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Keeping our kids safer

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Jugband McGillicuddy

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Army Marshall


I'd like to get some advice from you guys, and expand this further into a thread about different things we can do to better protect our children from the threats they face.

Let me preface this by saying that I am FURIOUS with my eldest daughter, and extremely embarrassed by my failure as a parent, over an incident that happened today. (I'll say in advance that everyone is fine, BTW. Thank God.)

Long story short, my kids were walking home from the bus today (about 80 yards) where their 16-year old babysitter was waiting for them. A delivery truck was on the street, attempting to deliver a new washing machine to my ex. They were there 2 hours early, and had spoken with the babysitter, who refused them access to the home because my ex wasn't there. (Kudos, Bree!)

When they saw my kids (girls, 10 and 6) walking toward the house, they called out to them. Lacy, my oldest, stopped and turned around. (That pisses me off enough, but it gets better.)

The driver asked where her Mom was. Lacy says, "She's not home." :redpunch:

OK, great. So now these guys know WHERE the kids live. And they know their mother isn't home circa 3:30-4pm. Whatsmore, apparently this is information she feels like it's OK to share with complete strangers.

She continued talking to them, probably volunteering more dumbass information (sorry Lacy), when Bree saw her, and called her inside. (Again, Bree proving she is an excellent choice for the job.)

Lynn and I both drill the kids repeatedly on "what if" scenarios. But obviously, the lessons aren't "sticking." My youngest daughter even told Lynn, "Well, they didn't look mean." Really? REALLY?! Maybe she missed me telling her REPEATEDLY that someone who wants to hurt her can seem very nice. That they'll try to gain her trust, etc.

Basically, my kids, when we drill them, ALWAYS provide the correct answer as to what they should do. But in practice, they fail miserably. Or more accurately, WE have failed them, because their protection is OUR job.

What has worked for you guys in scenarios like this? What kind of reinforcement has made your kids stop and say, "Mommy/Daddy told me about this. Here's what I'm supposed to do."

I'm thinking for Lacy, being 10, and mature for her age, doing a bit of a "scared straight" type of thing. Lay out 5 or 6 pictures of attractive, happy-looking kids. Ask who's the cutest, who has the coolest clothes, etc. They'll be pictures of abducted kids.

"This one? His Mommy and Daddy haven't seen him for two years. He was kidnapped. This one? Dead. This one? Held hostage by people who did really bad things to her."

I want her shocked. I want her scared; to a reasonable degree. I want the IMMEDIATE connection between strangers who approach her and what can happen. I want it to be a reflex. Something she doesn't even have to think about.

For Leah, being 6, I don't think I want to be so graphic. I don't want them to think the world is a horrible, hateful place. But we NEED them to be reasonably afraid in these situations. Fear is a good thing sometimes.

Why is this so hard? This was so simple for us. Maybe I should use the theory my parents used. "If I catch you talking to a stranger, I'll beat your ass." But then they're afraid of me, not the people they should be.

Someone pass me the parenting manual. I need to do some remedial reading. :(
 

Goaldeje

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James Madison

My parents took my two oldest to Paris last summer. Before they left, we all watched Taken (with fast forwarding at times for the 11 year old). My folks said neither of them spent much time looking at the cute French boys over there, which was a minor miracle considering L was 14 at the time.

Sometimes, you have to shock them.
 

Ax

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It's a fine line Jugs. Like you've mentioned, you want the kids to be aware of the potential, but you don't want to turn them into scared children who grow up to be scared adults. I wouldn't dare recommend to a parent where that line should fall. Sorry dude, that's on you and their mother.

I would offer a few things to consider.

Bree, should immediately get a bonus of some kind. Positive reinforcement for a job well done.

Keep up with drilling the children on the do's and don'ts of interaction with strangers. There is no guarantee, as you've discovered, that they will execute their training in a live situation, but you keep doing it. Remember too, there are thousands of adults, trained continually to react a certain way in a given situation, who fall short when confronted with the real thing. And they're grown ups.

Finally, there is no person in my life, besides Mrs. Ax, that I loved and respected more, than my grandmother. I am more sure of her love for me than I am of anything else in my life. Again, not counting the Saint, Mrs. Ax.

She also beat my ass more than everybody else put together, times 12.
I wore stripes from the switch many, many times. She went way overboard, I know. And I'm not advocating that you do the same. But sometimes a well placed ass whopping can accomplish what a tongue lashing does not.

I knew from her words, and actions, that she loved me. So I did not fear her, only her wrath when I disobeyed. Fear of that wrath, can be a useful tool, in the never-ending battle of being a parent.

Good luck, my friend.
 

