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4 yr old keeps talking about the 'bad man'

(24 Posts)
Lilsmummy Thu 29-May-14 20:28:29

My 4yr old keeps talking about the 'bad man' asking what he looks like, what colour is he, and what happens if he takes her. Husband and I told her the bad man (or woman) can be any colour and that she should never talk to strangers. We've told her that if a stranger offers you anything then you run away, if they grab you then scream, hit, bite, and scratch.

When we're out she will point to someone and say 'that's a stranger right?' and I say, "yes it is'.

Today, however, she actually drew a picture of the 'bad man' with a drawing of herself next to him with a sad face. She then drew mummy and daddy with sad faces and said 'this is mummy and daddy after the bad man takes me'. I then drew mummy and daughter with a smiley face and scribbled out the bad man.

She is a very happy girl, very positive and full of energy! I'm not sure where she's picked this up but can anyone tell me if this is just a faze? Should I continue to assure her the bad man won't take her or, well I don't know at this point! I just don't want her to be scared.

boringlivingroom Thu 29-May-14 20:30:49

Of course she can talk to strangers. Eg the police! Or someone polite in the supermarket!? I would tell her that she shouldn't go off with someone without checking with mummy and daddy.

I would ask her where she say the bad man to see where it came from.

BuzzardBird Thu 29-May-14 20:32:34

I think you are filling her full of fear.sad

ExBrightonBell Thu 29-May-14 20:37:18

I think you need to de-escalate the situation rather than continue to ramp up your child's fears.

It's too late now, but the first time she mention "the bad man" I would have said that there is no such thing as "the bad man", just people who sometimes do bad things. Then I would have gently explained about the fact that she shouldn't go off anywhere (with strangers or people known to her) without asking you first.

Norfolknway Thu 29-May-14 20:37:33


Overkill on the not talking to strangers.

Relax confused

BarbarianMum Thu 29-May-14 20:37:49

I'm confused. She got this from you, didn't she? You told her about a 'bad man/woman' taking her and now she's drawing it. Not surprised, poor kid must be terrified.

Maybe instead of teaching her to be terrified of the bogeyman coming to take her away you could focus on kindly talking to her about her body, that it belongs to her and that nobody is allowed to touch her in a way she doesn't like. You can talk about which bits of a body are private, good touching and bad touching. That good people will never ask her to keep a secret from mummy or take her anywhere without mummy saying its OK. It doesn't need to be a big, heavy scary conversation it can be drip, drip, drip. And it will help keep her safe from the people most likely to hurt her (your friends, neighbours and family) without terrifying her.

boringlivingroom Thu 29-May-14 20:44:20

Ah yes the bad man did come from the OP.

Yep you have over done it. Poor kid.

Lilsmummy Fri 30-May-14 06:12:44

Wow. It's funny because I joined this group to look for support not to be accused of being a bad parent. Thanks everyone.

For the record, I dd NOT bring this topic up to my child, she brought it to me. And I will not lie to my child. Yes, there are bad people. Children are being taken everyday and I'll do whatever it takes to educate my child what to do should some bad person feels the need to take her.

She isn't full of fear, she is full of innocence and I won't let someone take that from her. The threat is always there, lets face it and if my child knows that when a man or woman offers her something (ice cream, treats, etc) to go with them she should not then I've done my job.

She knows that the police are good people. Obviously. She asks about strangers when we are on a trail riding bikes or getting in the car in the car park. These people are strangers and again, I won't sweeten it up for her.

Exbrightenbell, it's not too late. Like I said before, she is full of curiosity, innocence, love and all things good like any other 4 yr old, she is just asking the question.

Barbarianmum she didn't get this from me, I didn't tell her this.

Boringlivingroom, perhaps you should stay in your boring living room and stop accusing me of overdoing it.

Sheesh, is this what mumsnet is about? Making parents feel awful for even asking a question?

SavoyCabbage Fri 30-May-14 06:23:10

Ok well to answer your question I would tell her they there isn't a bad man and that nobody is going to take her because she belongs to you.

Then do what someone else said and talk to her about her body etc.

boringlivingroom Fri 30-May-14 06:26:12

Haha good one.

But to say there are "bad people", is quite abstract for a 4 year old. My 4 year old would not settle for that - so provide some logic to your assertion that there are " bad people".

Lilsmummy Fri 30-May-14 06:28:55

Thank you, yes, she said 'bad person' so we are in the process of saying 'stranger' instead.

It's difficult because I don't want to blow off or ignore the subject but don't want to terrify her either, which she totally isn't; she is just curious.

Thank you!

Lilsmummy Fri 30-May-14 06:29:44

Anways she has just learned to ride her bike without stabilisers the other day so that's taken over everything! YES! smile

insancerre Fri 30-May-14 06:37:37

Just for the record, children are not being taken everyday, as you state.
You have made the world a scary place for yourdddid, which is a shame.
The concept of teaching stranger danger is very outdated and potentially harmful, as you are finding out.
Strangers are not inherently bad on fact people are not bad or good.

