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Why We SHOULD Teach Our Kids To Talk To Strangers

Updated on March 22, 2013

It's seems like common sense when teaching kids right from wrong; look both ways when crossing the street, stop drop & roll, and don't talk to strangers!! It's something I certainly remember being taught as a child, and something I had planned on teaching my own two kids. After a recent interaction with my daughter, however, I have begun to question everything I thought I knew about so-called "stranger danger."

It all began last week when my daughter came home from school (she is in 4 year old kindergarten), and told me some police officers had been in to visit her classroom. When I asked her what she learned, she stated that the lesson was all about never talking to strangers. Later on that evening, she asked me if I would tell her a story about strangers. (Whenever my daughter learns new things or doesn't quite understand something, she often asks me for a story about it. I typically leave blanks in the stories and have her answer questions to teach her more or help her understand the difficult topics).

I began my story with a little girl at the park. The little girl is playing on the slide when she notices a strange man. He is there by himself. He comes up to the little girl and asks her if she can help him find his lost puppy. At this point in the story I stop and ask my daughter what she thinks this little girl should do. The good news is that she knew enough to identify this man as a stranger and also knew that she should NOT help him look for his puppy. When I prompted her about telling someone, she answered that she should tell her Mom and Dad. I then began my story again and told her there were some other people in the park with the little girl that day. There was a Mom pushing two little kids on the swings. I again stopped the story. This time I tried to lead her to the conclusion that she should go ask that Mom for help and tell her about the man with the "lost puppy." To this, my daughter emphatically reminded me that lady was a stranger, and so she should NOT talk to her.

The thoughts began to run through my mind so fast and furiously that I could hardly keep up with them. What if that really was my daughter in the story? That woman pushing two kids on the swing could save my daughters life. But if my little girl stayed quiet, that Mom may leave the park, allowing my daughter to be taken by this man. Or even if my daughter can get away on her own, that man also has the opportunity to get away, and then he will be free to harm other kids.

It really struck me hard that I don't want my daughter to view other people as "strangers." If something bad ever happened to me at home, I need her to be comfortable enough to run to a neighbors house for help, even if she has never met that neighbor. As she gets older and does more and more things on her own, I want her to be able to approach someone in a mall if she thinks she is being followed. I would sleep better at night if I knew that she could find someone to assist her if she ever got lost at the zoo. A complete stranger could save her life in so many instances... but only if she is willing to approach them.

Since that day, I have changed my philosophy on strangers and how I teach my kids. If you ask my daughter about strangers now, she will tell you that a stranger is just someone you haven't met yet. BUT... she will also be able to tell you about "tricky people" and "safe people." She knows that a tricky person is someone that may be bad or tell lies, and a safe person is someone that can help protect you. We have talked a lot about how sometimes it can be really difficult to tell which strangers are tricky people and which strangers are safe. I have given her some general guidelines; a tricky person may be a grown up who asks a child for help, someone who wants you to go somewhere with them when you don't have your Mom or Dad's permission, or someone who asks you to keep a secret. Guidelines for a safe person might be a Mom with her kids at the park, a family at the zoo, a grocery store clerk, or a police officer at the mall.

The tough part is, that obviously, my guidelines are not always accurate. A Mom with her kids or a grocery store clerk could end up being dangerous also. There are even bad police officers in the world. But, I would prefer that my daughter take her odds with those general stereotypes over the alternative. And seeing as my child is only 4 years old, and I don't want to scare her, my stories and guidelines have to be relatively simple still.

At the end of the day, all I want is for my kids to understand that talking to strangers is okay, and sometimes even necessary for their safety. I write this article with the hope that it may change a few parent's viewpoints, and possibly even save a few kid's lives.

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    • dearmommy profile image
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      dearmommy 4 years ago

      Thank you onegreenparachute!! I appreciate your nice feedback!! SoundNFury, I agree completely. My daughter is not even 5 yet, and sometimes she BLOWS me away with things she gets that I think she wouldn't. Jeannieinabottle, that is good to know. I think we should be careful with stranger talk, I am glad to hear that in some places they are!! Thanks all for the wonderful comments!!

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie InABottle 4 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      I have recently heard that "stranger danger" is not stressed as much anymore with children. Knowing the difference between a scary stranger and a good stranger is a new strategy and probably a good one. Even kids have to know how to deal with everyone... even strangers sometimes. Great hub and voted up!

