The ability to defend ourselves is only one of the many benefits of our martial arts training, but it is a crucial part. As we help our children grow strong in both body and character, we also have to teach them how to stay safe against any threat. That includes making sure they understand basic principles about interacting with adults they don’t know.
The tricky part about “Stranger Danger” – particularly with young children--can be making sure their imaginations don’t get the better of them. We want kids who are confident interacting with the world, not scared of it. But we also want them to be able to identify a potentially dangerous situation and have strategies for dealing with it. Over many years working in this field, and through conversations with other experts, we’ve developed some talking points that are effective to this end:
I. The world is fully of mostly good people, who believe in helping over hurting. There are, however, some people that like to hurt others.
II. A bad person can look just the same as a good person, and could be tricky.
III. You can tell the bad people from the good people, because they break the rules that every grown- up knows. Those rules are:
A. Don’t approach a child you don’t know when their parents aren’t around.
B. Don’t try to give a treat to a child you don’t know.
C. Don’t ask a child you don’t know for help doing anything
IV. If a grown up is breaking those rules, stay away from them. Run away and scream words like “Stop”, “Help” and “Get away!” Fast feet and a loud voice is the most important tool for staying safe (we do lots of "running and screaming" practice as part of our Stranger Danger drills).
With our older students, preadolescent and beyond, we talk a lot about the more subtle signs that a person or a situation may be wrong--that "creeped out" feeling we might get. Students are urged to "draw a line" with both words and body language, making it clear to someone they feel uncomfortable and that that person should keep their distance. The moment that line is crossed, we stress to our kids, they have to take definitive action.
We always stress to our students that running away and yelling for help is the best way to stay safe. But, of course, we also teach them to hit when that is not an option, and hit to hurt. In the event a person puts hands on them, we talked with the kids about the best targets within their reach, and how to use all the weapons on their body until they create that opportunity to run.
More pictures from "Red Man Day" at our Facebook page.