Last week at Harrison’s three-year-old check-up, the pediatrician mentioned that it was time to start teaching “stranger danger.” Not that it was time to tell him that everyone he meets is a potential murderer and read him The Lovely Bones at bedtime, but just grow awareness that not everyone in the world can be trusted and that there are “good” strangers and “bad” strangers.
I know that I’m bad at telling Harry to wave at the nice man who waved at him in the grocery aisle or prompting him to, “Say hi!” to the cashier. It’s crossed my mind a few times that I’m probably not doing justice to teaching good boundaries in this day and age because let’s face it, it’s not 1983 anymore and the world is a different place than when I grew up. On the other hand, I don’t want him to be afraid all the time. He needs to be confident enough to approach a store clerk if he gets lost or a policeman if he feels like he is in danger.
Here are 8 tips for teaching stranger danger to your toddler:
THEY HAVE RIGHTS AGAINST ADULTS
They have a right to say NO to a stranger, to scream, to fight, to kick when they feel unsafe. They have a right to be rude when they are afraid.
DON’T DO THE BLANKET STATEMENT
“Don’t talk to strangers,” is what folks usually say, but instead, teach her what strangers are okay to approach. For example police officers, firemen, and teachers will all lend a hand.
REMIND HIM TO LISTEN TO HIS FEELINGS
Kids have instincts to protect themselves, just like you and me. If he doesn’t feel safe, then remind him that he can tell someone.
REMIND HER THAT SHE CAN TELL YOU ANYTHING
You’ll love her no matter what she says and no matter what anyone does to her. Create a safe place in your home and relationship so that she can talk openly with you.
TEACH PRIVATE PARTS
Call them by their proper biological names and discuss how only mommies, daddies, and doctors are allowed to touch. (And whoever you trust, like Grandma.)
NO TREATS, NO TASKS.
Tell him that if a stranger offers him a treat or asks for help with a task, he is to say “NO!” loudly and walk away. Grown ups should ask grown ups for help.
After you discuss what to do when a stranger approaches her, role play. Pretend you are a the stranger and ask her to show you what she’s supposed to do.
TALK ABOUT IT OFTEN
Practice with role playing. Talk about it often. Make examples while you’re out by pointing out “nice” strangers that are trust-worthy, like a policeman or store clerk.