The Stranger Danger Is…Me!

Hi Readers! This essay by Jennifer Carsen originally ran at her blog,  Mommy Tries, which bills itself as “Bringing you good-enough parenting since 2010.” – L.
Dear Free-Range Kids: I’ve been wondering, “WWLD” (What Would Lenore Do?)

My daughter Lorelei was on the swings at the playground today, loving it as usual, when a little girl and her dad ambled over to the swing next to us. It’s hard for me to accurately calculate the ages of other people’s children, as nearly all of them are smaller than Lorelei – including a few incoming UNH freshmen – but she must have been 3 or 4 or so.

“Hi!” I said brightly, as her daddy was getting her settled.

“Hi,” she replied – and then got a worried look on her face.

“Daddy, is that a stranger?” she asked, pointing an accusing finger at me.

He looked me over, menacing in my turtleneck and mom jeans, and said (with a slight smile at me over his daughter’s head), “Yes.”

“She talked to me,” the little girl said, her tiny voice dripping with equal parts horror and disgust.

“It’s okay, Sweetie,” he said, laughing. “I’m right here.”

I understand that teaching our children to be cautious is a good thing, but there’s got to be some better way to distinguish “stranger” (mommy at the next swing; merely a friend we have not yet met) from “STRANGER” (creepy guy who separates you from the rest of the herd with promises of puppies and van candy).

Me (Lenore): Agreed! And the thing is, even the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children — the folks who put the missing kids’ photos on the milk cartons — now formally distances itself from the idea of “stranger danger” — because it’s useless.
First of all, the vast majority of crimes against kids are committed by people they KNOW. So it’s like warning kids about the dangers of spoons, when — if we’re talking cutlery — the bigger danger is probably meat cleavers, right?
Secondly, when we warn kids never to talk to strangers, we are taking away a safety net for them. If they are ever in trouble, it is GOOD to ask for help from anyone, fast! As the late, great Mary Duval once said, “I think we can trust random people not to suddenly become child molestors just because they happen to see a child.”
And thirdly, if we tell kids that everyone unfamiliar to them is a potential child killer, we are effectively stunting any street smarts they might otherwise be cultivating. If you automatically distrust EVERYONE, how can you develop that tingling sixth sense of, “Something feels a little weird”? EVERYTHING feels a little weird — you’re surrounded by killers!
So here’s “What “Lenore Would Do”:  Teach kids you can TALK to strangers, you just cannot go OFF with strangers. That way, they get to see the world for what it is — basically good — with a dollop of caution, which is also basically good.
And as for that dad, who is teaching his daughter she’s safe as long as SuperDaddy is around, but otherwise she’s a delectable hors  d’oeuvre for the crowd of slavering wolves at the swingset,  maybe it’s time to put HIM on a milk carton with the caption: “Have you seen this well-meaning but clueless dude?” — L

Yikes! I see some strangers at this playground. Run, kids! Run!

112 Responses

  1. That’s disappointing. Here’s a story I feel better about.
    I was traveling alone several years ago. I was about 32, and since I was on vacation, I wasn’t shaving much, or dressing up at all.
    A grandmother stopped me on the street and asked if I could accompany her grandson into a public bathroom. He had to go, and she didn’t have time to stake it out, I guess. She said I looked ‘trustworthy’; ‘slovenly’ was probably more accurate. I followed him in, looked out for crazies, and after he was done I escorted him out. No problems.
    Perhaps she was worried about nothing, but she showed that reaching out to a random man on the street, a stranger, for help is probably safe.

  2. I feel sorry for this girl. Just think of all the strangers she will meet when she goes to: preschool, school, the store, the bank, the library, etc. When she is in areas that she has to interact on her own, she won’t know what to do. After all, the librarian and the lunch lady are strangers. So are those people in the bank who offer her a piece of candy.

  3. The other day, I was saying something pertaining to ‘people we don’t know.’ I can’t remember the exact context, but I believe I was giving them a lesson in being considerate of said people. I said something about “since we don’t know him” and my kid said, “is he a ‘Stranger”? [Like, should I be running the other way?] My answer was yes, a “stranger” is simply someone you don’t know. Could be someone nice or not so nice.

    I do wish “stranger” was not such a loaded term.

  4. …(creepy guy who separates you from the rest of the herd with promises of puppies and van candy)…

    Agree with most of what was said but wonder about perpetuating image of the ‘creepy guy’ – We need more men in children’s lives – we don’t want to continue to alienate men and stop them from being involved in positive ways e.g. early years teachers and childcare practitioners.


  5. Well, on the bright side, the dad at the swings didn’t tell his daughter not to talk to this “stranger” at all. I’ve read several anecdotes here about parents glaring, saying rude things and/or whisking their kids away from friendly people, even though they were “right there.”

  6. I think if you had an honest conversation with a child about a “typical” day, they would understand that it involves dozens of interactions with strangers. You have to talk to strangers, unless you want to be a hermit (or have no groceries!)
    I’m surprised this dad even let his daughter on the swings, as they are such a death trap!

  7. I can count on one hand the number of times a kid has been ill at ease around me.I am just a kid person and kids love me. Inherited it from my mom. So I don’t very often encounter kids who are scared of me. However I have often run into parents who give me weird looks because I am talking to or playing with their kid on a playground while I play with my own kids. If a kid asks me to push them on the swings, I do it. I have no problem helping other people’s kids or being friendly. I don’t get why the parents would be weirded out by it, but it happens.

  8. I’m not sure we should jump all over the Dad — the writer admits she has no clue how the child is. If she’s only 3 or so, saying “It’s fine, I’m here” is not the same as doing it when she’s ready to go places on her own.

    Yes, if when she gets old enough to go to school, the library, the store, without a parent around, then he should teach her differently. But for now, I think you have to be looking for something to complain about, to get negative about this — IF she’s that young, which none of us knows.

    There’s nothing in what he said to go from, “It’s okay, sweetie, I’m right here” to “you’re a delectable hors d’ouevre the minute my back is turned.” What it means is, “It’s okay, I’m here.” That’s how you TALK to a three year old.

  9. We have always taught our kids (now 13, 18, 29 and 33) that a stranger is someone you don’t yet know. BUT, that doesn’t mean they can’t be helpful. A mom (sorry guys MOST molesters are male) at a park or play place with a child is a pretty safe bet.

    We also teach our kids who the safe people are in our circle. If they want to accept a ride home from someone, there is a limited list of people they can get in a car with. No one else. And we discuss safe routes with the safe houses they can go to if they feel that funny scary feeling.

  10. Better yet, why not print excerpts from Free Range Kids on milk cartons…and juice boxes…and cereal boxes…and snack bags!

  11. A flip “sorry guys” doesn’t really cut it, when you’re assuming that every father at the park with his kids is a molester.

  12. Pentamom, I think the disturbing part is the fact that the child has obviously been taught that there is this fearsome species called “stranger” that she needs to be afraid of.

    Personally I just didn’t talk to my kids about scariness and strangers when they were too young to be off on their own. They did hear “stranger danger” stuff in school, but I would find out and counter it by telling them that they must be polite to strangers and acquaintances alike (but not “go with” anyone without my express permission).

