I read a post the other day by Luchae on “My Spreadsheet Brain” about keeping our kids safe. I’ve been following her for a while, but this particular post really jumped out at me because it’s something I truly value as a mother and parent. Go and have a read about what she thought with regards to trafficking and stuff. Now, for those of you who know me personally – you know that my one fear that I’ve had to overcome is losing my kids to being trafficked or kidnapped.
It’s something that used to parelise me mentally every time I thought about taking my kids anywhere. I mean, even as a grown woman it’s still so dangerous. But having kids in the world we’re in now – is enough to make me run through the streets telling people to never have children! it’s not safe and they’re all in massive danger! But, I have three…… so I’d be a complete hypocrite, right? Right.
Anyway, over the years I’ve just come to learn that my children are gifts I’ve been given and I am to steward them as well as I can until they reach their own age of self stewardship. (which is soon, people! SOON!!) So, when Luchae messaged me – after I completely vomited all over the comments section on her blog about child safety – just about safety tips I’ve used – I realized that I’ve done a lot to make sure that my kids are as street smart as they can be, without being rude to grown ups. So here’s a list of my “safety” tips, that I’ve implemented without having my kids completely freak out and hide under a rock.I’m going to go from being a baby, up to where they’re at now.
- When we’re in the car – they’re always strapped in and the door next to them is locked and window up. ALWAYS!! This is so that no one can randomly snatch the door open, or through the window and take my kid without having to make a big noise about it. Never mind car safety, but strapping them into a car seat also keeps them safer from being pulled from the vehicle
- NO matter where we go – you are always strapped in the pram. STRAPPED! You can kick and scream all you want, but that’s the deal and the safest place for you to be. When I had a 7yr old, 5yr old and newborn – I put the newborn in the babywrap and the 5 year old in the pram and the 7 year old knew that her hand had to be firmly holding onto the pram handle.
I’ve found that when we walked around – we looked and still look like we are in order and there’s no stragglers. I always think about it like we’re in the animal kingdom – predators only prey on those that are straggling and are the weaker ones. So if I can create an ordered front and always be aware as a mother – then I guess that’s half the battle won. Obviously it’s not 100% full proof, but it is at least being aware.
- NO ONE gets out of the car, until I (the adult) am ready to do so and then once I am ready – pram and all, then they all get out on the same side as I am standing. From the moment they were out of the pram I trained my kids to put their hands on the car. That’s all I say when they get out. It’s worked for all three and has taught them to know that we don’t run around a parking area or into the road. They have to wait for my instruction and once I’m ready, they grab their side of the pram and we walk into, through and around the mall together.
These scenarios are mostly described when I’m alone with the kids – which is a lot. But when Dad is along, then the rule is that they have to hold the hand of an adult if they’re not holding the pram.
My girls are a lot bigger now, and so as a graduation from holding the pram (which they still do if the mall is really full) my “freedom” rule now is, if I have to take more than one step to rescue you from someone, then you’re too far away from me. You can walk on your own, but you need to stay close and in front of me – not behind me, EVER!
After reading this – the kids asked me to share what happened to us once. I was parked outside a hardware store and Iraina hadn’t waited for me to be ready and jumped out of the car without me. She wasn’t running around anywhere – but just stood next to the car waiting.
Just then the gentleman in the car next to us proceeded to say to her, “your mommy said you must come with me – so jump in the car”
Iraina, completely freaked out and jumped right back into our car. We asked her what was wrong and she repeated what the man said to her.
I then re-emphasized what we continuously go over and how important it is to be safe. It can happen so quickly. He didn’t even have to say anything – he could have just taken her. Honestly – this completely freaked me out as a mother and made me start the whole jump out on my side rule.
- I’ve had scenarios where I’ve had to go to the bathroom at the same time as my kids because I’ve had to deal with the toddler as well. As a safety precaution, I tell my kids to sing while they’re on the loo. That way, it’s entertainment for the rest of the rest room and I can keep tabs on where they are.
We only recently started allowing our 8 year old and 10 year old, to go to the toilet in a restaurant alone. Up until now, it’s always been with an adult. Now, they go together and let us know when they are going and when they get back. (but due to recent events in the Cape Town Media – We have changed this rule and are back to going to the toilet with them)
- As a parent – I am aware of where I park, all the time. What car am I parked next to? How far am I from the entrance? Am I isolated? I would rather drive around and wait a little longer for a safer spot than park in a corner alone somewhere with three kids and be a target.
- I have the “what do you do if…..” talk with them before we go into a mall. I ask them about different scenarios – like if someone grabbed them, or offered them something without me knowing. In the beginning they used to respond with silly answers – but I let them know that this drill was serious and that this was the time they were allowed to scream as loud as they want and say no, without apologising. It’s their opportunity to be as rude as they want to be – and I will applaud them for it.
