TEST YOUR CHILD'S SAFETY LEVEL

How to teach about tricky people and help requests

A stranger is asking a child for help

How to teach your child about tricky people and help requests from strangers in a positive way - post cover - a girl with a backpack

My mom will never forget the moment when I (7 years old) let someone into the house when I was home alone.

 

I knew these rules:

  • I should not have opened the door to anyone,
  • I should not have talked to anyone through the door,
  • And the dog had to answer the doorbell.

… I broke all the rules.

 

Why?

The truth is: most parents don’t teach kids safety until something happens, or they don’t teach it in the right way.

 

Make sure YOUR kids know and understand the rules about how to be safe with strangers.

Now read on to see what happened to me.

Before you judge

I was not ignorant about safety. Neither my parents were.

 

Now, as a mom, I can relate since I'm dealing with the same questions my parents did:

  • How can we raise a compassionate child without sacrificing her safety?
  • How can we teach her the difference between legitimate requests for help and those with malicious intent?
  • How can my child help safely or reject gracefully without feeling bad or guilty?

When I became a mom

I felt anxious that maybe I was not teaching safety enough.

  • What if my child falls into's a help request manipulation?
  • What if my teaching falls short and he doesn’t recognize he is in danger?
  • What if I’m not teaching enough and something happens, and he’s not prepared?

 

So many crimes could have been prevented if we as parents gave more attention to teaching kids preventive safety.

(You can test your child's safety level here).

 

The real reason I broke the safety rules:

Back to the story.

I had a piano. A huge, glossy instrument has been delivered the day before and was sitting in my room unwrapped.

Such a bummer – I couldn’t play. The sound was discordant – it needed tuning.

Mom said someone from the music company should come in the evening to fix it. What? I had to wait for another day?

I was in my room doing my homework.

The doorbell rang, the dog was barking.

“This is not my mom – mom has a key,” I thought.

I did not respond.

One more persistent doorbell buzzed, and one more.

I was curious:

“Who is so annoying? These are not salespeople.

Someone probably needs something”.

What your kids are not telling you when they break safety rules

What kids don't tell you when they break safety rules - a girl smiling

I tiptoed to the door and peeked into the peephole.

Apparently, my dog and I made enough noise for the man to know someone was home.

The glass was blurry, but I saw a young man in a leather jacket standing in front of the door. I couldn’t hear well through the door. He said:

-“Hey, I came to tune your piano. I was driving by and realized I was close to your house, so I decided to try to come earlier”.

I didn’t say anything.

He kept talking:

- “I live on the other side of the city 30 miles away. Your order is the last one for today. I would need to wait for a couple of hours till 7 pm. Can I do it now instead, please?”

- “Mom said not to open the door to strangers,” I thought hesitantly but didn’t say a word.

He pointed to the black leather tool case in his hands:

- “Here are my tools.”

“Why should I trust you?” I still thought, hanging around the door.

 

Then he said something that changed my mind:

- “I need some help. Can I please come in and tune your piano now because, otherwise, I will need to wait for 5 hours somewhere until the evening?”

 

This final drop disrupted my safety scenario:

“Okay, he knows I have a piano, he has tools, and it feels like he needs HELP,” I concluded.

 

In my mind, his reasoning made sense.

I let him in ...

 

The surprising thing was how much fun it was to watch him work. He took all his screwdrivers, wrenches, and millet out.

- “Would you like to come over and see what’s inside of your piano?” he asked.

I came closer and touched the strings. The smell of machine oil and wood was tickling my nose. And the sound! Now the sound was bold and clean. It felt awesome.

What I never expected

In the evening I was so proud to tell my parents  about my achievements:

  • I've got my piano tuned
  • I learned a new song
  • I helped someone

I felt I acted like a “big girl” capable of making her own decisions before telling the story to my mom.

Her face went pale as a ghost, and she looked really worried.

“Are you okay, darling? He did not do anything bad, did he?” she asked.

- “Oh, no. It was fun – he showed me what’s inside the piano”, I replied.

 

We had a long conversation that evening.

That was the first time:

  1. I learned some bad people could trick kids.
  2. Adults are not supposed to ask kids for help and should call the parents.
  3. Weird strangers can look nice.

Related article: 8 unsafe situations that should alert you and your child

 

Why kids break safety rules

 

Looking back, I cannot believe I had zero hesitance to strangers.

Neither could my parents imagine such a scenario.

Let me repeat this: My parents could never imagine such a scenario.

 

I knew the rule not to open the door.

But I did not understand the consequences of breaking it.

 

! This is one of the fundamental mistakes - teaching isolated rules without incorporating them into a system.

 

How many times do we teach our kids some rules without explaining why they work that way?

And without reasoning of what happens if you break them?

 

Do not make this mistake.

 

! Instead, teach your child safety as a system versus teaching how to respond to isolated situations.

 

It does not come with age - many grown-ups fall into the same troubles as kids do.

For example, one of the classic manipulations to trick a grown-up woman into opening the door is playing a recording of a baby crying on her front porch.

You can not imagine how many scenarios of scams and manipulations exist.

And you can not teach them all to your child.

You can read about the 8 most popular tricks used against kids here.

The complete list of classic manipulative scenarios is long, and predators always make something new.

(On a side note, IRS has a list of the most recent financial scam scenarios - check it out - you may be surprised how creative it goes).

 

Your child needs to understand safety as a system so that he can handle situations you have never discussed.

Safety is a skill that needs to be built. It doesn't build itself.

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