  13. What I have told my children: Strangers are people you haven’t met. Most strangers are nice people. Never go off with anyone. Never get into anyone’s car. Not even a friend’s car or a police car. If they get lost they should stop and wait for me to find them, ask to borrow someone’s phone to call me, or go to customer service to have me paged if at a store. I don’t specify the gender, age, marital or parental status of whom to ask. Any stranger will do. I don’t want them to wander around looking for a “nice lady with children”, I want them to ask the first helpful looking stranger they see.

    My first born will talk the ear off of any stranger he meets. It has led to some really great exchanges over the years. To date, no one has ever admonished me about his openness.

  14. When I was going to start a blog about my children, I talked to a retired police officer who’d worked for years with child abuse cases. She told me, “Leanne, if there’s anyone who’s a danger to your kids, it’s going to be people you know.” She was not advocating being afraid; she went on to say how the media blows things out of proportion. So, stranger danger is indeed a myth.

  15. Speaking of little boys and bathrooms – I have to do a little mini-vent about a recent trip to a kiddy theme waterpark resort. Because you folks are the only people who would understand.

    1) My 4yo needed to use the restroom while we were at breakfast. Although we hadn’t visited the nearby loo yet, I had happened to notice where it was and there was a window through which I could see the door from my table. I gave my kid directions and sent her off. After a logical amount of time, I peeked through the window to confirm she’d found it. At that moment a mom was taking her son into the ladies’ restroom – and he was at least 7 years old. Personally I didn’t get any vibes that would make the men’s bathroom seem scary for a 7-year-old, but whatever. The mom saw my kid and looked around incredulously since nobody was apparently with her. Whatever! No harm done.

    2) The next day, we were in the women’s locker room to shower and change back into our clothes. My kids needed to pee first, and that meant taking off their bathing suits all the way. Rather than put the wet bathing suits back on, I told them to proceed to the showers. WELL, apparently you are supposed to keep your bathing suit on in the shower, because moms bring their sons in there! There was a boy about 10yo in the women’s toilet / shower / changing room. That just does not seem right to me. (Granted, there were curtains for the changing stalls and doors on the toilet stalls, but the rest of it was all one common area.)

    I understand that single moms of sons have to make hard choices sometimes. (Would I send my daughters in alone if I were a dad? Perhaps not at age 4, but certainly by age 6 or so!) But what is the point of male/female locker rooms if there’s apparently no age limit for going into the “wrong one”? Is there a legitimate reason to fear sending a 10yo boy into a locker room full of dads and sons?

  16. “Pentamom, I think the disturbing part is the fact that the child has obviously been taught that there is this fearsome species called “stranger” that she needs to be afraid of.”

    But you know, that didn’t necessarily have to come from the Dad. It’s in the water, practically. And the fact that the Dad laughed at her reaction implies he never wanted to promote such an idea.

    I don’t blame people for reacting negatively to the fact that she had “stranger fear” in the first place — it’s assuming the Dad is some kind of paranoid idiot who thinks his child will never be safe without him, for answering a child with, “It’s okay, I’m here” instead of engaging a possible three year old with a discourse on how to relate to unknown various types of people in a variety of situations, that I find a bit over the top.

    I know those people exist — “It’s okay, sweetie, I’m here” is not sufficient reason to assume that this guy is one of them.

  17. Pentamom, exactly. There’s nothing here that says this dad taught his kid about strangers; for all we know this is the first time he’s heard it from her. I live with a three year old. He comes up with stuff like this all the time; certainly I’m not teaching him fear of people, and neither is his dad, nor his daycare. But he listens and sometimes draws his own conclusions using toddler logic, which covers a lot of ground between entertaining and wtf?. Last week he asked — loudly — if a woman wearing a black jacket and toque was a “bad guy”. I tried telling him “no, she’s just a mom”, but he didn’t let go of it until I said, quote, “I’m right here. It’s ok”. Brief and reassuring. And I smiled, briefly, at the mom. Tar and feather me, already.

    I’m more disturbed by the OPs characterization of “stranger” as “creepy guy who separates you from the herd”. That’s not what we need to be teaching, is it?

  18. […] The rest is here: The Stranger Danger Is…Me! […]

  19. Such a shame that kids like this will likely grow up finding it difficult to initiate interactions with ‘strangers’ and people they don’t know, due to having this sort of paranoia instilled into them. A friend of mine blames her almost paralysing shyness and lack of social confidence on the fact that her mother made her fear ‘strangers’ as she was growing up and completely smothered her. She says her upbringing was stifling in this way, and she feels she pays the price for it now.

  20. I agree that I have been stared at by boys too old to be in the women’s room and I am pretty sure he was getting off on it. The kid was puberty age. He was staring through the crack in the bathroom door at me and I saw his eyes and the look on his face. So I know he could see me too. I said something to the mom and she just acted like she did not know why I would be offended and say something to her. It was at a movie theater and he would have been fine in the men’s room. Especially since he had a 7 year old about brother with him too. Strength in numbers.

    pissed me off! If middle schoolers are going to jack off to me later I should at least get paid or something for doing porn. Yuck. I would rather not have to be whack off material but if I am I should at least make some money too. My privacy was way violated that day and I still remember it vividly years later.

    I don’t teach my kids about stranger danger, I just teach them that they should not go off with anyone barring me, my husband or their Mimi. Anyone else they need to check with me, my husband or Mimi first. Everyone else needs to go through us first. Because I am not stupid enough to blindly trust anyone even my friends and family 100%.

  21. I always advise that in terms of “stranger danger”, the key bit of thinking is this:

    “Is this person acting in a way that is abnormal or worrying?”

    Followed by:

    “Is this person attempting to put me in a vulnerable position?”

    This generally means that the person is trying to lure you away from public view/place where your parent/s think you are/into a vehicle etc, or maybe trying to position themselves where you can’t see them, or between you and your belongings, etc.

    For example, I got very nervous one time when I was walking alone at night and two young men walking towards me purposely went out of their way to split up and walk past to either side of me. They had no readily apparent reason for doing so (I was walking far enough to the side that had they stayed together, they would have easily passed me with much room to spare), and that move would have made me far more vulnerable should they have attempted to rob or attack me. They didn’t, but that’s the sort of behaviour that you should watch out for.

    Also, no offense intended, but maybe Lenore isn’t quite the right person to emulate in terms of stranger danger. This is a person who believes that it is ridiculous to be concerned when a stranger man drives up and randomly offers candy to a child who is walking home alone from the bus stop in the afternoon, thereby luring said child to his car.

    TL;DR: Don’t fear strangers unless they actually do something that give you a reason to be worried.

  22. While living overseas, I had to teach my preschoolers to trust strangers, particularly teenagers – these were most likely to speak some English, and anyway they almost universally loved little kids, it was that kind of culture – were they to ge tlost, because my husband didn’t trust the police, LOL! Because they are mixed blood, they got approached all the time by ‘strangers’anyway, and mostly enjoyed this, and I must say it seems to have added to their confidence – I don’t remember being able to talk to new people in may life as easily as they seem to be able to, but then I had a very small town upbringing, and hardly ever got to meet ‘strangers’ so that may have been the difference.

