Archive for the ‘kids self defense’ Category

How to Save Your Child’s Life

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Yesterday, in-store video from a Wal-Mart near Atlanta, Georgia went viral. It showed a strange man picking up a 7-year-old girl in an aisle of the toy department. It then showed that same little girl kicking and yelling and creating such a huge ruckus that the man put her down–and ran away! For those of you who haven’t seen that video, here it is: Girl Fights Off Kidnapper in Wal-Mart

Kudos to that young lady for doing exactly the right thing at exactly the right time. How did she know what to do in such a frightening situation? And how did she have the presence of mind to do it? Simple: her parents enrolled her in a Kids Safety class. It may have been radKIDS, or it might have been another class given by an agency that teaches similar principles. But the day her parents brought her to that first class, they saved her life. She learned that Bad Guys hate noise, and often demand that their victims stay quiet. She also learned not to listen to Bad Guys, but to yell long and loud for help.

She learned that no one is allowed to hurt her, and if someone tries to, she can make them stop. The Bad Guy held her arms, so she used her legs to kick him repeatedly as hard as she could–while she was still yelling. He realized almost immediately that he was not going to get away with this child. He put her down and fled (and was arrested by local law enforcement a short time later).

By using what she had learned in that safety class to escape this man’s hold, she saved her life again. He was on parole, having just been released from prison for killing a man. You can be sure his intentions toward this innocent, little girl were not honorable. Nor was he likely to let her go, knowing she could identify him to police.

Several parents contacted me after this video hit the news. They wanted to know how soon they could get their own kids into a radKIDS class, just on the outside chance that some predator might approach them when Mom’s or Dad’s back was turned. I gave them the information they wanted. Most thanked me and set about making room in their child’s schedule for the 4 weekly sessions that a radKIDS course meets.

But, after I’d finished telling one mom about all we teach, all the situations we cover, and the physical skills we give the kids, she shrugged and said, “Well, we’ll think about it.” She explained that her daughter already had a very busy schedule, what with gymnastics, piano lessons, and dance class.

Now, all those activities are fun, and can be life-enhancing. A radKIDS class is also fun, and can be life-saving. Parents must decide what’s best for their children, and certainly, sports and the arts are important. But the life-skills learned in a radKIDS class–personal empowerment, the ability to make decisions, and the choosing of a clear strategy (not to mention how to deliver a good, solid punch to the nose)–can help a kid in situations when no cartwheel, no arpeggio, no pirouette can.

A Child’s First Weapon

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

In the news today, an 83-year-old man was arrested for groping an 8-year-old child. He went through mug shots, prints, jail time, the whole bit. Now he has a police record. This was his first arrest. ‘Think this was his first time molesting a kid? Not a chance. Sexual abuse of children is a serial crime; perpetrators do it over and over throughout their lives. In fact, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the typical molester abuses 30-60 kids before he’s ever arrested, and as many as 380 in his lifetime. 380 children. Groped, molested, and/or raped. It’s mind-boggling.

The good news in all of this? Parents are teaching their kids to fight back. Not necessarily to punch the sex offender in the face, which could lead to immediate and even more dangerous consequences for a child alone with an unbalanced adult. But to use the first weapon available to them–their voice. Kids are being taught to tell! And they’re doing it, and their parents are taking action!

What are they saying? To the predator, they’re saying, “Stop! Don’t touch me!”  To their parents, teachers, and counselors, they’re saying, “Mom, Mr. Owens put his hand on my chest,” or “Mr. James touched my rear,” or “Ms. Linwood was doing something weird to my arm, and I didn’t like it.”

We’ve all heard stories, maybe even know some people who were abused as kids. Some readers here were victims themselves. Maybe they told their parents. Most likely, they didn’t. Some were taught that “respecting their elders” included allowing themselves to be hurt by adults. Others were afraid, believing the predator who told them, “Your folks will be mad at you if they find out,” or “If you tell what happened, we’ll both go to jail.” Still others tried to tell, but no one believed them: “What a terrible thing to say! Shame on you!” or “Mr. Smith would never do such a thing! Are you looking for attention??”

What police, psychologists, and others who work with child predators have learned between then and now is that

  1. Kids rarely make up stories about being molested. So, if a child tells you that someone touched them in the wrong way, it’s most likely true.
  2. Abusers can be male or female, in the city, the suburbs, or the countryside, young, old, or in-between.
  3. Child molesters are charming, friendly… and manipulators of the highest order. They will seem to you to be the nicest, warmest, safest people around. They’re very good at what they do–they made their victims feel safe long enough to molest them. They are wolves who will smile at you and try to trick you into accepting the word of a criminal, and not believing your own child.

