Archive for the ‘kids self defense’ Category

The Bad Guy May Not Be a Stranger

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Recently, a little girl was kidnapped while walking home from school. She was sexually abused. Murdered. And—in the final insult to her precious life and potential—she was thrown into a dumpster like garbage.

Her distraught mother appeared on national television, thanking police for their hard work. She then implored parents, “Tell your children about Stranger Danger!” She explained that her daughter loved everyone she met, trusted them immediately, and never thought anyone would hurt her.

I certainly would not disagree with the words of a grieving mother. She has my deepest sympathy. What I would like to add to her warning is, “The danger may not have come from a stranger.”

I don’t know who inflicted such horror against this little girl. But I do know that, in cases of child-kidnapping, less than one-fourth are committed by someone who is a complete stranger to the victim. Nearly half are by a family member (usually during a custody dispute), and 27% are by someone outside the family, but known to the child. These “acquaintance kidnappings” are perpetrated most often for the purpose of committing physical and/or sexual violence against the child. One study found that, in 90% of rapes of children under 12, the attacker was known to the victim prior to the crime: as a neighbor… his best friend’s dad… the nice man who worked with her mom.

So, if strangers are bad and people we know are bad… what should we teach our children—that everyone is bad? Of course not. The world is full of good, loving, helpful people, and these are who our children should turn to when they need help. But, if kids are taught never to speak to someone they don’t know, they may be very limited in whom they can approach to help them in an emergency.

A smart strategy is to teach them the difference, not between Strangers and People We Know, but between Good People and Bad People. And that difference lies not in whether you’ve met someone previously, but in behavior. Good People respect kids. They don’t cross social, legal, or moral boundaries and force kids to join them. Nor do they do anything to make children feel uncomfortable.

With guidance and the permission to make their own judgments about teens and adults around them, kids will quickly be able to determine who they need to watch out for and, more important, who they can run to if they need help.

No Bullies Allowed

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Behavior in elementary schools across the nation underscores the point that bullying has become rampant. Humiliation, taunting, and physical abuse can leave lifelong emotional scars that affect the rest of a victim’s life.

radKIDS is about safety and self-defense for children. And bullying is one of the areas we cover–a very important area, if you ask kids in grades 3 and higher. Research agrees: up to 75% of students report being bullied during their school years; over 10,000 stay home from school at least once a month out of fear of bullies. And this fear is not unfounded. A recent report reveals that over 66% of attackers in school shootings were victims of longstanding, severe harassment and bullying.

The old thinking that “kids will be kids,” or that “it’s just part of growing up” is erroneous–not to mention harmful. If a child is bullied, it is important for the protection and/or restoration of their own self-esteem that they stand up for themselves. There are ways to do this that do not put the bullied child in further danger.

The idea of “ignoring the bully and he’ll stop”  is no longer taught. (Thank goodness, because as many can attest to, not only doesn’t it work, but it often makes the situation worse.) Studies have shown that bullies are not kids with low self-esteem who just want attention. They are predators and their behavior must not be allowed to continue.

Defending themselves allows the targets of bullying to know that they have worth, that they don’t deserve to be teased, mocked, or hit, and that the problem is the bully’s behavior, not themselves.

As a parent, you may need to meet with your child’s teacher and/or principal. With so many other children on their radar screen, they may simply not be aware of the problem. Make them aware. And let them know you expect the situation to be resolved immediately. Your child has a right to be safe at school. You have a responsibility to insure that he is.


Tuesday, November 24th, 2009
One of the first things my supervisor told us when we showed up for radKIDS Instructor training was, “We’ve had 31 saves. Thirty-one kids who took the radKIDS class later found themselves face to face with an abductor. Each of them used what they learned in radKIDS to escape and get help.”

In that training class, I learned that within the first few hours of a kidnapping, a child is most likely injured and sexually abused. Before 24 hours has passed, that child has probably been killed by his or her captor. So, it’s not a far reach to say that what those kids learned in the radKIDS program helped save their lives.

That was 2 and a half years ago. radKIDS is now happy to report 62 documented saves from abduction, and thousands more from molestation, abuse, and violence. This makes me proud but, even more, grateful. I’m proud to be a part of a program I consider a gift: to parents, to children, to everyone who loves children and recognizes how special they are, how full of potential, how vital to our hearts, our lives and, of course, our world.

But more, I’m grateful to have something tangible to offer parents and kids–something that’s proven, that really works. Thanks to the police officers and child safety experts who designed this program, we’re able to empower kids to trust their gut, make smart choices, and know that no one has the right to hurt them. Because when they know that, they can use what they’ve learned in class to escape from danger and get help. To save themselves when no one else can.

All in Fun? or Gun! Gun! Gun!