    @SKL that sounds yucky – a 10 year old in the womens locker room, I mean. I don’t usually say much to people about stuff, but I think i might have had something to say about that! Who wants a just pre-adolescent boy wandering around when they’re undressing. Surely the kid should have had the nouce to be able to leave the male room if there was a weirdo in there? i.e. she should have been letting him go off to the male showers by himself. 10 is not 2. Shouldn’t there be rules about that sort of thing?

  23. Hineata, in my town rec center, you can’t bring an opposite sex child into the locker room if he’s over 3. But they provide “family changing rooms” for folks who have a child older than 3 who needs help. Not sure if they had any age limits or “family changing rooms” at the resort, but even if they didn’t, the place was busy with dads and sons going in and out of the mens’ locker room all the time. How much hanky panky could really happen in there?

  24. Regarding the dad in the OP, I tend to agree that “it’s OK, I’m right here” was more a way of changing the subject than analyzing stranger danger. I mean, under a certain age, there’s not much you can explain about it. For that matter, don’t we say ‘Mommy’s here / Daddy’s here” when they are afraid of night monsters, too? It may have simply been a developmentally appropriate way of getting the focus off the illogical fear.

    I think the OP assumes that the dad was the person who taught the little girl to be afraid of talking to strangers in the first place. Maybe so, maybe not. Whoever did is misguided, in my opinion.

  25. When my child was younger, I taught that police officers and firemen are never strangers and that someone who works in the store where you are not strangers. I got pushback from his dad on that, but I wanted him to know that if he needed help, there were people who he could approach. If I lose track of him in a grocery store, why shouldn’t he be able to go to the bakery counter and ask for help finding me?

    We are rapidly getting to the point where kids are going to die in fires or other tragedies because they don’t trust the rescuers.

  26. I definitely think ‘Talk to strangers but don’t go anywhere with them’ is the way to go. I presume some people will say that the ‘don’t talk’ rule is so that no one can persuade an initially suspicious kid with the canonical sweeties and puppies, but frankly talking *to* ‘strangers’ when needs be is surely statistically far more conducive to safety than never talking to them.

  27. A few years ago I was in a grocery store. In one of the aisles was a mother and her 3 year old son who was sitting in the seat of the grocery cart. I leaned past him to get something off the shelf and he asked me what my name was? I said “Jim” and he said “okay”. I didn’t think anything of it until I was in the checkout line and he was in the cart in front of me. He said “Hi”, I replied “Hi.” he asked “What are you doing?”. I said “getting groceries” about that time his Mother saw what was going on and told him “That’s a stranger. I told you not to talk to strangers.”. The little boy said “That’s no stranger, that’s Jim”. I lost it. When I could breathe again I told his Mother about his asking my name back in the aisle and then she lost it.

  28. I’d like my future children to have proper social skills that would allow them to communicate effectively with people that I don’t know. Talking to strangers is probably a great way to build that up. By all means, use your common sense and pay attention to bad feelings, but don’t program yourself to associate bad feelings with everyone you don’t.

    Neighbor down the street had a great moment, though: Her 9-year-old came home in a police car. Why? He had been walking home from a friend’s house, decided to experiment on a short cut, and got lost. He saw a cop (guy just off-duty) and asked him for help. Cop gave boy a ride home, did not criticize parents for letting their precious child brave the dangers of what is apparently one of the safest cities in the US. Now THAT is a good cop: responded to a kid in need of help, gave him that help, no questions about the motivations of his parents.

  29. I think the bathroom thing is ridiculous also. I feel so bad for that poor 10 year old boy dragged in there by his mom. He must feel like crawling under a rock! Way to crush someones self-esteem, tell them they’re not capable of going into their own bathroom for 3 minutes! I post things on a DisneyWorld board also and this is a topic that comes up frequently. There are some folks out there that plan on taking their boys/young men into the ladies room until age 12. It’s truly shocking! Several mothers said that they allow their 8-10 year olds to use the mens room while they wait outside the door, but then they make the boy come in the ladies room with them while they go because they don’t want them left alone on a bench while they are in the bathroom. They were totally serious too! The idea that a child that age could be “alone” for less than 5 minutes never even seemed to occur to them.

    @ Jim That is another problem with the idea of teaching kids “stranger danger”. Kids think that if they have spoken to someone or had any communication with them they are no longer a stranger. That little boy sees you as a friend now. If you offered him some candy or to go see your puppy, he would go, you’re not a stranger anymore, you’re Jim, he knows you. kids have weird ideas about who they know/don’t know. My daughter is 9 and recently she and a friend were going around the neighborhood playing little tricks on people. It was fine when it was friends, but they started going up to peoples houses they didn’t know. A neighbor called me and told me what they were up to. When I asked my daughter why she would be going up to strangers and playing tricks on them she insisted she knew them. She thought she knew them because they are people she has seen out in their yards and can identify what house they live at. These were people who lived on different streets, not our street. I had no worries of anything happening to her, I’m not afraid of strangers. I just didn’t think it was appropriate to play tricks on them. I was shocked to hear her say that she thought she knew them though!

  30. Yeah I guess I should say I also teach my kids they if they are lost or need help to go with a fireman or policeman. Some of them are corrupt too but the chances of that are so slim that I am not worried about it. We always greet policemen and firemen etc when out in public so my kids are familiar with them. And they are always super polite to us. That is why I don’t like all the cop bashing that sometimes goes on here. If your kids pick up on that vibe one day if they actually NEED help they might run away from a policeman because they must think they are bad since mommy and daddy hate them so much. Not a good way to approach it.

  31. Dolly, Mommy never told my kids to distrust the cops. Mr. Badass Policeman took care of that with his own big mouth.

    Anyway, chances are that if our kids are ever in trouble, there won’t be any cops around. At least, where my kids usually hang out. I tell my kids that if they lose track of me while we are out together, they are to stay put and I will come back and find them. I can find them a lot faster if it only involves tracing my steps. I also tell them if that isn’t an option, they should go up to a mom or dad and ask them to call my phone number. We’ve talked about how this differs from what their teachers tell them. I tell them that they follow school rules at school, and my rules everywhere else.

  32. The perils of bibliotherapy: My toddler son likes to bring his own books into day-care sometimes, and the teacher is willing to read them to the class. However, this week’s favorite is Daniel Pinkwater’s _Guys from Space_. My partner and I were discussing whether this was an appropriate choice for day-care, because even though the kid asks his mom’s permission to go off with the Guys from Space (and absolutely refuses to go *without* asking permission) it’s pretty clear that mom is clueless and probably thinks the Guys from Space are clueless. (They do, in fact, buy the kid a rootbeer with icecream on another planet. Then they rush him home because they have to get home to their planet to explain this wonderful invention.)

  33. Sorry that should be the mom appears to think the Guys from Space are imaginary.

  34. Everyone is a stranger until you meet them. I have never used the word “stranger” in that context in my home and when the preschool had “Stranger Danger” lessons, I kept my kids home. Kids know when something feels yukky. Case in point, my children felt “uncomfortable” around my parents and although they weren’t molestors, they were emotionally dangerous. I never had to teach that, they felt it from the start. I am friendly to people everywhere we go (and always was when my children were growing up) and my kids are the same way. We are raising a generation of children who will have no instincts, not to mention no immune systems and no decision-making capacity!