So, if your child comes to you and confides that someone has molested them, know that it’s not your child’s fault. And then, for their sake, act. Call in the pros, the police. Let them do their jobs. Continue to love and parent your child, and give them what they need. Your teaching has shown them that they’re special and valuable, and that no one has the right to hurt them. And it has shown them the importance of using their voice, their first weapon, to defend themselves and stop the Bad Guy.

‘Oughta Be Locked Up!

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

The kids are upstairs playing. The adults, downstairs in the kitchen. They hear the sounds of laughing, little feet running up and down the hall, shouts of “My turn!” Then, a horrifying BANG! Rushing to the children, they find their 4-year-old little girl, dying from a gunshot wound. Two men at the scene are arrested; charges include storing a weapon in a manner accessible by a minor.

This terrible scene took place just a few days ago in a house near mine. Home is supposed to be a safe place for children. A sanctuary. Certainly, they should be able to expect no sneak attacks, no dangerous surprises leaping out of dark closets to hurt them. And yet, some adults choose to keep guns in their homes while taking no precautions to keep their kids safe. My problem with this is 3-fold:

First, do you really need a gun? Especially with kids in the house. If you’re worried about crime, there are other steps you can take to bolster the safety and security of your family and home: place stronger locks on doors and windows, trim bushes down to eliminate hiding places for intruders, get an alarm system. This last option may be more expensive, but it can be a wise investment–and it won’t kill or maim a member of your family, result in jail time, and ruin more lives than it saves.

If, on the other hand, you simply want to have a gun because it’s one of your rights as an American citizen, I would ask you to weigh exercising that right against the possibilities of what can go wrong. You have the right to bear arms whether or not you choose to bring a gun into your home. You also have the right (depending on your neighborhood) to keep a tiger as a pet. I would not recommend it as a good idea–especially with children around.

Second, for those who feel strongly that they need a gun, I urge you to accept the responsibility for owning a deadly weapon, and lock it up securely–and separately from the ammunition. A recent study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that 36% of parents who own guns store them loaded. 45% don’t use gun locks. I’ve been told by a gun-owning dad, “If I need that gun to protect my family, I need to be able to get to it quick.” Understood. But then, understand this: when you’re not looking, your kids will get to it quicker. What then?

The closet is a place to hang your clothes, not a secure storage facility for a gun. Neither is a drawer or under the bed. And, as the charges mentioned above indicate, keeping a gun in a place where a child can get to it is a crime. And 43% of parents with guns say they don’t use a gun locker or other secure storage location to protect their kids from their weapons. In fact, one mom told me, “I guess we’ve just been lucky so far that Jakey hasn’t found it.” This blew me away–she was leaving her child’s life up to “luck.”

… which brings me to my third point. If you insist on keeping a deadly weapon in a home with children, teach your kids how to respect it. This should include knowing how to recognize if a gun is loaded, and how to load, unload, clean, transport, and use the gun only in company of adult who also knows how to use it, and when to keep hands off (any time a weapons-trained adult is not present). Kids should be made aware of the irreparable damage guns can do, and that they must be treated with great care–not played with like they see actors do on tv. Accidents can happen, and they do, all too often. Just like they did for that little 4-year-old girl who lived near me.

Fight Like a Kid!

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

‘Ever been to Myrtle Beach, SC? Great spot for a family get-away–golf, shows, shopping, and of course, the beach. Lots of “fun in the sun.” And a good place to kidnap a child?

Ask 4-year-old Josie. Someone tried to abduct her right off a Myrtle Beach sidewalk, on a bright, sunny afternoon, with her family just inches away from her. The kidnapper glided up quietly behind her in his car, and simply reached out the driver’s side window and scooped her up. She kicked and screamed as he pulled her inside.

Her 8-year-old brother, Nathan, saw the whole thing and ran to help her. He fought against the abductor, yelling, punching, kicking, and biting–anything he could think of to free his sister. The predator stayed inside his car, holding onto the girl’s feet. Nathan pulled back. He never thought of giving up.

“I did everything I could to get her back out of the car,” Nathan said. He even scratched the man’s arms, hoping to get bits of the Bad Guy’s skin under his fingernails. (“For DNA!” he said. Nathan learned something from watching crime shows on TV.)

Finally, the predator let go. Josie flew into her brother’s arms and they both landed on the ground. The Bad Guy sped away.

