Children are vulnerable to certain types of crimes, including sexual assault and kidnapping, so it's important to give them the tools to protect themselves and ask for help when needed. This type of child safety training can go a long way toward the goal of crime prevention and should begin in the home.
The following is an overview of crime prevention and child safety training.
Talking With Your Kids about Crime Prevention
Parents often believe that talking about crime could lead their kids to become too fearful of the outside world, but they also want their kids to know about the dangers they could face. Finding the correct balance is crucial, and this often will only happen when parents themselves feel comfortable talking about crime in the world.
Instead of accepting that crime is inevitable, parents should instead show their children that hard work can deter and prevent crime. Parents that join self-defense training classes with their children and also join neighborhood watch programs are often much better able to discuss crime with their children.
One of the best approaches to take as a parent to protect your child is to build up their self-esteem and self-worth. Studies have shown that the criminals, such as child molesters, will often target children that don't feel loved, have low self-esteem, or feel abandoned by their parents. Show your child that they're worth fighting for and they may have a reduced chance of being a victim.
A majority of child abduction crimes are perpetrated by someone the child knows or likes. Because of this, it is important to prepare your child to use their skills whenever it is necessary.
What follows are some times that you can use to talk to your child about crime and self-protection:
- The lessons about crime and self-protection should be ongoing. Plan on having talks and lessons at least a few times a month, for as long as you have them in the house.
- Keep your talks age-appropriate. Confine your lessons to words and concepts that the child can comprehend.
- Be sure not to teach hypocritical lessons. Try to give your kids lessons and rules that you can follow as well.
- Remember the golden rule that "you can't listen when your mouth is open." Instead of always talking at your children, be sure that the communication goes both ways. Also, be sure that you fully understand what your child means when they are talking with you.
- Be aware of what your kids watch on TV and discuss it with them. Children, especially younger ones, often have a hard time differentiating between what they see on TV and the real world.
- Don't make the police into a threat. Parents, especially those that are tired from a long day at work, often use the police as a threat to keep their kids quiet and well-behaved. Children should always feel that the police are there to protect them in case of emergencies and shouldn't view the police as a punishment.
- Children are not angels. You should expect them to break the rules. We were all children at one point and had to abide by our parent's rules. However, we all broke them along the way and usually felt tremendously guilty and ashamed.
Child Safety Training: Self-Protection Skills
Martial arts and other self-protection classes have become popular means for parents to give their kids some self-protection skills. But parents also should encourage children to trust their instincts when dangerous situations appear, such as running away from strangers that seem like they mean harm. Getting away and out of a situation can prevent a child from becoming a statistic.
The more children trust their instincts, the more likely it is that they'll follow them instead of waiting around, wondering if they're right or not.
One of the hardest parts for parents in teaching their children self-protection skills is acknowledging that they will not always be around to protect them. But it's important to give them the motivation to learn to protect themselves. Tell the children that class is an aid for them to help protect the family. Empower your children by showing them stories about how kids their age helped prevent a crime from happening by calling 9-1-1 or yelling and running away.
Although classes like karate and jujitsu are great for building self-confidence and protection skills in children, many argue that these classes give kids a false sense of security and even the idea that they can combat a much larger adult. However, most martial arts and self-defense classes always teach that fighting is almost always the last resort and that children should always try to remove themselves from dangerous situations instead of becoming involved in a struggle.
The "No! Go! Yell! Tell!" Strategy
The "No! Go! Yell! Tell!" approach to child safety is a simple but effective guide to help parents prepare their children for potentially dangerous situations:
- No! If a stranger approaches a child, teach them to keep a safe distance away from the person. If a stranger or another person invades their space in a threatening manner, the child should step back and shout "NO!" as loudly as possible.
- Go! If the "NO!" didn't change the situation in favor of the child, the child should be instructed to turn and walk/run as quickly as possible to a safe destination.
- Yell! This yell should not be a scream or a high-pitched screech. Instead, it should be a loud and forceful yell. If your child can form a word with a yell, like "STRANGER!" all the better, but making a loud, forceful sound should be the ultimate goal.
- Tell! Once the child gets to a safe area, tell them they should tell a parent, adult, teacher, or other trusted person about what happened. Assure the child that they're loved and that no matter what happened to them, they won't be blamed.
Make Sure Children Know Where to Go to Get Help
Perhaps the most basic aspect of child safety training is to make sure that children know where they can go to get help when they need it. Small children are routinely taught in school how to pick up the phone and dial 9-1-1 in case of emergencies, but you can teach your children more.
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to teach children to get help is to enable them to make phone calls when they need to. Be sure that there is at least one phone within your home that your child can reach easily with important numbers, such as the police department and ambulance, located nearby.
Children should be able to use the phone at a young age, perhaps 5 or 6. By this time, they should know their phone number and street address. In addition, children should be encouraged to learn the numbers of their parent's cell phones and work numbers. If your child has to call 9-1-1, the emergency dispatcher will probably ask your child a series of questions. These questions will probably include:
- What is your name?
- Where do you live (address)?
- Where are you right now?
- What happened?
- Is someone hurt?
One of the most important things for the dispatcher is that the child remains on the line until the dispatcher says it is okay to hang up, or until help arrives. In either case, be sure to teach your child not to hang up the phone unless the dispatcher says "goodbye" or help arrives.
Help From the Neighborhood
If your neighborhood already has a neighborhood watch system in place, then there may already be a designated safe house that children should go to in case of an emergency. If not, you should get in touch with your neighbors and make a plan and agree upon a safe house or location that children should go to in case of a threat or crime.
Legal Questions About Child Safety Training? Call a Lawyer
Preparing children for the worst while helping them move through the world with confidence and enjoy their childhood is a challenge. If you have questions about your role in protecting your children or the legality of certain types of self-defense, you may want to speak with a legal professional.
Consider speaking with a family law attorney near you today.