  35. @ Dolly, yep, you’re right, in most countries police etc are absolutely fine, and certainly in NZ the kids know to go to police and firemen etc if they are in trouble – if, that is, as someone else said, you can actually find one!

    My husband is Malaysian Chinese, and at the time we were living there the cops were both underpaid and almost all Malays. There is nothing wrong with Malay people, but there are underlying tensions over there between all the different racial groups. And the police at that time required bribes almost every time they stopped you, for whatever reason. Most Chinese simply tried to avoid the police altogether, and hubby insisted the kids did the same. I believe that things have changed over there in the years since, and that there is a lot less tolerance of corruption.

  36. Isn’t there a site mod here that can remove offensive posts like Dolly at 1:44 November 22? Disgusting.

  37. Great letter and great post again Lenore! I will send this one to my husband… slowly converting him to FRK thinking. 🙂

  38. I recall seeing a notice of some sort for parents of tots/preschoolers: “Have you talked with your child about Stranger Danger yet?” Like this is not optional, and the sooner you do it, the better.

    Just out of curiosity, how do people define for wee kids the “Danger” half of that equation?

    I would think that almost anything you’d tell a kid would give some of them irrational fears and nightmares.

  39. I agree with the user pentamom. I also want to add that he seemed to think it was funny, and it’s possible someone else instilled that idea in her – her mother, a grandparent, a preschool teacher, etc. I have never, not once, told any of my children not to talk to a stranger but many of them started saying stuff like this around the time they started school.

  40. @Jim: That’s WONDERFUL! Little kids really are the best at cutting through the BS sometimes.

    I’m very unconventional looking (long purple hair, dramatic eye makeup, and I wear a lot of black and purple), and this seems to draw little kids to me. They all want to talk and tell me about their day or tell me what Mom is making for supper or tell me how old they are and ask me how old I am, or even play with my hair (I let them.). Generally, most parents are OK with this, some of them even apologize to me for the gregariousness of their kids (“Emma, let the nice lady buy her cookies in peace!”), and the ones with cranky kids usually seem genuinely grateful if I distract Junior from his hollering with some cheerful conversation.

    Every now and then, though, the Paranoid Moms are loose, and they are downright hostile to me. *sigh* I was out for breakfast with my 19 year-old son on Friday morning, and the little boy in the booth behind us was so cute and flirty, so we smiled back and waved and tried talking to him a little bit, until Mama FREAKED THE HELL OUT and threatened to sic the cops on us. For smiling at her equally smiley toddler. Oy.

  41. Brynn: What is disgusting about it? That a pubescent boy was leering at me and looked turned on through the crack in the bathroom door against my wishes and invading my right to privacy? Because that to me is disgusting. Making jokes about if some kid is going to get turned on by me I might as well get paid is not the part you should find offensive.

  42. If a child in lost or in trouble, the best thing they can do is ask a stranger for help.

    Little personal bias here, due to the circles I ride in. The safest group for a child to ask, by far, is a group of motorcycle riders. I’m quite serious. Most of us are fathers, and the thought of a child coming to harm get us, well, let’s just say upset. A lost child asking for help will get it, bigtime. NO ONE is going to harm a child under the protection of riders. Period, end of story, book is closed.

    Off topic, but if you see a group of riders, come up and say hello. Mention how shiny and pretty our bikes are. Just don’t touch them. =)

  43. Dolly, you didn’t say “turned on”. Your whole post was offensive.

  44. @Mike – will have to remind my kids of that! Good on you guys. Same with actual gangs, I suspect – my dad, a very conservative-looking chap, had a cousin in Black Power, which down here is a bikie gang. Eddie was both the roughest-looking man and the nicest guy with kids that you could hope to meet, and we always had a lot of fun with him. He too, and the guys he hung out with, always looked out for kids. Same too, actually, with the girls fromthe local borstal – never had any trouble, and occasionally got help, from them too. Makes you wonder who really is a danger to our kids?

  45. Ha ha, my kids’ PS-4 teacher was a biker and told the kids all about it. She is the same teacher who wrote me a note because my kid was *gasp* pointing her finger at her friends and saying “bang, bang.” She was a huge stickler for polite and considerate behavior. I never did ask if she had a muffler on her bike.

  46. I agree with brynn. Dolly, what you say is valid, but your graphic use of language is gross. You always seem so proud of not caring how you come across. I watch your postings and mostly you have good things to say, but you don’t seem to care how you put it. She wasn’t offended by what you had to say it’s HOW you say it – as usual.

  47. I always knew there was something suspicious about you, Lenore LOL

  48. Just wanted to check in about the real dangers of free-range parenting. I informed my primary-age daughters that I will be curtailing their freedom tomorrow. I will not be letting them out into the yard, much less allowing them to go down the hill to check our mailbox or downtown to buy a soda. Why? Because it’s going to be blowing as hard as 75 mph out there with a wind chill of 30 below zero Fahrenheit. This is in the frostbite danger zone. I cannot take their toddler brother out with me in order to supervise their walk, I cannot leave him home alone, and I will not send them out by themselves when it’s so windy they could be blown off the icy sidewalk into the street. This is sensible, rational fear. How many times do we hear about the possibility of frostbite vs. the possibility of stranger danger? I’ve never heard a PSA about bundling children up. But these winter windstorms come around every year.

  49. Our program is an awareness course that teaches children that there are also safe strangers. If you would like to know more please check us out on

  50. Mike: There are always a nice group of bike riders that come to show off their bikes to the kids every year at the Touch a Truck in our city. They let the kids sit on their bikes if they want to.

  51. Reminds me of a toddler who helped expose a doctor in my area who had been sexually abusing his child-patients for years. The child’s parents had taught the child *specific* terms and phrases to describe thing which are inappropriate for an adult to do. So when the doctor got the kid alone and did these things, the child was later able to clearly articulate to the parents, and soon after the authorities, what the doctor had done. Lots of people use euphemisms for subjects that we adults are uncomfortable with, and vague about danger to the point of uselessness. Even from a young age we can start to explain in more specific detail why certain activities, situations, and people are potentially dangerous. And then children won’t be suspicious of perfectly safe, everyday scenarios and people, and they also won’t dismiss their parents concerns as easily. (I mean, will the average child maintain a leeriness of strangers if over and over again strangers are demonstrated to be perfectly normal, friendly people?)

  52. @sera “Also, no offense intended, but maybe Lenore isn’t quite the right person to emulate in terms of stranger danger. This is a person who believes that it is ridiculous to be concerned when a stranger man drives up and randomly offers candy to a child who is walking home alone from the bus stop in the afternoon, thereby luring said child to his car.”

    Please point out where Lenore has said any such thing.

  53. Martha, I wonder about the actual age-appropriateness of that. With my 4/5yo kids, I don’t leave them alone with the doctor. I mean, there is no reason to – they are far from being old enough to need privacy from their mother. If a doctor asked me to leave, I’d have to hear a pretty good reason for it, or I’d leave with my kid and never come back. However, by around age 9, I agree that the child needs to be aware enough to be safe alone with a doctor or other adult.