    • SoundNFury profile image

      Michael Valencia 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      I think we should never underestimate our childrens' abilities to discern "tricky" and "safe" people and situations and their instincts. Voted up and interesting, I agree that if we over-generalize, we may end up putting our children in MORE danger ultimately.

    • onegreenparachute profile image

      Carol 4 years ago from Greenwood, B.C., Canada

      "Tricky people" and "safe people" - what a great idea!

      Voted up and shared.

    • dearmommy profile image
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      dearmommy 4 years ago

      Sharkye11, that is a fantastic story!! Thanks for sharing. It makes me even more confident in the things I want to teach my children!!!!! DDE and Faith, thanks for your feedback as well. Parenting is so tough sometimes, as there is never a "right" or "wrong" way many of the times!! I appreciate all the feedback and hopefully I can successfully guide my kids to make the best choices they can!!!

    • Faith A Mullen profile image

      Faith A Mullen 4 years ago

      Thank you for sharing such great advice on this important topic. Definitely something all parents should consider when teaching a child about stranger danger. Voted up!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Parenting can be tough at times, I never talked to strangers even till now. I feel it is better to keep away from them, and didn't consider any of your points here you made important points on this topic.

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 4 years ago from Oklahoma

      Excellent hub full of very good advice. We have to work hard as parents to define grey areas, rather than just black and white. Good thing is, kids are smart, and if we are consistent, the will learn and understand.

      When I was five, I became lost the baseball stadium in St. Louis. This was a total accident. Daddies are discouraged from taking daughters into bathrooms, so he sent me in and waited right by the door. Only there were two doors, and I became confused because the restroom was so crowded. A man and his children were watching the ballgame and noticed me searching for my seats..., ( I will never forget this man, he looked a lot like Steven Spielberg) and he asked if I was lost. I said yes, and he escorted me to the security station. After I was older, I learned that he was an off-duty police officer. I was very lucky. If I had refused to answer, or if I had ran away, I could have become even more lost, and maybe hurt as well. It does pay to teach children to take a chance sometimes, especially in dire circumstances. Sharing and voting!

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 4 years ago from Australia

      Sure, dearmommy, that hub's still there. Providing a link would, I believe, be against the rules but if you click on my profile, the hub is listed on that page. It won't take you long to find it. I only write the occasional hub so the list isn't too long. :)

      In many ways I think it became a much more informative hub because of the debate. The dynamic shifted from my original intention, but we discussed a lot of related issues as well.

    • ellesvoice profile image

      Elizabeth Hanks 4 years ago from Queen Creek

      Definitely! It's a great new perspective, one I'm glad to get behind!

    • dearmommy profile image
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      dearmommy 4 years ago

      Thank you ellesvoice and longtimemother!! It's great feedback, as it's hard to write about something considered "outside the box." I half wondered what kind of feedback I would get on it!! Longtimemother, is your hub about lies still out there? I will try to find it and let you know what I think!!!! Thank you both again!!!

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 4 years ago from Australia

      You're making good sense, dearmommy. This is what motherhood does to you; makes you question everything you learned as a child. :) Quite rightly, as you point out, there are times when children need to talk to strangers. You need to help your children identify where they can seek help. I'm glad you shared your thoughts on the stranger danger concept.

      I wrote a hub called 'Why children should be taught to tell lies' after reflecting on a slightly more dramatic event with one of my children. The comment section of my hub turned into a lengthy debate with another hubber which, I suspect, discouraged others from joining the conversation.

      Hopefully people will see the value in your thoughts. I for one applaud you for thinking outside the traditional box. Voted up.

    • ellesvoice profile image

      Elizabeth Hanks 4 years ago from Queen Creek

      Wow, I very much like the sentiment in this article. I was taught the same things growing up and to this day have reservations about talking to people I don't know because of the scary stereotypes on strangers. While I can't even THINK about the possibility of one of my future babies getting abducted, I also don't want to think of them being as shy about the world as I was as a kid. If it's their disposition, that's fine, but I want to give them the opportunity to be outgoing, lively people that feel comfortable in a crowd. After all, if you never talk to strangers, how do you make new friends?