That’s how you fight evil–with everything you’ve got. Anything less would not have saved little Josie. If only every kid were prepared to defend themselves like that! Unfortunately, very few are. Most children, on finding themselves in a position of imminent danger, don’t know what to do. They become confused and terrified. And when a child is afraid, they shut down and give up. And right then, the Bad Guy has won.

We need to teach our children that, while there are some bad people in the world, no one has the right to hurt them. When they really believe this, they don’t react to endangerment with paralyzing fear, but with righteous anger: “How dare you hurt me??” They feel empowered to do whatever is necessary–kick, punch, hit, scratch, and yell for help–to defend themselves or someone they love. Josie yelled and kicked at her attacker. Nathan pulled her from his grasp. This kind of determination is what we need to instill in our kids.

We can’t be with them to protect them every second of their lives. So they must know 2 things:

1) they are worth protecting, and

2) they can defend themselves

They don’t need a parent, teacher, coach, or other grown-up to rescue them. There may be no one around to help them if a Bad Guy strikes.

Give them the information they need to be able to fight back against an attacker. If you know about kids’ self-defense techniques, great. Teach them to your kids yourself. If not, get them into a good kids’ self-defense and safety class. Then, teach them never to give up, but to keep fighting because they they’re special, they’re important, and they’re loved. As long as they keep fighting, they’ve got a fighting chance.

New App is False Security

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

Have you seen the commercial Verizon is currently running? It’s for a new app they’re selling, called Family Locator. Verizon claims it’s “peace of mind at your fingertips.”

The ad shows a mom at the mall with her teen daughter. The mom appears concerned for the young girl’s safety as she turns, armed with her cell phone, and heads down the escalator with her friends. But, not to worry! Mom has peace of mind at her fingertips with the new Family Locator app. Just by touching a few buttons, GPS technology lets her dial into the precise location of the cell phone in her daughter’s hand. Mom can pinpoint the locations of other family members as well–and if any of them should need help, she can instantly call up driving directions to the exact spot highlighted on their phone.

Of course, issues can arise that won’t be serious enough to require the Family Locator: “Hello, Mom? Jenny isn’t feeling well. Can you come and get us?” Still, it can give you turn-by-turn directions to the food court if you really want them.

What’s deceptive about this ad–and this app–is that it’s not a family locator; it’s a phone locator. For an actual emergency of the kind the ad hints at, the odds of the daughter keeping her phone in her possession are low. In an abduction or assault, one of the first things her attacker will do is cut off her ability to call for help. He’s going to get rid of that phone quickly, whether it’s in her hand, her purse, or hanging from her belt. He’ll likely break it, or just throw it into a garbage can or across the parking lot. So, Mom is pinging her cell and thinking things are fine: “Ah, she’s still in the department store.” She doesn’t realize her daughter is in danger, because the cell phone is reporting its location, not the girl’s. Meanwhile, the daughter is trapped with a predator, and valuable search time is being lost.

Now, I’m not trying to “rat out” Verizon. I think they’re excellent cell phone providers. But my first concern is for keeping kids safe. And this app, while it has definite uses, cannot keep kids safe. That’s fine, except that it’s being advertised as if it can.

If you want greater peace of mind when your kids are out on their own, my best suggestion is to sign them up for a self-defense class that will teach them

  1. how to recognize tricks that predators use to lure kids every day
  2. how to get help quickly in a public place and
  3. how to physically defend themselves if they need to

This knowledge will serve them much better than a cell phone app.

Crouching Toddler, Hidden Gun

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

When my daughter was 2, she had a friend from preschool named Jake. They loved to play together. His mom would bring him to our house, or we would go to their house. Sometimes, I’d drop her off and Jake’s mom would watch them both while I ran a few errands. Well, okay, she would sit downstairs with a cup of coffee and the newspaper, while the 2 little ones played together upstairs. If she heard a crash or crying, she would go investigate. (As much as I would have preferred she sit up there and keep an eye on them, I certainly couldn’t begrudge a mother a few minutes to relax.)

One sunny afternoon when the kids were running around our backyard, the mom and I sat watching them and chatting. I had just read an article in a parenting magazine about kids getting a hold of guns in the house, and the devastating consequences that often followed. We were both concerned about the issue. So I said to the mom, “You don’t have any guns in your house, do you?”

She replied, “Actually, we do. Steve keeps one in the bedroom.”

Oh. Well, this was something I had not known. Okay, processing the information… I continue. “But it’s not in any place where a child can reach it, is it?”

Thinking, she said, “Yes, it is. It’s in the closet.”

I gulped and stammered, “Um, on a high shelf, right? Or in a locked box?”