    My kids don’t know the “specific” anatomical terms yet, because I don’t trust them to not spout them everywhere they go (it’s potty talk central around here as it is). Once they get a little older, they will learn them. But for now, they have been told many times that their private parts (and they know which ones are private) are to be touched by nobody except them, me, and a doctor if I say so.

    I am pretty free-range, but I had some things happen to me when I was young, so I am not ignorant of the real risks of kids being alone with someone they know. However, my kids are almost always together or in a group; or if they are in a one-on-one class or therapy, there’s a window that anyone could look through at any time.

  54. A former coworker taught her daughter the correct terms for her body parts. One day they were at the grocery store and the daughter (who was about three) was sitting in the seat of the cart. Her mom wasn’t paying attention and bumped her cart into the cart of the woman ahead of them in line. This little jolt pushed the girl forward into the bar between her legs and she yelled out, “Mommy, my vagina hurts!”

    Apparently the whole store stopped and turned around to look at them. I found the story pretty hilarious. I mean, the little girl was right!

  55. Don’t even get me started on why people teach girls that their vulva is called “vagina.”

  56. Because “vagina” is the commonly used, and fully accepted term and, barring some medical need to differentiate between the vulva and vagina, most people are not in need of correct medical terminology. My daughter has learned vagina (although I thought her own invention of “front butt” was cuter). She will learn the proper terms for the different parts of the anatomy as gets older but will likely always refer to it as her “vagina” just like the vast majority of the population.

  57. I think the majority of the population does not feel comfortable saying “vagina” except when it is absolutely necessary.

    That said, I don’t see how we can talk about a child accurately describing the way a doctor touched her if she used the word “vagina” to describe the entire front private area.

  58. I may have left a misconception in my previous post. When I said that the Mother of the little boy “lost it”, I meant that she was laughing as hard as I was. After a brief conversation, I ended up dating her for almost a year.

  59. “That said, I don’t see how we can talk about a child accurately describing the way a doctor touched her if she used the word “vagina” to describe the entire front private area.”

    And “private area” somehow gets you there better?

    Not that I think the rationale of “if my child gets assaulted, I want her to use the correct words” is anything other worst-first thinking, but I’ve listened to forensic interviews of many children who have been sexually assaulted. The people talking to the children are trained to talk to children. They get accurate descriptions without needing correct medical terminology. Kids have very interesting terminology for those parts of the body well into the teen years, but through pictures, anatomically correct dolls and questions, they are able to get an accurate picture without the child needing to sound like a mini-ob/gyn. In fact, they probably get better descriptions since young children may not have a clear understanding of the terms vulva, vagina, clitoris, etc. and use the terms incorrectly. Better to say “show me on this doll exactly what happened” rather than to rely on the terms they use.

  60. Donna, that was actually my point. It isn’t necessary to teach small kids the anatomically correct terms. Chances are, they won’t use them accurately anyway. Apparently, adults don’t use them accurately, either, for that matter.

    It’s a pet peeve of mine. A vagina is for having sexual intercourse, discharging menses, and birthing babies. Little girls don’t even know they have a vagina unless you go to some lengths to point it out to them (for what purpose, I don’t know). Teaching “vagina” as the term for parts that are not “vagina” is like asking your child to call his nose “esophagus.” Just because lots of people do this doesn’t make it right, in my opinion.

  61. Jim–I got that the mom was laughing pretty hard too. Glad at least that part had a happy ending.

    Mike–Once upon a time when I was a kid, we were headed back home from Cedar Point. I think we ran out of gas, so my dad went walking with the gas can in hand into the night. Mom was in the driver’s seat. Some time later, up pulls a bunch of motorcycles behind us. My mother gasped to the three of us kids, “Get down and don’t move!” She saw the silhouette of someone getting off the bike and walking over to the car… and then she saw it was my dad. He’d gotten a ride back from the bikers.
    Apparently, it’s not just kids who are in safe territory with you guys; it’s other fathers too. 🙂

  62. The difference is between asking a child to call a nose “esophagus” and the use of vagina is that NOBODY calls a nose an esophagus. It is actually more like calling the abdominal area “stomach” although the stomach is a very small part of what’s in there. However, if you say “I have an upset stomach,” people completely understand that you have a problem in your digestive tract somewhere and are not actually giving a clinical diagnosis that it is, in fact, your stomach that is bothering you and not your intestines (gall baldder, liver, pancreas).

    Vagina is THE major accepted, non-vulgar term for the female genital anatomy as a whole. Even every OB/GYN I’ve ever had has used the term “vagina” in that matter. If they need to get more specific, they do, but they use “vagina” because every person, man or woman, who comes into the office understands that term and it’s general usage to represent the female anatomy as a whole, as well as a particular part.

    There is a difference between “lots of people do it” and it is THE commonly accepted and used term to refer to the female genital organs as a whole. You can certainly walk around using the proper terms for both the female genital organs and abdominal organs but it really just makes you sound pompous and obnoxious rather than correct because it’s outside the norm of what is expected in common social discourse.

  63. I recently watched Forest Gump again. When he starts school he’s about to get on the bus but the driver is a stranger. So he intoduces himself, she introduces herself and voila! they’re not strangers anymore!

  64. Well Donna, I must say you taught me something new today. Here I thought that if an OB/GYN said “vagina” they actually meant “vagina.”

    Honestly, you and I must travel in different circles, because I have NEVER felt the need to use ANY term for my lady parts in “common social discourse,” nor have I ever heard anyone else speak of theirs in polite company.

    But if I did feel the need to do so, I’m not sure how saying “vulva” would make me sound pompous / obnoxious while using “vagina” would make me sound sophisticated and polite. But again, maybe we travel in different circles.

    I wouldn’t be so sure that SKL is the only person who thinks this way, either. My guess would be that most adults (a) know what a vagina is and (b) don’t feel comfortable hearing that word bandied about any more than necessary.

  65. This conversation reminds me that I need to make an appointment with my gynecologist so she can have a look at my cootchie.

  66. @Sera, just like Lenore’s headline says, the man in the story was not a predator. He was a grandfather. Of a child that got off that very bus at that very bus stop. Did you miss that part? We have our kids, not to mention adults and cops, going nuts about every little act of kindness, and then you somehow assume that despite all reports to the contrary, this man was indeed a predator.

  67. @Brynn, No, I did not miss that part. Yes, the man was proved innocent later, however, the child did not know him as his classmate’s grandfather. The child did not know him at all. The man drove up to him and offered him candy from his car. Offering candy from your vehicle to lone stranger-children who are walking home is not normal behaviour. Offering treats in order to lure children into or near your vehicle when nobody else is around is generally considered suspicious predator behaviour.

    Just because the man was proven innocent this time – and it is RIGHT that he was proven innocent – does not mean that children should EVER go up to a stranger’s car for candy, especially when there is nobody else around to see what’s happening.

    You don’t go to a stranger’s car. You NEVER go to a stranger’s car. Talk to them, walk down a populated street with them, walk through a store with them, but NEVER let them isolate you from the public view, or take you away from where your parents expect you to be and NEVER, EVER approach their car.