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Hey! Wanna see somethin’ cool? Shhh…

What if a schoolmate beckoned your child to a corner of the classroom, smiled conspiratorially, and offered a peek at a prized item inside a Spiderman backpack? What if the prized item was a 9 mm. semi-automatic pistol? Very possibly loaded. And, at that moment, in the hands of a 10-year-old?

Would your child, in a combination of awe, envy, and admiration, gush in hushed tones, “Wow! Where’d you get that!” Would they ask to hold it? Just one time? For a second?

Or would they recognize the danger staring them in the face and run away, yelling to inform all others nearby, “Gun! Gun! Gun!”

I’ve read too many news stories about kids bringing guns to school. The fact that there are parents who care so little about their own children (not to mention other people’s) as to allow them to get their young hands on a deadly weapon–much less bring it to school to show off–disturbs me greatly.

But what I find even more alarming is the stance so many schools take on the issue of guns: a head-in-the-sand, don’t-talk-about-it policy. In these days of “zero tolerance,” schools like to think they’re being proactive by passing such rules as, “No talking about guns in class; no writing stories in which a gun is used; no play-‘shooting’ your friend who’s pretending to be an evil space alien at recess.”

An acquaintance of mine is a first-grade teacher. Rolling her eyes at the futility of her school’s policy, she told me, “We’re not even allowed to put the word ‘gun’ on our spelling lists! We have to make believe it doesn’t exist. How does that help the kids if there’s trouble?”

Good question. What these schools refuse to acknowledge is that none of the above-mentioned rules actually prevents someone from carrying a gun into a school. So, my answer to this extremely serious issue is to prepare kids for the situation, should it occur. Teach them how to use the tools they have to make smart choices, so they can keep themselves safe.

In this case, those tools are their legs, to run away, and their voices to yell, “Gun! Gun! Gun!” to alert trusted adults who can help. Then, give them the permission to do it, and the practice–to know they can.

When is a Stranger Not a Stranger

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

It’s that time of year. The holiday season is gearing up. The twinkling lights, the sparkling snowflakes, and the “old familiar carols” have been setting the mood in stores for weeks. In just a few more days, we’ll be able to take the kids to the mall to sit on Santa’s lap, and maybe pick up a few bargains before we leave. But, as you’re crossing items off your To Do list and your Gift list, keep one thing in mind: Would your child know what to do if someone tried to walk him or her out of a store?

It can happen anywhere. But that doesn’t mean you should be afraid. It does mean you should be prepared–and you should prepare your child. Perhaps the biggest misconception taught to children by concerned, loving parents is, “Don’t talk to strangers!”

In my experience as a radKIDS Instructor, when I ask for a definition of the word stranger, many kids offer up descriptions of scary men in black capes and masks. It’s safe to assume that no one fitting this image will approach your child and attempt to lure them away in the moment you turn to look at a price tag.

An important lesson may be learned from the experience of Adam Walsh, the 7-year-old boy who was killed after being abducted from a department store in 1981. (His father, John Walsh, now hosts America’s Most Wanted.)

Adam was looking at a video game, while his mother shopped a few aisles over. A plainly-dressed man the boy had never met came up to him and commented about the game, then left. He returned a few minutes later and continued to chat. As Adam had now encountered this man a second time, it’s believed he thought the man was no longer a stranger. Therefore, it would be safe to go with him. The man led Adam away–and most likely, to his death.

What if a child simply gets separated from mom or dad in a busy shopping mall or crowded store? If they cannot approach a stranger for help, who can they ask? A frightened, crying little one is vulnerable to the actions of a “kind-hearted” abductor: “Here, honey, take my hand. I think I just saw mommy walk outside. Let’s go to her….”

Kids must be empowered to do what they need to do to stay safe. If that means asking for help from someone they’ve never met, they must be taught how to choose help wisely. They must learn how to recognize a good stranger from a bad one, and how to react to ensure their safety.

No Ostriches, Please

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

As a Children’s Safety and Self-Defense Instructor, I was asked to speak at a lunch-n-learn program at one of the most family-friendly business organizations in the United States. I welcomed the chance to speak to an audience of pro-active, forward-thinking parents.

As the date drew close, the meeting planner requested a copy of the materials I would present. I sent a Power Point presentation, discussing the need for kids to be made aware that bad people co-exist in the world with good people, and the importance of teaching them good decision-making skills and strengthening their self-confidence so they will be unappealing targets for predators. These points were corroborated by statistics on drug use, molestation, bullying, and other issues that affect children daily.

The next email I received from the meeting planner informed me that she had no idea the subject matter would be so frightening, and that she and her manager agreed that the entire program would have to be scrapped.

