to recall their name, address and our mobile number (which they could do at about 4-5 years). I told them that in shops, to go to a lady at the till or another mummy with children (no failsafe, but statistically a safe bet).
Given that most victims of sexual abuse know their abusers, we try to tell them that they should always tell the truth, that they never need to have a secret from their parents (we will always love them, whatever etc.) We try to teach them that the areas covered by their pants are private, only for them to touch, but equally try not to make them feel self-conscious or ashamed.
Now that DS1 is older I tell him that he is never to get in a car without asking his parents first, and that if anyone stops to talk to him and his brother, he should say, "Sorry but I'm not allowed to talk to strangers" politely, and leg it home. But I don't labour the point as he is not allowed out unsupervised yet anyway.
It is really hard to get the balance, but to be honest the thing that worries me most is the lunatic drivers who think that 40mph is OK in a residential area.
Does anyone else think I need to speak to someone about this bloke?
I would keep a record of when you see him. You might find you are blowing it all out of proportion in your head. Or you might find that it is a lot more than coincidence can account for. Either way, a written record of "sightings" won't hurt. Just keep a notepad and pen to write down the date, time and location.
Stranger danger is no longer at all recommended as a way to protect children. It usually just frightens them.
Also, they are in more danger from someone who isn't a stranger as most abuse is done by someone the child knows.
Instead talk about good and bad touching and good and bad secrets.
Telling them to not go look for a puppy is like telling them to not eat the chocolate you just handed them. It's been proven to not work!
This blog post, by a MN Blogger explains what I am trying to say really well!
it does work actually, when year 2s are taught it and re tested by an actor in year 5 it has stuck and they shout stranger danger instead of going to look for the puppy
to me saying don't teach stranger danger because we all know abuse happens more often by known people, is like saying don't teach water safety because accidents are more likely to happen in the kitchen
Latrucha, from what you say, it is not implausible that this person might be hanging around trying to 'befriend' you or establish contact. However, no one is guilty until proven innocent, and your DD is at an age where she is under adult supervision at all times (I imagine), so it's not really an issue for you to stress about. However, the idea of jotting down your sightings/suspicions can't do any harm. If I thought the person in question had found out where I lived, I might then contact the police, as it does sound like a borderline stalker.
As your DD gets older, you can train her (as other posters have said) not to go anywhere with any adults, to tell you or one of the supermarket staff if she is approached etc. You can even warn her to avoid that particular individual - when she is old enough not to be freaked out by it. Even when she is of an age where she might be out without you, you can insist that she stick with a friend etc.
I agree with all that I used the term 'stranger danger' as anyone scanning active convos would know what I meant succinctly.
I started discussing with DD what she would do if she couldn't find me. I told her not to leave the area / shop alone or with anyone else as there is no way I would have left her. I told her to go to the till and tell if she was in a shop.
I do believe it will be in one ear and out the other though, at 4.
you can ask the supermarket to follow him with their cameras, they do that and things like face recognition are being rolled out in supermarkets so they can have him on their watch list so he can't do any harm there
I think asking a supermarket to put someone, who for now we have to fairly categorize as an innocent stranger, on their "watch list" is escalating the situation far beyond what it's currently called for.
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
stranger danger isn't about telling children that all strangers are dangerous and all known people are safe, in fact in the delivery when it's done right children are taught that "known" familiar people can be essentially strangers.
if that's your experience then the delivery was very wrong, it's about the potential dangers that you could encounter with some strangers
like with dogs, you don't teach them that all dogs are viscous and they should live in fear of them, you teach them that some COULD be and this is how you behave around dogs you don't know. Same for stranger danger
Latrucha - you could try role playing the 'lost in a shop' scenario with some soft toys and a toy till at home. Sometimes that helps things stick.
OP I had similar concerns, and as my DH also had a strong aversion to the man concerned,it prompted us too,to have the "stranger danger" chats with our dds (then 3 and 5,now 4 and just turned 7).My worry was that that they might not see someone they see about as a stranger at all,so we emphasised that they must never go anywhere,with anyone,even a good friend or relative without actually hearing us say to them that it was ok. I've said that I would never let anyone take them anywhere out of my sight without telling the dds directly myself first.
I have tried to talk about how long it takes to really get to know someone properly,and that people we may say hello to every day are still people we don't know yet. I've also said that if anyone ever tells them not to tell their Mummy something ,then that is a bad person as everyone kind knows that children can tell their Mummy anything. (this did cause DD an upset when one of her friends said to her "My Mummy has a big bottom but don't tell anyone....." she was really worried, so i've had to clarify that a bit !)
Oh and I've said if lost ask a parent with children,or an older lady,to help, or go to the till in a shop.
I'd contact your local neighbourhood policing team about the man, it may be from the description that they know who he is and it may be an innocent explanation but that's what the PCSO's on the neighbourhood team are there for.