    If I’m at a party and a man keeps plying me with alcohol, and then keeps trying to separate me from the party, should I go with him because rapists are rare? No. His behaviour is suspicious and makes me vulnerable if I comply. Even if it turns out that that particular guy really did just want to get to know me and get me to give him my number, does that mean that I should go with the next man who does the same thing?

  68. I just had the “stranger” talk with my 3.5yo. Rather than telling him to not talk to strangers (I talk to strangers all the time and really find it an enjoyable experience, not one I want to deny my son), I got down to the meat of the matter. Don’t go anywhere with a stranger no matter what. Don’t let a stranger touch you (and vice versa). And if a stranger tries to make you go with or touch even though you said no, SCREAM for help. I can get more nuanced as he gets older. As for the “real danger” (aka family members and friends), I just can’t live in a paranoid state and need to trust my gut about the people I’ve accepted into our inner circle.

  69. I am proud to say that my kids (girls AND boys) have known the difference between “vagina” and “vulva” from the time they could speak. A vulva is NOT a vagina. Why would anyone incorrectly identify anything to a child? And as for them spouting anatomically correct words….what’s the big deal? They are just words; they are just body parts. If other people are embarrassed, that’s their issue.

  70. KIESHA…Thanks for the laugh of the day!!!

  71. In the book, “More Speaking of Sex: What your children need to know and when they need to know it,” the author, Meg Hickling, says that when you teach a child the anatomically correct names for their body parts, it shows any potential molestor that there is someone in that child’s life who is comfortable having those kinds of conversations with the child, which means it is more likely that the child will tell if something happens, and that makes the child less likely to be a target of a molestor.

    – – –

    I tell me kids that they cannot go with anyone unless I know about it, and that anyone who is a good guy will understand that. I also tell them that the magic words they can use when they don’t want to be rude are, “I just have to check with my mom first.” I also tell them that no one should be asking them to keep secrets from mom and dad. If it something that I shouldn’t know (e.g. a surprise for my birthday), then it is still something they could tell their dad, and vice versa.

  72. You know, I just don’t know where the “luring kids with candy” thing came from. Sadly, I know quote a few people that were abused and molested as kids, and not one was lured with candy. Is thiosulfate really common? I can’t imagine that it is. (maybe Im wrong)

    I don’t know why anyones surprised Dolly posted something vulgar or rude, thats what she does….

  73. LOL on the spell check. WTH is theosulfate anyway????
    It was suppose to say “THIS”. Creative iPad…..

  74. “Stranger danger” rearing its ugly head again — I always tell my daughter to disregard the advice of “never talk to strangers” (after all, I tell her, aren’t a lot of people that you now know once strangers?) and to “not go off with strangers,” as Lenore always advises.

    What is more tricky, however, is teaching our kids about how things CAN happen with people we do know (in light of the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State scandal, and many others involving child molestation incidents with so-called “non-strangers”). Again, teaching a child about his/her body being a private thing, using PROPER terminology for the anatomy, and to heed one’s gut if someone makes them uncomfortable, even if a known entity, are always sensible lessons for our kids.

  75. I don’t know why anyone is surprised Stacy comes out of nowhere and snipes at me, that is what she does……

    Stacy, just because you don’t know anyone lured with candy does not mean it does not happen. KIds are pretty simple beings. They like toys and candy and fun. So it is not that out there to assume that toys and candy and fun can and will be used to predators to lure kids. If I was a predator I would probably try candy and toys first and see how that works. It would seem the go to idea. Kids are stupid when it comes to toys and candy. I know mine are. That is why you have to teach kids not to fall for that ploy. The lost puppy thing is used a lot too because kids like puppies.

    Whenever I am meeting one of my friend’s kids for the first time I always bring candy or a toy for the kid. That gets them to adore me immediately. Works every time. I want the kids to like me because I am a sucker for kids, but who is to say the same approach would not work for a predator?

  76. I like your blog. I looked up your site because your piece in the Wall Street Journal interested me.

    I have been amazed by the over protection given to some children. One, for instance, around 10 at the time, was not allowed to ride his bike around the block without his father accompanying him. He was not allowed either to walk to the school bus stop with a friend [and the friend’s father]. Only his dad would do.

    My kids walked a number of blocks alone to elementary school. My oldest, from 12 on, rode his bike all over. And we didn’t live in a quiet small town, we lived in a busy suburb of Washington DC. Kids need to be exposed to some dangers and be taught to be prudent, not scared of their shadow.

    And let’s not speak of “play dates”. Can’t kids just go to the door and ask if their friend can “come out and play”? Does it have to be a structured occasion? And of course play supervised inside, rather than dangerous ball playing outside.

    Anyway, I am glad to see that a number of people have retained a sane view of the world. I liked the “talking to strangers” bit very much, as well as the responses.

  77. This reminds me of something positive, but sad, that happened to me and my boys recently in our neighborhood. We were outside playing together (they are only 20 months old and 3.5 years old) and my older son was riding his bike about 20 feet ahead of me. When I caught up to him, I saw that he was chatting away with a nice couple who were out for a walk with their dog. They appeared to be in their 60s and the lady commented to me that it was so nice and rare to have a child actually say hello because nowadays all children are taught not to talk to strangers. She also mentioned sheepishly that normally she feels like a criminal just for saying hello to a kid. I felt pleased that my kid was the exception to that rule, but sad that it’s so rare. When your kids are as young as mine, there are only limited ways to let your “free range” mentality shine through, but allowing them to chat politely with a stranger is one of them!

  78. As for asking for help to find a puppy, etc, I tell my kids that if an adult needs help, he does not have to have help from kids. If you do want to help, the magic words are, “I have to check with my mom first.” Or, if something makes them uncomfortable and they want an excuse, they are allowed to say, “My mom said no” or “My mom said I’m not allowed”, whether or not I have actually said so.

    When I was a kid, you were polite to adults. One time I was with my cousins at the beach accross from their house. We were going back to the house, and a man on a bench started talking to us. My cousins just ran off to their house. I, of course, couldn’t do that because it would be rude. He asked me to come closer, so I took a couple of steps (he was maybe 20 feet away). I felt very uncomfortable (I was VERY shy, so it wasn’t necessarily him giving off bad vibes), so I said I had to go with my cousins and I ran off too. If I hadn’t thought of saying I had to stick with my cousins, I probably would have gone up to him, uncomfortable as I was, because he was an adult asking me to do so. And that is why I have given my kids the magic words.

  79. Mike, having grown up around bikers I have to agree. I’ve never met a more protective group of overgrown teddy bears as the bikers I grew up with. Even ones I didn’t know (OMG biker strangers!) have saved my hide more than once.

    I have to say I live in a case study of talking vs not talking to strangers. I was taught to talk (but not accept anything from nor go with) strangers. My husband was taught not to talk to them. Despite being an adult he is still uncomfortable talking with anyone he doesn’t know really well. He is (rightly) confident in every area of his life except socially. This eventually would stunt his career advancement but he’s worked really hard and is rapidly improving. I on the other hand talk to anyone and everyone and over the years have met some of the most incredible people simply by striking up a conversation with a stranger. I also get treated like a rock star at many of the stores and restaurants we frequent because I make friends with the staff. As part of the generation that grew up with the Stranger Danger campaign you can see the effects in the intuition and people skills of my peers. Some have them, many clearly do not.