I also make them aware of the fact that someone can cover their mouths and move them away – then what? As usual, they give the funniest answers like, “I’ll box them in the private!” I’m like, ok – but what if they are behind you – this is where I teach them about the strongest parts of their bodies and how to use their little frames to be able to at least disable someone and create awareness of their situation.
So my list to them is, Run to someone safe, Scream, Bite, Kick, Scratch, use your Elbow, Knee and if all else fails – play dead. Dead weight becomes so much heavier and also brings attention to on lookers.
- Always, Always ALWAYS! Ask my permission about anything. Ever since I watched an experiment done by a gentlemen where he approached the mother’s of children to conduct a test on their kids. He had a fluffy dog and asked the mothers if their child would talk to a stranger – they all replied “no, they understand stranger danger.” So he asked their permission to approach their child and show them a predator strategy. Confidently the mothers allowed it. He then approached the child, with the puppy and asked the child if they’d like to stroke the dog. They did it without thinking and he then offered for the child to see more dogs in his van, and every single child walked off with the man…. here’s the video if you’d like to see it.
So, after seeing this, I thought – I know my kids would probably fall for the same strategy – so I reinstated that no matter who it is, someone you know, someone you don’t know, you always check with me first – even if it’s just a look and a nod.
I must be honest, this worked really well when my girls were younger – obviously now I am re-strategizing because they’re older and they need to start making their own “cause and effect” decisions without me. But when they’re little – eyes on mom or dad first before taking anything, talking to anyone or going off anywhere.
- Never underestimate the power of discipline. I say this, because if you say to your kid to stop and they don’t stop – that in itself is unsafe. It’s a hazard to the child and could potentially be tragic. There has always been a moment in all of my kids lives where they have tried to run into the road and it is at this moment that I go over the top with my reaction.
Some may think that it’s unnecessary – but I don’t do it unless I want them to get the message across, that this is extremely serious and I am meaning what I am saying. Just like any other rebellious response – I make sure they understand the weight of how important this is and that in order to become a decent citizen and human being there are boundaries that don’t get crossed and there are consequences to them as well. Me shouting or disciplining them is waaaaaaaaay less traumatic than getting hit by the car or being grabbed by some idiot kidnapper.
- If they don’t like someone or something – I don’t force my opinion onto them. They are allowed to say no to adults if they don’t want to kiss them or hug them. This is a hard one, especially with the older family who expect it from kids. I have come to realise that by them being allowed to say no, then they have the power over their own bodies and know how to say no without feeling the pressure from us as parents to do what we say in this way.
- They aren’t allowed to sit in anybody’s lap unless it’s their fathers or mine. I have had several moments where my girls have innocently sat with a gentleman, lady or family member that isn’t their dad or I and I have firmly – but politely asked them to get off and proceed to explain to the person that I am teaching my children to be aware of themselves. I have always made it about my kids and not about the adult in any way, because people can so easily get offended.
But I assure them that in this day and age it isn’t about them, it’s about protecting my kids from predators and that’s my goal. They’re able to sit next to them, especially if they’re trusted and close – but this seldom happens.
I’ve also – as a mother, will unapologetically trust my gut. If I feel something is just not sitting right in my gut, then I will call my child over and just gently explain that whatever they’re up to is inappropriate and I don’t need to explain – they just need to trust me as their mom.
- I also tell them to never assume that bad people are always men – women can also be predators. Predators are unassuming and can so easily be trusted because of the way that they look. (They reminded me of this one)
- This last one, I’ve only recently started talking to them about. We don’t run around in the dark at someone’s house, at a school, church or event venue. As much as it’s great to have fun and be silly, until my kids can take down a 6 foot, fully grown man on their own – playing around like that is unwise and unsafe. This leads me to the fact that I am wanting my kids to do self defense classes and be able to defend themselves should they be attacked in any way. This will lead up to further conversations about poured beverages of any kind, drugs and being overly self aware so they can prevent themselves, as much as possible, from becoming victims of situations they could so innocently walk into.
These are just a few of the ways I try to keep my kids safe when I’m out and about. Some may think that it’s quite regiment or exposing the child to being fearful. Well, I would say to that person
1. I would rather have my kid with me and be a little afraid and aware, than have them lost because I didn’t make them aware of the dangers.
2. The many positive comments I’ve had about my children have been like this – “it’s such a pleasure to watch you shop with your kids” (said to my face) “your kids are so free, yet they know the boundaries so well and stick to them”
That’s right! (head roll and finger snap) I worked hard to get them that way – but it’s so rewarding to have them with me and not have to remind them anymore.
Its ingrained in their minds. I do refresh their little memories every so now and again just to be sure – because let’s be honest – kids forget.Are there any tips and tricks that you’ve implemented that I might have missed or could really learn from. I’d really love to learn from you – do share in the comments section, there’s always room for improvement and learning from each other.