I was surprised and disturbed. Year after year, this organization has been voted one of the most “family-supportive” companies in the United States. I believe that there’s more to supporting parents and their children these days than simply offering a week of summer camp when school’s out, or a few extra sick days during the year. Yet, when it came to kids’ safety, they preferred to put their heads in the sand.

I understand that the topics I mentioned above are not pleasant ones, and might lead to brief reactions of fear, anger, or sadness in some people. But the information I’ve learned as part of the radKIDS organization, the skills I share with my radKIDS students, are so vital and so helpful, I think it’s worth a few minutes’ uneasiness. This knowledge can be life-saving. And, to me, that’s worth anything!

Equip Your Kids for Real-Life Trouble

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

In the news, a sexual predator in Philadelphia followed a teenage girl into her school and attempted to rape her. He had been walking closely behind the 15-year-old for over 4 blocks–security cameras at neighborhood businesses tracked his movements–and then grabbed her once she entered the school. Her screams as he began to expose himself alerted a dean who rushed to the girl’s aid and removed the man from the building.

It can be hard for a decent, law-abiding citizen to realize just how brazen some sexual predators’ behavior can be. They don’t always hide in the bushes, waiting to jump on an unsuspecting victim. Rather, they engage in inappropriate to downright dangerous and unlawful behavior right out in public, in broad daylight. Therefore, keeping your young daughter safe at home after dark, or letting your children play outside only on your street may not be enough. What will happen when they leave the borders of the safe world you’ve cordoned off for them? When they head to the store with a friend on an errand, or when they walk to school in the morning?

Jails are overcrowded and sexual offenders are often slapped on the wrist and released. So, it’s vital that we, as parents, find ways to make our kids as safe as possible. We can teach them that no one has the right to hurt them, and that they’re worth fighting for. We can help them learn how to immediately determine a safe place to run to, where there’s an adult they can trust to help them. And we can give them the physical skills needed to break an attacker’s hold on them so they can get to that safe place. Kids safety and self-defense classes like radKIDS aren’t “extras” anymore. They’re essential, because stories like this one from Philadelphia happen everywhere, every day. Child molesters and rapists are stalking their next victims. And no child should be up for grabs.

Because of Adam Walsh

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Host of America’s Most Wanted John Walsh and his wife, Reve, stood with police in Hollywood, Florida as they officially brought to a close the case of the abduction and murder of Adam Walsh. Florida Police named pedophile and serial killer Ottis Toole as the 6-year-old boy’s murderer. (Toole died in prison for a different crime in 1996.) But, because of the love, courage, and sheer strength of the Walsh family, Adam’s light still shines.

The Adam Walsh Outreach Center for Missing Children in Washington, DC came into existence because of the life and spirit of this little boy. It has since merged with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to become the greatest resource center for child protection in the United States.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, signed into law in 2006 by President George W. Bush, protects children against sexual and other violent crimes, child pornography, and Internet dangers.

And Adam’s dad, John Walsh, hosts one of television’s longest-running programs, America’s Most Wanted. Because of his son, Walsh and his viewers have been able to assist law enforcement in the capture of over 1,000 dangerous fugitives in the last 20 years.

Many of us just shake our heads, unable to comprehend the horror a murderous pedophile wrought upon this family nearly 30 years ago. No logic, no reasoning, no cosmic justice can make sense of, or offer adequate reparation for, the violent destruction of a child. John and Reve’s amazing example of resiliency, their flat-out refusal to be crushed by evil, is something we can all be grateful for. In John’s own words, they “spiraled into hell” when their only child was killed. But, somehow, they survived and endured. And forced evil to give way to good. Children are safer today because Adam Walsh lived.

Dog Attack

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

In the news recently, a young girl in Florida was attacked by 2 dogs as she walked home from school. A large amount of flesh was torn from her upper leg, and she sustained deep puncture wounds to her calves. Her father was with her at the time of the attack, and it took the combined efforts of him and another man to force the animals off of her until authorities arrived.

What if she had been alone? What about your children? Do they sometimes walk short distances without you, just up the street to a friend’s house, or around the corner to the school bus stop? If a dog ran out of an open gate, as these dogs did in Florida, would your kids know how to protect themselves? Our first instinct, and a necessary one for survival, is to run away from danger. But that won’t help in a dog-attack situation, and is almost certain to make the outcome worse. So, what can you do for them?

Find a good kids’ safety class–one that covers day-to-day-life scenarios, so they’ll learn how to protect themselves from vicious dogs, and other terrible things we read about in the papers these days. I’m partial to radKIDS because I know what’s covered in the class, how the material is taught, and how well kids retain what they learn. (I was a Safety Mom before I was a Safety Instructor.)Who knows? radKIDS may just be the antidote to the headlines.