  80. Heather is right about not learning to be social and talk to people can hurt you with future jobs. My husband is the same way. I am not sure if it was stranger danger, probably more that his mom is socially stunted and raised him to be the same way. She never hardly put him in activities, had kids over to her house, had parties for him, went anywhere, etc and he really does not know how to talk to people. Even just asking a clerk for directions to the bread is a huge feat for him. He would rather wander around for 2 hours looking than ask someone because that requires talking. He had a hard time getting a job because he did not interview well. His mother failed him by not making sure he had more social interactions and training.

  81. Simone: We do playdates. Because for one thing there are not any kids exactly my kids age around in our neighborhood. Most are older. They still play with the older kids sometimes but it is nice to have same age kids too. Also most of the kids in this neighborhood are never home. We have 3 little boys next door my boys love to play with but the parents both work and therefore they are never home. They are also at church a lot. It is that way for most of the parents I know. People are not home as much as they used to be so in order to play with another kid the parents have to get together and come up with a time they will be available and home.

  82. That’s true, my kids are hardly ever home. We are busy! But they do attend group care, so they have no need for “playdates.”

    As for the social opportunity thing – I only hope it can be taught. My kids have many opportunities to interact with people of all ages, but they are still shy.

    I was extremely, painfully shy after I started school (before that I wasn’t self-conscious). I am a rather extreme introvert, but not by my own choosing. I’ve tried to change, but it’s pretty well ingrained; whether it’s genetic, or because I couldn’t see faces as a kid, or because I could get away with it being a middle child in a big family, or because someone said or did the wrong thing at the wrong time, I’ll never know. My parents were not terribly gregarious, but neither were they shut-ins. But whatever the reason, I am not now a model of charisma, and I suppose my kids can blame me for that. But they are not isolated, and I always encourage them to engage with others – especially adults who speak to them. There’s only so much a mom can do.

  83. I’m pretty sure I have social anxiety. It’s never been diagnosed because I’ve never felt it was severe enough to warrant seeing a doctor. But I hate making phone calls, I hate asking for help at stores. I hate talking to people I don’t know. I hate when people sneak up on me with a “Good Morning!” when I’m not prepared to speak with people. I like to rehearse things a million times in my head before I actually say them. Sometimes that means the conversation has moved on and I don’t get to say what I wanted to say. So be it.

    I was raised to talk to people who talk to you. I started out as a very happy-go-lucky, talk-to-everyone kind of kid, but around first grade I started pulling back.

    I’ve managed in life, so I don’t see a need to change. I thank the Internet for giving me a way to get information without talking to people face-to-face.

  84. SKL, I believe it absolutely can be learned, even if the painful shyness is genetic. As I said, my husband has improved by leaps and bounds in the last couple years. Just making the effort teaches kids a lot (and about more than just social skills). The big thing I think is not *discouraging* them from talking to people they don’t know. They will develop their own social skills that fit their own personalities in their own time if you let them.

  85. Kiesha: you are like my husband. He will not leave voicemail. Even if it is life or death. He won’t leave a voicemail. He says he will probably freeze up or say something stupid and so he just doesn’t try. I don’t see what is so hard about leaving someone a voice message but he acts like it is rocket science. Blows my mind. He could actually do rocket science before he would leave a voicemail.

  86. @Jennifer Hansen: up here we have PSAs about the weather all the time….”exposed skin freezes in X minutes”. When it gets really cold that and the wind chill are in pretty much every weather report. But I’ve never heard one about stranger danger, unless the ads that ran when I was a teenager (“it’s 10 pm; do you know where your kids are?” count.

    Climate or culture? Hmmm.

    @ Donna — if your ob/gyn is using the word vagina to talk about female genitalia in their entirety, that’s probably because you do. Doctors are taught in communication classes to use the words their patients are comfortable with, even if the term is incorrect or offensive. Otherwise people won’t talk at all.

  87. My son has LOVED talking to anyone since just about the first moment he could talk. Before he started school, we once opened up our local “freebie” paper to see a photo of our son, and read is “interview” with the reporter on the subject of Halloween (He was in favor.) The reporter had met our boy and his nanny at the park. Later, when he was three and in pre-school, he came home from school and told me he had learned an important lesson – never talk to strangers. And, he added, he never would. Hmm, I wasn’t sure what to say – I didn’t want to encourage him to abandon all caution, but he loved talking to new people. As I worked on my response in my head, my son continued. “Mommy,” he asked, “What’s a stranger?”

  88. “In the book, “More Speaking of Sex: What your children need to know and when they need to know it,” the author, Meg Hickling, says that when you teach a child the anatomically correct names for their body parts, it shows any potential molestor that there is someone in that child’s life who is comfortable having those kinds of conversations with the child, which means it is more likely that the child will tell if something happens, and that makes the child less likely to be a target of a molestor.”

    Is this the author’s opinion, or does she have evidence to back this up?

    In my opinion, having a young child casually using explicit words that refer to sex organs is just as likely to put sick ideas in the head of someone who would otherwise not think of “little girl” and “sex organ” in the same thought.

  89. I think the dad in the original story wasted a “teachable moment”.

    That’s all.

    Even if the child was 3, or even 2, I would have said something ease the child’s fear (which would NOT have come from my household), And then drawn the mom and her child into a conversation about how to tell safe from “potentially unsafe” strangers.

    But because he didn’t handle it perfectly doesn’t mean he handled it ‘wrong’. Maybe he and his (assumed) wife and daughter will discuss it at home together.

  90. “But because he didn’t handle it perfectly doesn’t mean he handled it ‘wrong’. Maybe he and his (assumed) wife and daughter will discuss it at home together.”

    Yes, that’s what I was thinking. Actually, personally, I think it was just fine. But at the very least, even if you don’t think it was handing it right, we shouldn’t be assuming that “I’m here therefore you’re safe” was not only the sum total, but the entire logic, of his teaching to her about the issue, at all times and places. It could well just have been an “in the moment” comment to ease her fears, even if someone doesn’t think that was the perfect way to handle it.

  91. SKL, I wonder about that, too. For one thing, how is a “potential molester” going to know this, unless he actually goes ahead and does something inappropriate and the child responds with “appropriate vocabulary.” And at that point, you haven’t “prevented” very much at all. After all, I would think that parents would still want to teach the child that you generally don’t discuss these things with people unless there’s a reason, so why would the “correct terms” even come up? Only a very few people would ever be discussing such highly personal matters with a child anyway — perhaps someone who helps the child in the bathroom, for example, and is there going to be a whole army of people who do that?

    Besides, isn’t that just another way of making parenting decisions as though molesters are going to be present in your child’s life regularly?

  92. I think you address things with small children for the most part as they come up and as needed at the time on their level. Like for example my twin boys take baths together. One was trying to touch the other’s penis and I explained it is only okay to touch your own penis, not someone’s elses and even then you should only be touching your own penis in the bathroom in private. I don’t need to go into the whole “Someone might try to molest you and blah blah blah”. That is not needed. I added that if anyone besides mommy or daddy or Mimi or your doctor touches your penis, tell me about it immediately. I just left it at that. I am not going to scare them or freak them out or make it dirty. Just clear and to the point is probably best. They were just like “Okay” and went on playing.