Henry

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On a whim I picked this up at Target a couple years ago.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Safe-Side...&qid=1361453225&sr=8-1&keywords=safe+side+dvd

It's surprisingly very good. It covers everything you guys are talking about while keeping a good balance between stressing the importance of being safe without using heavy-handed scare tactics. Plus it's actually entertaining enough that my kids have watched it over and over, and I've seen them use the techniques they talk about in the video when they think I'm not around so I know at least some of it has sunk in.

Anyway, good luck.
 

fansince62

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don't discount the influence of the friends your children keep. I am learning that lesson the hard way. monitor and, when necessary, control.
 

Jugband McGillicuddy

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Army Marshall

I appreciate the great responses guys. Seriously, thank you very much.

Henry, I will definitely pick up the DVD. Your endorsement carries a lot of weight with me, as I've always had a ton of respect for your opinions. Thanks for that.

Ax, I wrestled with the idea of spanking her from the time I was told about the incident, through this moment. I'm still not sure what to do there, but it's 100% on the table.

As you described with your grandmother, I'm sure my girls know how much I love them. And I'm glad you explained that side of it so well. The biggest objecting voice in my head has been saying, "You want them to fear danger, not you." And so your explanation does help bring some peace of mind there.

My parents spanked me on occasion. And it certainly didn't cause me to question their love, so it does make sense. I just don't know. Maybe making my daughter aware that it's an option I'm more than willing to consider in a case like this would be enough. I have more thinking to do on this, for sure.

It doesn't help that the one time before this that I seriously considered spanking her (for what I thought was a lie) it was actually an oversight by her teacher. I can't imagine how I would've felt, hitting my child, and being wrong. This case is more clear cut, obviously, but still. I just don't know.

I also wholeheartedly agree with you about a bonus for Bree. She'll get a monetary reward of some kind, and the best note I can muster...at a minimum.

Your point about adults not always following their training is well taken too. You're absolutely right.

fansince, I completely agree with monitoring friends. We're very fortunate in that regard. Lacy's best friend is a year older, and going on 14 as far as maturity is concerned. Lacy has had to "grow up" some to maintain that friendship, which has been a very positive thing.

I suspect this will become more of a challenge as both girls get older, and the challenges they face become more "adult" in nature. But we do, and will continue to, keep close tabs on what they do and with whom.

Goal, I honestly think my photo idea is kind of a jerk move. Get her in. Get her engrossed. Get her thinking about something completely different. Then hit her in the face with a heavy dose of cold reality. But, as worked in your case, I think that sometimes as a parent, you have to be a jerk for the good of your kids. I also think it really sucks balls to have to do that.

Again, thank you all. I'll keep you posted as to how things go from here. In the meantime, please use the thread to post about any threats to our kids you may come across. Information becomes knowledge; knowledge becomes power.
 

HOF44

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I would echo what Ax said. The line between promoting safe behavior and fearing the world is individual to each parent. What she did should be addressed, but in addressing this type of thing don't forget that stats bare out that most children who are victimized are done so by someone they know.
 

renaissance

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I think there is a very fine line to be drawn when it comes to "punishing" a kid for talking to a stranger. The goal is not to get them to stay away from strangers in order to avoid punishment, the goal is for them to stay away from strangers because they understand the inherent risk involved. That way it is never up to them to choose to make a tradeoff between speaking to a stranger and being punished. ("I don't care if I get grounded for talking to this guy" or "It's ok if I talk to this guy, dad will never know")

I honestly don't remember interacting with a ton of strangers when I was growing up (other than people calling the house before my parents got home), so I don't even know how I would have dealt with a situation like that.
 

Jugband McGillicuddy

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I think there is a very fine line to be drawn when it comes to "punishing" a kid for talking to a stranger. The goal is not to get them to stay away from strangers in order to avoid punishment, the goal is for them to stay away from strangers because they understand the inherent risk involved. That way it is never up to them to choose to make a tradeoff between speaking to a stranger and being punished. ("I don't care if I get grounded for talking to this guy" or "It's ok if I talk to this guy, dad will never know")
That's an excellent point. I couldn't agree more.

renaissance said:
I honestly don't remember interacting with a ton of strangers when I was growing up (other than people calling the house before my parents got home), so I don't even know how I would have dealt with a situation like that.
I've heard Lacy get this one "right." We've taught her to say, "She can't come to the phone right now. Can I take a message?" I think she made the wrong decision face-to-face because she was intimidated. Whereas on the phone, you're on a level playing field. (i.e. Can't see how big, how...whatever...the caller is.)
 

tshile

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We're looking at having kids in the near future and this thread scares me but at the same time is helpful, so thank you to everyone involved.

It just isn't the same place it used to be... when I grew up I remember the "don't talk to strangers" talk but it was just a much different place, or maybe it was with where I grew up or maybe I was just naïve. The dangers didn't seem as likely back then as they do now.