Regarding children being lost, we did role play about who to approach and how the only people who can come and get her from somewhere without mummy, daddy or grandparents are the mummies of X, Y or Z.
All very close friends of ours and might be needed to step in due to an emergency but all as well known to her as family.
maybe it should be re named stranger SAFETY rather than stranger danger, like home safety, fire safety etc
Thanks all. I'm off to bed now. I'm going to carry on as before ignoring him, but note down how often I see him.
I've also decided on what I'm going to say to him if he really tries to engage me: that I see him around alot and is there a reason for it, and if he denies all knowledge I'll say we both know that's untrue, that it's to stop and if it carries on I'll go to the police.
I tell DD to sit down on the floor if she gets lost and sing the silliest song she can think of as loud as she can. It's usually 'on the ning nang nong'
If I don't come and she still can't find me, she should ask someone in a shop, a uniform or a person with children. Mummy or Daddy (DP initally told her to look for a Mummy, until I pointed out how ridiculous that was, and asked him wasn't he a safe person to help a lost child)
She should never go anywhere with anybody unless I tell her it's okay first. Even if the person said they'd spoken to me, I promise never to send someone she doesn't know to get her without telling her FIRST, so that person would be telling a lie and she should find another person (as above) to help her.
I think telling them about "stranger danger" is wrong. They are not actually in any appreciably danger from anyone- but they are more likely ( although not likely at all) to come to harm at the hands of someone they know.
The important thing to teach them is that it's OK to say "no" to grown ups. And that any grownup who gets t all upset at a "no" is not a nice grown up. A nice grown up will understand that the child hqd to say no. A nasty one won't- so getting upset qt the no is a sign of being a nasty grown up. This may cause a few problems with persistent grandmas wanting kisses, but hey ho. Collateral damage.
And that it's absolutely fine to talk to anyone if they have a trusted grown up with them.
It depends on the child-there is no way I could have sat on the floor singing-I was much too shy!
I dont think you should say that, just go to the police and dont enagage with him.
I wouldn't advise LO's to go to a policeman if lost - a small child wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a policeman and a security guard and someone in a bright yellow coat. There have been a few high profile dodge pots who have been security guards.
I would recommend another woman with a child/children or just a women. I know not all men are bad but I think women instinctively would be better at handling that sort of situation. Men might freak out a bit. Maybe.
Just to make clear, I only used the term 'stranger danger' so that people on here would now what I'm talking about quickly. I wouldn't use it with DD.
I think I need to have a plan worked out for if he approaches me as we are often the only ones on the playground and I'm not prepared to deprive DCs of playground over something that could be nothing. I have my mobile in my pocket but I also think I need to be mentally prepared to say something.
DD is 4
On the lost thing I said tell a mummy or daddy or go into a shop and tell the person who is working at the till.
I always told mine never to go off with anyone they did not know. If lost approach someone in uniform, and to tell them their name so the person could make an announcement.
Make a game of spotting a person who "belongs" in the shop or store, along with a few "what if" conversations
I hate all the "never speak to strangers", saying "hello" or making a small discreet (as in not blabbing your name, address, vital info) conversation with a stranger never harmed any child and is a good life skill. Also it means anyone who finds your errant child is much more likely to be able to put them at their ease.
As for the OP it does seem odd that you keep encountering this man, I think you have to go with your instincts. Any chance of a chat with another parent who may also have noticed him, not implying at all that there should be gossiping or vigilante style action, but someone may know him or his story.
shirleycat1 - I think the only reason men might "freak out" in that position is because we know the assumptions that some people will jump to if we are seen talking to a child that isn't our own.
It is clear from some of the comments on here that children are being told it is only safe to approach a "mummy" for help. For that reason I'm afraid i would feel a lot of social pressure to ignore my natural instinct to go and help a child just in case they started screaming stranger danger at me!
I don't condemn it or blame parents for that, people do what they do to protect their children. I just feel very sad that I would feel I have to find a "responsible woman" to deal with the situation rather than sorting it out myself. It helps encourage the feeling that men and children aren't really supposed to mix, and it also encourages the feeling that dealing with children is "women's work" and that men are better off out of it or at least under supervision!
Op- what do you think this man might do?
I don't have any idea. Before yesterday I had simply decided I didn't want to make his acquaintance - we live in a small town and I'm on 'morning' terms with lots of people. However, I decided not to do this with him on gut instinct and because I saw him oddly frequently by playgrounds. Probably unfair, I acknowledge.
Being followed into and round a supermarket is not very comfortable, though and has made me more wary. I think it's most likely he just wants to be friends in a misjudged kind of way, but I don't want to be friendly with him, which is my prerogative
Of course it is your prerogative- and it sounds horrible. I think I was just wondering what you meant by being prepared for "if he approaches you". It sounds almost as if you think he might attack you.....do you?