    I let my kids know it is okay to talk to strangers when mommy is with you because I am there to make sure it is safe. Maybe that was all that Dad was saying was that its okay a stranger talked to them because Daddy is there.

  93. I sent this to my mom with the message “clearly you were trying to kill me” playgrounds were so much better in the 80s… also in the 80s a 24 yr guy could be on a playground video taping kids….. it is an actually family video of me that i edited together…


    Wow, sera,

    You had to put a hell of a lot of spin on that to come up with your conclusion that Lenore thinks it’s OK for children to approach strange cars.

  95. Here’s an article, motivated by the Penn State scandal, with suggestions for how to talk to little kids without any anatomical references. I don’t think it invokes paranoia, either.

  96. […] The Stranger Danger Is…Me, from Jennifer Carsen, a guest at Free Range Kids • because really, most “strangers” are just like you and me… […]

  97. Dolly, I think Brynn was just trying to say that you don’t talk like a lady, and what and how you said it came across as very trashy.

  98. As much as I would have said it differently, I agreed with Dolly’s controversial sentiment on this thread. A 10-year-old boy is not sexually innocent, whether we like it or not. Believe me, I grew up with older brothers. They do not belong in the women’s locker room or restroom. I’m glad to note that nobody disagreed substantively with this opinion.

  99. Well, I don’t think anyone thinks Dolly’s sentiment is controversial, just her expression of it. But I do agree with the substance of it, and with you.

  100. In the words of Rhett Butler “You Scarlett are no lady.” I have mostly man friends and I talk like a man. I can be crude and dirty. Oh wells. I believe part of the problem with anyone that got offended with what I said might be the types that don’t want to admit their son that age is starting to get boners and the like and well, they need to wake up and smell the coffee. Puberty happens whether you want it to or not!

    I fully intend on teaching my twin boys how to wash their own clothes and sheets by the time they hit puberty because I don’t want to deal with the aftermath. I am sure you get my meaning. Also making sure their rooms have working locks. Sticking your head in the sand about your child’s budding sexuality is not going to help anything. Actually the parents who ignore it are the ones who end up grandparents at a very early age.

  101. Dolly, your “crude and dirty” language (yay for you!! Aren’t you great!) on a civil blog has absolutely nothing to do with fearing puberty or not understanding that it happens, or sticking one’s head in the sand. But, you’ll never understand that.

  102. Someone other than Dolly please explain how ” If middle schoolers are going to jack off to me later I should at least get paid or something for doing porn. Yuck. I would rather not have to be whack off material but if I am I should at least make some money too” means that I fear puberty. Thanks.

    I’m sort of questioning the people that believe in this statement as well. No, a 10-year-old shouldn’t be in the womens bathroom nor staring through the crack in the door. But Dolly takes a flying leap from there to “i should get paid for doing porn”, using two crude terms for masturbation, and somehow it’s about the lack of sexual innocence and those who are offended don’t get it? I have just started reading this website and I was impressed at the well-stated, well-written thoughts here. But something is wrong if this post considered appropriate.

  103. Brynn, I took that as a joke, inspired by sincere irritation at mothers who think it’s appropriate to allow their pubescent sons to look at half-naked women without said women’s permission.

    It’s a crude thought, but the fact is that a pubescent boy in a room full of women with their pants down is a crude thought, no matter how you word it. Just ask any pubescent boy what he thinks of that image.

    I’ve made the point before. It’s not just about whether the boy can manage himself in a men’s room. It’s about whether the women in the women’s room have a right to actual separate facilities or not. How about I send my 10yo daughter in to stare at guys standing at the urinal in the men’s room? Wouldn’t people have some choice words for me? Where are people’s brains?

    The porn thing was just a joke. This is not third grade, I think we can take it, even though none of us liked it. I also think giving it so much attention is making things worse.

  104. Seriously? I had to read Dolly’s original comment three times to even understand what the fuss was about. Goodness gracious, people, please try to understand that not everyone in the world talks like you, or adheres to the same social norms as you and your particular circle of friends. Sometimes a turn of phrase that you find unspeakably offensive is, for other folks, just normal conversation.

    What Dolly said was crude, but I honestly can’t imagine finding it offensive. It accurately described the (crude) situation she found herself in, and her feelings regarding it, which politer terms wouldn’t have been as effective at.

    There’s a lot (a LOT) of really offensive stuff on the internet. I manage to see most of it, sadly enough. Dolly’s comment and her mild crudeness? Not even close.

  105. Thank you SKL

    I already stated the porn thing was a joke.

  106. Also thank you Kristycat.

    Maybe I don’t know how to turn a phrase, but I used the porn reference as a joke but I also honestly felt like I was doing porn by the way that boy was looking at me. It was gross. It violated my privacy and made me feel very uncomfortable to realize that I was turning on a young boy. I got no kicks from that.

    Seriously though, I challenge a naysayer to accurately describe that event without using any crude words or phrases while still showing the gross factor and the lust of the young man toward me.

  107. Dolly, you didn’t KNOW for a fact that the kid was going to go home and masturbate to thoughts of you. So yeah, there probably was a way to describe the event without making that assumption.

  108. No, Beth, but he definitely look aroused at that very moment and was staring directly at me. I know an aroused look on a guy’s face when I see one.

  109. You have a lot to worry about when it comes to protecting your child from strangers. Luckily there are some simple things you can to do keep them safe when you aren’t around. I was so glad that last month, while reading an article on a blog, it mentioned that there was a service I could use to track my kids to be sure they were always in safe places. At the bottom it said I could follow the site anationofmoms and be entered for a drawing of 6 months free of the service. Not bad!

  110. I sent my son in the store while I stood outside. I know the owners really well and since on one else was in the store other than them I felt it was safe. A man walked into the store and I wanted to rush in knowing there was only one way out the store and I was standing in front of it with a clear view of the cameras and the store I watched the camera as this man spoke to my son. I started to walk into the store when my son said I am right here walking out. I waited for the man outside while my son gave me an account of what he said “Nice hat” my son responds “thank you” the man proceeds to ask my son for a pound by putting out his hand in a fist, when my son doesn’t respond he says give me a pound….my son ignores him and starts to walk out, while I am walking in…..I say to the man what did you say to my son….Now most parents and people with sense would have responded I complimented him on his hat and I get it no talking to strangers etc….this man says oh forget you. Forget you. I say sir why did you think it was ok to speak to my child….he says forget you. I say sir you are showing all the signs I tell my child to look out for, pedophile behavior. I then turned to my son as the man walked away and said “the compliment was enough, he didn’t need to say anything else to you, pay attention.” I tell my children no talking to strangers period. I will decide for you until you can decide for yourself. If we ever get separated….then I give them instructions to follow….Was i wrong for my reaction?

  111. […] alike, the reasonable axiom “don’t go off with strangers” has morphed into “don’t speak to strangers and scream if they dare approach you.” Just another way that women are relentlessly equated with children, often in the name of […]

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