As the top U.S. security expert, Gavin De Becker, points out, “Of all the strategies you might bring to protecting your children, could ignorance about violence possibly be an effective one?”
So what can we do as parents to minimise the chances of our children being faced with a dangerous or violent situation?
Power of intuition
From a young age, teach children the power of intuition. Remember, we trust far more people than we distrust, so if your child feels uncomfortable around someone, it is significant. We must teach our children to honour the gut instinct that says something’s not right. This takes practice. On outings, ask your children to tell you how theys, distaste?
Children need to be taught to recognise and react to early signals, as this is when they can turn away most predators. Teach your child to be wary of strangers who try to be charming, offer unsolicited help and promises, and especially, ignores your child’s refusal of help. According to De Becker, this is the most universally significant signal of danger as it is a sign that the predator is seeking to control them. Teach your child that it is okay to be blunt and even rude in this situation and explain to them that you (and other adults) will understand their rudeness if they turn out to be mistaken. If children don’t make the mistake of waiting for very clear signals, then they can defeat most predators.
I’m not a target
Teach your children how to communicate clearly that they are not a target. This includes glaring, holding the stare, walking away immediately and raising their voice. Most predators will get the message and look for an easier target. Although a placid person, I once used this technique to scare away a man who was hovering over my children in a way that made me very uncomfortable. My heart was pounding like a drum but he backed right off!
Children should practise being aware of their surroundings. Predators look for victims who are going to be easy targets – the ones on their phones, looking at the ground, day dreaming, listening to music etc. Teach your child to always take note of who is around him or her and what is going on. If they notice someone approaching them, they can usually deter them with the previous “I’m not a target’ tactics and communicate that they will not be an easy target.
Establish Privacy & Control
Teach your teenage child about how predators aim to get privacy and control with them before they make a move. Sexual predators are not dangerous to your child if they don’t have privacy and control. Therefore, if your daughter learns to recognise these situations early, she can take steps to change the situation before it becomes dangerous. For example, if a girl notices that her driving instructor’s directions are taking her out of populated areas, she can state “I wish to stay in familiar areas.” This clearly says to the predator that she is not going to be easily controlled, and in the majority of cases, the predator will abandon his plan.
Preparing your children to be safe doesn’t mean making them fearful of the world. It’s about teaching them that there are techniques they need to master to stay safe, in much the same way that we teach our children how to deal with fire.