Hairylegs47 Fri 30-May-14 06:42:48

She's heard of 'bad man/people' and just wants to recognise them when she sees them. Nothing to worry about smile
Everything is black or white to lots of children.
It's much sadder when they say stuff like 'X didn't look bad, but they were really bad'sad

drinkingtea Fri 30-May-14 06:56:48

My 3 YO DS keeps talking about naughty wizards... (influenced by Mr Men books) ... grin

As others have said there is far more risk from people she knows... I'd tell her there are hardly any bad people, most people are nice, but because just a few aren't she must always ask you before she goes anywhere - and what others have said about being touched.

AgentProvocateur Fri 30-May-14 07:23:03

Children aren't taken every day. Which is why, on the very rare occasion it happens, it's so newsworthy. I feel really sorry for your child - you've made her worried about something that's highly unlikely to happen, and she's expressing her fears in drawings. Please don't pass on your paranoia. Remember she's far far more likely to be abused by a family member than a stranger or "bad man" hmm

ExBrightonBell Fri 30-May-14 08:45:09

I'm not sure what you think I meant, Lilsmummy, by "it's too late now".

All I meant was that you have missed the opportunity of the very first time she mentioned the idea of a "bad man" to explain that there isn't a "bad man" as such. Just that some people sometimes do bad things, and because of that she shouldn't go off anywhere with anyone, even with someone she knows, without asking you first.

I am quite sure she is still "full of curiosity, innocence, love and all things good like any other 4 yr old", I didn't say anything at all to suggest otherwise. What I am suggesting is that it may take a while for her to not be scared of "bad men". Fwiw, I think talking about "good" people versus "bad" people is not helpful. Just because someone says they are a police officer doesn't mean that they are, and that they are a "good" person. It's much more helpful to focus on the concept of not going off with anyone without asking you first.

You sound really defensive about this. No one has accused you of being a bad parent at all, simply that they think that you could have handled this particular situation (that you asked for opinions on) differently.

There is a wealth of information on how to help your children stay safe on the NSPCC website.

Jellymum1 Fri 30-May-14 08:58:11

lilsmum I made this mistake when my dd who is four went gallavanting off out the garden gate while I was faffing getting out of the house. I looked up and she'd gone ahead and I shouted her back and she came back laughing and I said "its not funny the bad man could have come and I couldn't see you" then followed days of asking me about the bad man! I realised at this point id prehaps made a mistake as she seemed worried. so when she mentioned it again I kept saying there isnt A bad man/one bad man but sometimes people do bad things but if you always stay where mummy can see you then you will always be safe. and if anyone asks you to go anywhere you must always check with mum first. I then drip fed her as others said about her trusted adults (mum, dad, nana, teacher ect) and about her body privates ect but this wasnt all in one conversation it was if the subject arose or at bath time I started teaching her to wash herself and dry herself ect. it is hard isnt it because I like you didnt want my daughter to be scared but danger is very real sadly.

wtffgs Fri 30-May-14 09:12:21

Wow! Ease off the OP! shock

I had a "bad man" as a child. School showed a stranger danger video and that conflated in my anxious little head with danger everywhere. My parents were not to blame at all (they could have been better at discussing feelings n general - but that's a whole other therapy session wink).

I think talking about her fears, giving her information and skills and a good sense of self-respect are the way to approach this.

She is probably ultra sensitive and highly intelligent!! winkwink

tethersend Fri 30-May-14 09:15:10

Pointing out that you may have inadvertently scared your child doesn't strike me as unsupportive.

You need to be honest with her about risks, agreed- but by making children think that it is only strangers who can do them harm, you (not just you, many people) leave them vulnerable to abuse from trusted friends and family members, which is a far, far greater risk than being abducted by a stranger.

I echo the good advice above about private parts of the body, not keeping secrets or going away without mummy or daddy, and what to do if someone makes you feel uncomfortable.

I would add, talk to your DD about strangers who are likely to be safe (parents with children, people in uniform etc.) if she should find herself lost or in trouble, and give her a protocol to follow.

I appreciate that you are trying to protect your DD from harm, but you need to change the way you do this in order to protect her effectively.

What you have told her has scared her, and she is struggling to process these fears. You can help children to stay safe without transferring adult fears on to them.

differentnameforthis Fri 30-May-14 09:21:17

OP, don't be defensive. People are only trying to help.

You also need to tell her that it isn't always strangers she needs to be worried about. It is also people she knows.

But you have to keep it appropriate. She shouldn't be that consumed by it that she is drawing pictures of her self with a 'bad man' (or woman)

ExcuseTypos Fri 30-May-14 09:31:48

It so important that children know there are bad people, but there has to be balance. I always told mine that there were very few bad people, so we don't usually need to worry about them. That most mummies, daddies, shop assistants etc are lovely people who will always help if mummy isn't there. You need to make her feel confident about being out in the world.

WiganandSalfordLocalEditor Fri 30-May-14 09:42:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

bendywillow Mon 02-Jun-14 13:48:08

I wonder if it would be helpful if you could talk to her about the way adults help to keep children safe? In particular, how you and her Dad have a special and important part of your job as Mummy and Daddy in keeping her safe? But you could then extend the conversation to cover other people in your family, friendship group, and immediate neighbourhood? Bit by bit, talking about adults in a postive light might move this forward.

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