by Kathy Marlor- 7x certified FAST Defense Instructor
As a self-defense instructor who is also a parent, a common question I get asked is “How can I teach my younger children to be safer, without scaring them or making them paranoid?”
When my own child was little, one of the first things I wanted to do, was to was to make sure that she had some awareness as to what the “real world” could be like. I taught her that most people love kids and are super nice, but sometimes there are a few mixed in that aren’t as nice. I’d asked her and her elementary school classmates at “The Great American Teach-In” what they thought a not-so-nice stranger looked like.
When asked “What does a dangerous stranger look like?”, Most kids will say, they wear a black hat, look ugly or scary, and try to get you! The children usually come up with some pretty creative answers based on what they’ve heard and seen on TV and sometimes in video games, from siblings, etc. This is one of the first questions you can ask your kids to get an idea of what they know.
One of the coolest parts of asking your child this, is that you’ll get an honest answer. This allows you to gently
let them know that sometimes a “bad stranger” looks just like everyone else. They could look like me, they could look like your neighbor, they don’t have a sign that says “Danger! I’m a bad stranger who wants to hurt you.”
When I personally share this information with a group of children at a party or safety event, I make it fun and am very animated so they listen, participate and are not going to be fearful. In my opinion, this is a very important teaching skill. If you make it regimented or too serious, they may not want any part of it and don’t seem to listen as well.
The next quick lesson young children should know is to NEVER go anywhere without your permission or into any one’s residence, car, etc. The majority of child abductions are committed by family members or people that are somehow related to the family and have familiarity.
When my daughter was very young, she really wanted to go inside our next door neighbor’s house.She knew I went to a party and since I went inside, thought it would be okay. This gave me an opportunity to explain the difference to her and also to reinforce that even if someone says that it’s okay- it’s not; she always needs to get my permission first and I should always know where she is.
Quiz Your Kids
Ask your kids about a variety of scenarios that include people approaching them or offering them gifts when you are not present. Ask them questions like: What if someone pulls up to our yard in a really cool car and asks you if you want to take a ride? Should you go? Explain the answer is “no” and tell them to stay away from them and let you know.
Other examples of possible quiz questions could be:
- What if a neighbor asks if they can take you for an ice cream and says I won’t mind?
- What if someone asks you if you want some money? Video games? To pet their puppy?
- What if they tell you they need your help?
- What if an adult tells you that you are in big trouble and better come over to them right now?
You can also add in questions about inappropriate touch and add additional role plays into the mix.
Most parents tend to teach their children to obey adults and authority-which is a good thing most of the time. But there are times where you obviously would not want your child to do what another adult tells them to or asks them to do if it’s not appropriate, or is dangerous and harmful. Have a discussion with your child about when it’s okay to tell an adult “No” or to disobey. Teach them if they are uncomfortable, something doesn’t seem right, or if they are approached, that it’s okay to say “No” and then get away from that person and tell a parent, teacher, or someone who could help them. Teach children that adults should not be asking kids for help and if they do, they should come ask you to help them.
When you empower your child to tell an adult “no” in certain situations, also make sure that they know if something does happen, that it’s okay to tell you and that you will not be mad. Then, make sure you keep your word if something does occur.
Personal protection and self-defense for children is a bigger topic than most think. The above is a great start and when discussions and role plays are done in a fun, playful way, kids enjoy them and get more out of them. When my daughter was little, she use to ask to do the role plays that included her using verbal defense which will be discussed in Part 2 of this article. She thought they were fun and we had a good time playing.
If you have a FAST Defense program in your area, it’s a good idea to have your children participate in a seminar, home party or training session for the family to learn more.
Some of the curriculum included will be the ABCs of FAST Defense which include Awareness, Boundary Setting and Core Confidence by learning to fight back…just in case.
Participants also learn:
- How to use confident body language and pay attention to their surroundings
- How to judge what a safe distance is from someone that they don’t know
- What to say if they feel they are in danger, or what do to and say if someone is trying to forcibly take them somewhere
- How to use verbal defense and boundaries vs. pretend bad guys
- How to use a family password, in case you do need someone to interact or drive your child somewhere in the event of an emergency and more.
By beginning to have basic conversations with your child and adding in a bit more as they get older, you’ll be empowering your child to help take care of themselves since they can’t be with you 24/7.
*Businesses, churches, groups, scouts and individuals may sponsor an FAST Defense seminar for children. Also, private training for families is available. Please contact Kathy@stpeteselfdefense.com.