Yesterday's article about How to Teach Your Kids Positive Thinking and Inner Motivation got me thinking about the subject of parenting in general. It turns out that I have a lot of ideas about parenting that I want to record for myself and others, so I'm going to write a brief series of articles on the subject.
To repeat the disclaimer from last time, I have not yet had the good fortune to have children, so my thoughts are theoretical at this juncture. If you are a parent who would like to share your experiences, please send them to us here or share them in our discussion group. I have, however, devoted significant amounts of time to planning how I am going to parent when I do get the opportunity. Also, as a former child I do have some relevant experience in these matters.
Today I want to talk about one of our main jobs as parents: attempting to ensure the physical safety of our kids. The world is full of dangers and we want to put ourselves as a family in a position to minimize those risks to the extent possible. We're going to examine three different ways to do this.
Emergency Safety Word
As early as possible, I would teach all of my children an emergency safety word. If they ever hear me say or yell the word, they are to immediately stop whatever they are doing and run from wherever they are to wherever I am. I think of this word as basically short-hand for saying "You are in physical danger, but I don't have time to explain it all to you right now, so I need you to immediately get out of this situation by stopping whatever you are doing and running back to me." Yes, you will later explain to them why they were in danger, but perhaps that is not possible in the moment. I'm imaging a variety of scenarios in which the emergency safety word could be useful. Maybe they don't realize they are about to get run over by a truck.
My intention is to teach my kids the emergency safety word and then, like a fire drill, use the word at random upon occasion so they get used to hearing it and responding accordingly. They would get some sort of treat when they responded correctly to the drill. Because you are training an automated response, you need to provide desirable positive reinforcement (something they like a lot) when they do what you want in regards to the emergency safety word.
Teach Them How to Think About Danger
Teach your children the phrase "Run / Hide / Fight." This is the correct order of how to respond a dangerous situation and it applies to both kids and adults.
The first best response is typically to run away from the danger. Fleeing is a natural human response because it works. Let's look at an example. Perhaps one of the kids has the misfortune of being kidnapped. Should they cooperate with the kidnapper? No. They should run. If the kidnapper's car slows down at a stop sign, they should open the door and jump out. The first inclination should be to escape and to never cooperate. On a related note, if they feel they are in danger and someone is telling them to be quiet, instruct them to make as much noise as possible as loudly as possible to draw attention.
Sometimes fleeing is not possible, like if the child is in a confined space of some kind when the danger occurs. Since "Run" is no longer and option, they should instead hide. Most danger is highly temporary and hiding can be a very effective response.
It is only after running and hiding have been considered and disregarded that the proper response is to fight. Fighting is more dangerous than the other two options. The danger with fighting is the difficulty in managing all the variables of a dangerous situation at once. Even if you successfully defend against your assailant, there could be other assailants you don't know about who surprise attack. Confrontation carries high risks but is still the best option if run and hide are no longer available for whatever reason.
The sad reality is that a lot of young women, and as well as some men, will be sexually assaulted. While not everyone is going to get raped, it is a possibility to be considered. More likely, though, is a situation where a drunk person is being overly sexually aggressive while also being significantly stronger than your child. Teens and young adults should be instructed as to how to handle these situations since they are unfortunately so likely to occur.
I would want my teenage or young adult children to understand the nature of sexual consent. They are allowed to say no to sex or sexual activity at any time for any reason. They do not need to justify their reasons to anyone. They can still say no even if they have willingly gotten naked. They can change their mind and say no even if they are already in the middle of having sex. They always have the ability to choose to say no to sexual activity and they don't need to justify that choice to anyone.
I would also want them to have some basic techniques for self defense against being sexually assaulted. Your daughter needs to be prepared for a situation where a larger male is drunk and on top of them. I would highly recommend at least an introductory level understanding of one of the grappling-based martial arts, such as aikido or jiu jitsu. These are the ones that teach how to wrestle around and put someone much stronger and larger than you into a submission position where they are completely incapacitated. We all hope it won't be necessary for her to use these techniques, but you will sleep better at night knowing she is prepared just in case she finds herself in one of these situations.
Yes, thinking about your child being in danger is a bit of a bummer. Hopefully, though, we have provided you will some simple, actionable ways that you can increase the overall safety level for your family. Don't wait until one of your family members is in direct danger to discuss these difficult issues. As a parent, you can't control all the danger in the world, but you can endeavor to equip your children with tools so they are ready just in case they find themselves in a dangerous situation.
As parents, we want safe kids. Safety for kids, or keeping our kids safe, is one of our key responsibilities. This article provides some easy, actionable ways to keep kids safe.