The notion that stranger= danger is a very warped viewpoint.
children are more at risk from people they know. The idea that all strangers and for that you could substitute men, are just waiting for the right time to whisk a child away, is just plain ridiculous. Most people are not any sort of threat at all. The concept of stranger has done our children more harm than good. take the tragic example of the little girl that managed to escape from her nursery and was found drownwd in a pond. turns out a man had seen her but had done nothing because he was afraid of being accused of being a paedophile.
We are teaching DD to be friendly, to not be afraid to engage people in conversation, say at the supermarket checkout. We're of the opinion that the more we teach her about appropriate contact and behaviour the more likely she is to know when someone is being inappropriate. We're also hopeful that instilling confidence in her will mean she won't 'freeze' in a scary situation, but will have the confidence to go up to an appropriate person (till lady, shopkeeper, policeman) and ask for help. At the moment she is still on reins most of the time we are out. We're also hopeful that the same confidence will mean she won't be worried about saying no to an adult, e.g. the 'can you help me find my dog' scenario.
I'm also trying to persuade DH to get her one of those special mobile phones for very young children as soon as she's old enough, though of course you can't guarantee coverage.
Ah. What I meant was that all the playgrounds we go to are fenced off. As he seems to have taken the opportunity to go out of his way to attract my attention, I wanted to have a mental plan in case he came into the playground. They are all quite isolated.
I couldn't stop DD talking to strangers if I tried, nor would I wish to. There is generally a three-ring circus round her at the supermarket checkout. However, yesterday made me think I should give her some tools to use if she gets lost. i thought I'd check on here as I didn't want to balls it up and yes, make her scared or view peoplein a different light.
Ah, giving her coping strategies and social skills is entirely different. Children learn by imitation, so she is already learning from you.
Do you think this man may have learning difficulties? He may just be socially incompetent and may be completely harmless. I once overheard a lovely converstion on a train between a man with learning difficulties and a complete stranger he had sat next to. The woman just chatted away and they talked about allsorts, doing laundry, working, food, etc. She had tremendous patience and am sure didn't even realise how lovely she was being.
Maybe the man in the park is just a bit lonely? Seems a big leap to think you need to devise an escape plan if he tries to talk to you.
I have never ever mentioned this to any of my children when they are young - I encourage them to speak to anyone who stops to speak to them and I would rather they see the world like this than become anxious about others. I have never assumed that anyone means them any harm and stats I think would bear this out. Warning them about stranger danger would not prevent an abduction for instance so there is no point even going there with a very little child.
I do suspect that that is exactly the sort of person he is, although it's not obvious from his appearance but I didn't know quite how to say it. That is why I thought nothing of it, or not much, until yesterday. Being followed is not nice. It is likely to be innocent but it has made me uncomfortable.
Nesbo - I don't think that there are more nonces in the world now than there ever was and I encourage social interaction with my children and men and women of all ages, cultures, etc. However teaching children to approach a woman will reliably enhance their safety. It is highly unlikely that a woman will be a sexual predator (that's not saying it's likely a man will be). Also if a woman is approached it is likely that they she will stop whatever she is doing and commit fully to that child and not rest until they are safe. A man might may take the child over to a worker, a woman is more likely to stay involved and see it through.
Maybe that's not politically correct but I don't care. The fact is in all cultures and at all ages and at all times in history men are more violent than women.
"If you're ever lost go to a woman" works because it's practical ( there will most probably always be a woman around, and simple (easy to teach, easy to learn, easy to do). I'd give that advice to an adult woman as well.
And Latrucha is right, children are FAR more at risk from people they know!
I think regardless you should be polite but very clearly not enaging with him and be sure not to make any accusations to him directly or have an escape plan unless you feel directly threatened. Do you think you will talk to the police just to make them aware? even if he is innocently there as has been suggested which is the most probable cause he is then making himself very vulnerable from people who may approach him in a more direct accusating manner. thats why talking to the police either way would be the most sensible action for you to take.
Er - seems naive I think to take the view that because this man may have learning difficulties/be lonely/be innocent until proven guilty and he has human rights too you should put aside your gut instincts and not take the steps you think are right not to protect your child. Why should you have to feel wary about going to the playground when he is hovering outside the fence on the times when you are the only ones there? If you think things have happened too often for it to just be coincidence it may be worth speaking to the police about him, possibly having quietly taken his photo on your phone (which may be quite a good way of deterring him, actually, if he does have shady motives). Unless he is actually stalking you your information will not lead to any negative consequences for him, but may have a preventative use, particularly if there have been similar incidents involving other children and/or he is actually already on the sex offenders' register. The diary idea is a good one too. If this turns into harassment on more than one occasion that is in itself a criminal offence.
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