Hi Readers: As a Free-Range parent I believe in preparing kids to be independent and safe. Just as we teach them to “Stop, drop and roll!” in the unlikely event they’re ever on fire, it makes sense to teach them to yell, kick and run in the equally unlikely event some creep tries to grab them.
It is also worthwhile teaching them to say “No!” to any person who tries to get them to do something uncomfortable, and then to “tell” on that person, no matter what that person made them promise. A key phrase, by the way, is to say to your kids, “I won’t be mad at you,” which reassures them that they can talk openly with you about a situation they may worry they caused, or that they feel was “wrong.”
So, agreed: A little preparation goes a long way. But how much preparation are we talking about? In this great blog post on Trueslant, Karen Dukess talks about the lesson her son got in a school program, on what to do if he is kidnapped and thrown into the trunk of a car.
It would be easy to say, what’s the harm? Why not give children tips on protecting themselves even if they’ll probably never need them? But the harm is this: it fuels the fear that rules the lives of so many parents, that prevents them from letting their children walk to school alone or run an errand or play outside unsupervised or climb a tree because something might happen.
There is one constant in the world: At any moment something indeed MAY happen. Something bad, even. But as a brilliant commenter said here on Free-Range Kids the other day: We seem to have forgotten there’s a difference between “may happen,” and “will happen.” When we blur those two together, life is a roller coaster of parental terror.
Teaching kids some basic self-defense makes sense. Teaching them how to escape from a trunk because the very worst very well could happen (and somehow they’ll be able to summon the skills of Houdini) is enough to make us all give up, lock the doors and huddle inside till they find our bleached bones decades later.
But at least not in a trunk. — Lenore