On a daily basis the routine was get off the bus, run home, drop the bag inside the door, lie about not having homework, and go right back out the door to go play with neighborhood kids. I'd be gone for hours. I can't imagine letting my kid run around for hours (like 4 or 5 without being checked in on) after school at the age of 10 without feeling like a terrible parent now.
 

HOF44

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It just isn't the same place it used to be...
It's really a lot closer than you think though. All this stuff happened back then you just didn't have the net and the plethora of media you do now. Safety is for sure an issue, but I almost fear making a kid to afraid of the world around them.
 

Goaldeje

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It's really a lot closer than you think though. All this stuff happened back then you just didn't have the net and the plethora of media you do now. Safety is for sure an issue, but I almost fear making a kid to afraid of the world around them.
Yep. I think evil has always been there, it just hasn't always been known as much. The thing that scares me is the social network side of things, with the online predators. We have a 15 year old and I have a really hard time keeping up with her twitter, facebook, tumblr, etc accounts. When you add in cell phones and texting, I don't know where to start sometimes.
 

Ax

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Parents today can't police their kids activities as thoroughly as my parents could. I don't envy them, at all.

One thing holds true though. Always be a parent, first. This usually means being the bad guy more often than not. Especially with the tweeners, and teens. They've got enough friends.

And as others have so astutely said, this kind of crap has been going on a long time. But with more people, in greater concentration, and in the time of instant everything, it's bound to happen more, and have more people know about it.
 

tshile

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fair points - all reassuring.

i'm not really looking forward to it either way. I know what I did between the ages of 10-20.... every now and then I take time to soak in the amazement of realizing I somehow got a degree and am not locked up or some sort of slave prostitute.

I mean I came close... but it worked out :)

They say kids are always a little worse than their parents. I probably shouldn't have kids if that's true.
 

Ax

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Yeah, unfortunately, there are hard headed kids, that despite the greatest of guidance, and tutoring, need to experience things first hand before they'll fully believe it.

Enter, young Ax.

Old Ax would beat his ass with a steel rod 'til the little SOB couldn't wiggle.

It is pure luck that I made it back to the foundation of my upbringing. Being young, fast, and street smart played as much a role of getting me into stuff, as it did getting me out of it.
 

Boone

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I have a little bit different take on this. I see a lot of parents going way overboard when it comes to 'safety'. I recognize 'way overboard' is purely subjective. I see it a lot with parents who home school their kids. And this isn't a commentary on 'homeschooling' your kids - you can start a thread on that if you like :) But the general trend I see is a fair degree of hyperanxiety in parents, even to the extent that not only are parents afraid something horrible is going to happen to their kids, but in many cases the mere thought of exposing their kids to other human beings 'they don't know' is terrifying.

Bad things do happen to kids. They undoubtedly happen a hell of a lot more now than they did when I was a kid. Hell, I left the house on weekends and in the summer at sun up, spent most of the day in the woods, then would go back outside after supper and not come home until dark. Most of the time, my parents had no idea where I was or what I was doing. That's just how it was back then. I recognize it's a different world now.

Still, although you are a wonderful parent Jugs attempting to instill a respect for danger and awareness of things they can do to avoid it, as others have said I would be careful about trying to scare them into safer behaviors. The truth is a mixed bag. If someone is determined to get your kid, there's probably almost nothing your child can do about it. And it's also true that, regardless of what situations your kids end up in, it's still statistically unlikely that something horrible is going to happen to them.

In my experience, 'how' someone reacts to a potential threat (for instance, whether or not someone fights back during an abduction or rape attempt) is as much personality-driven as anything else. I've been in (as I'm sure you have) dangerous situations many times and what I did in those instances was far less about 'thinking' than it was 'reacting'. That's why 'talking' and 'coaching' about what to do in those situations typically have limited success/impact. I'm not saying you shouldn't have the conversations, as you clearly have, but you are probably kidding yourself that that's going to drive behavior.

I believe the best thing you can do is to try to avoid scenarios where your daughters are at risk to begin with. If you have a babysitter, could she wait at or near the bus stop vs. in the house for example? The other thing you could consider is getting them enrolled in a self-defense course at some point. The message wouldn't/shouldn't be 'this world is really dangerous and there are lots of terrible people out there and that's why you need to be able to protect yourself'. The message should be 'it's always a good thing to be able to defend yourself'. The beauty of self-defense training (be it martial arts or some other variety) is that the ability to protect oneself becomes instinctual, not something you have to 'think about'.

You are going to find out, ultimately, you cannot protect your daughters. I know that sucks, but believe me, as the father of a 20 year old wandering around a college campus at all hours, there is nothing I can really do to protect her. It's the hardest part of being a father, but it's life.
 

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