Teachable moments can come from a wide variety of sources, including other parents. From time to time parents write blogs for us that we think you will find interesting, useful, or entertaining. Please enjoy this post from a fellow parent.
The other day I was in an elevator and a nice little boy looked up to me and said, “Hi.” He was about five years old and with his father. I said, “Hello, how is your day going?” He then started to tell me about the lunch they had just had and the icky green sticks his dad made him eat (I assumed asparagus). He was adorable and our brief conversation made my day… until I walked off the elevator. I heard the father begin to scold him, “What have I told you about talking to strangers?!” I was so sad for the little boy, and even sadder that this little boy lives in a world where people are discouraging their children from being polite in order to keep them safe. It got me thinking, how do I teach my kids to be kind and polite, but always on guard? And, how do I teach them to be on guard without terrifying them about the world around them?
My husband and I discussed this at length and decided that honesty is the best policy. Boys Town suggests pre-teaching so that kids know what is expected of them. Based on this, we gave them the short-sweet-to-the-point intro “Sadly, there are some people in this world who don’t have good intentions and we need to be careful about who we talk to and what we do when we are not with an adult.” Then we gave specific examples of situations and what good people might do in these situations and what people with “not the best intentions” might do in these situations. We then gave instructions for each.
For example, we talked about walking home from school:
If you’re walking home from school and someone approaches you a good person might say “Hi” and walk on by. It’s ok to say “Hi” back and be friendly. But, when they start asking personal information, or if they start asking you to come with them or follow them somewhere, you need to walk away immediately. If they start to move towards you, grab you or force you to go with them, you scream and kick and make as much of a commotion as possible.
One of the most effective ways Boys Town handles pre-teaching is thru role-playing. So, we discussed appropriate responses and practiced a few times and had them react based on the type of people we were pretending to be. It seemed to work well and it got the point across. We did several roles where we wanted the kids to be unsure. We told them that if you are ever unsure, walk away, right away. Better to be safe than sorry.
The straight-forward approach worked well, but I think the role-playing was the best thing we could have done. As parents, we were able to feel more comfortable seeing how they would react and knowing that they would be able to do the right thing. It was also a fun way to lighten the mood on a scary subject and open the lines of communication for any other questions they had.