God bless her for her honesty. But she revealed, “No, it’s actually right there in the middle. And Jake’s a climber, so he could certainly get to it.”

By now, my breathing had gotten quick and shallow. One last question would show I had nothing to fear: “But, it’s not loaded, right?”

She shrugged, “It is. Steve says there’s no point in having a gun if it’s not ready to be used at any moment.”

Things are rather a blur after that, but as I recall, that playdate ended soon after. When I thought about my precious little girl playing upstairs in her friend’s house, with no adult watching them… and thinking about how curious they could be at that age… and that bedroom closet just down the hall…. My blood ran cold.

Jake continued to come to our house any time the kids wanted to play together, but I never let my child play in his house again unless I stayed right there with them the whole time. Jake’s mom thought I was overprotective, and couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t prefer to take a few minutes to enjoy a cup of coffee and some friendly chat down in the kitchen.

To my detriment, I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that I was scared the kids would go “exploring” and find the gun, and someone–quite possibly my baby–would get shot. I couldn’t think of a nice way to say, “I think it’s crazy/irresponsible/downright dangerous to keep a loaded gun where a child can access it!” So, I didn’t tell her why I felt compelled to stay with the kids. I just stayed–or insisted we have the playdate at our house, where there were no guns. I was afraid she’d think I was calling her a bad mother for keeping a loaded gun in her home where her little boy could find it. After all, she wasn’t worried about it; why should I be?

I knew she loved her boy. She adored him! But you know what? Keeping that gun loaded and basically out in the open, just sitting on a closet shelf, was stupid. I’m not saying she was a bad mother. But I am saying that was a reckless, naive, dangerous thing to do. And I couldn’t allow my child to be in such a risky environment.

What should I have said to the mom back then? What can you say if you find yourself in a similar situation, and just can’t bring yourself to say that you’re scared your child is going to get hurt? “My husband and I have a policy that our child is not allowed to play in a home that has a gun.” Or, if you’re single, “I know you’re a wonderful mom, but I have this thing about guns, and I just can’t let him/her play in a house that has one.” No accusations, no emotional outbursts. Just, “Sorry, can’t do that. How about this alternative instead?”

While I wish I had handled things more honestly and sensitively with Jake’s mom, I’m sure that I would do so now. I’m also sure that, as curious as kids are, it was just a matter of time before that loaded gun was found. And, as I’ve learned from my radKIDS classes time and time again, the first thing a kid will do with a gun is point it at themselves or another kid and pull the trigger.

Unprotected Through a Mine Field

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Last fall, on her short walk home from school, Somer Thompson was abducted by a child molester. Police found her body 2 days later, tossed into a garbage heap. Parents, friends, and neighbors were shocked that such violence could happen where they lived. They had chosen a safe place, a “good place” to raise their children. There were lots of families. Adults drove slowly because kids were always running around and playing outside. People knew their neighbors or, at least, recognized their faces. There was a feeling of trust. So, what makes a seemingly good, safe neighborhood dangerous?

Let’s take a closer look. Near Somer’s house, in between the mowed lawns and flower beds, stood an empty house that the kids walked past on their way to and from school. It was being renovated and prepped for sale. Are their any empty buildings in your neighborhood? As mobile a society as we’ve become, it’s easy to find vacant houses in just about any neighborhood. People need to move for their jobs, and sometimes, their house stays on the market longer than they expect. It’s simply a fact of life today. Even with a realtor’s lock on the front door, their are ways to get inside. Just ask any kid looking for adventure–or ask a bad guy. A building that stands empty for any length of time is an open invitation to criminals: “Here’s a hiding place. Just be quick about it; no one will see what goes on in here.” It’s a crime scene waiting to happen.

Who travels through the neighborhood every day? There are probably some at-home moms and maybe a few at-home dads, part-time and shift workers. There are the package delivery trucks driving in and out all day… letter carriers…. What about construction crews? A social worker friend shared this bit of info with me: the easiest way for a predator to move through an area unquestioned is simply to put on a hard hat. That’s it–a hard hat (easily purchased at home improvement stores or online), topping off a pair of jeans and a tee shirt, allows practically anyone to enter a neighborhood and look like he has a good reason for being there. Have you seen any new construction in your area lately? Have your kids?

Do you know your neighbors? Of course you do. But to find out some facts that may not come up at a block party or over coffee with a moms’ group, check out This site discloses the locations of registered sex offenders throughout the United States. It can be a real eye-opener.

I typed my address in and clicked Search. It showed me, on a map, the locations of the homes of 38 registered sex offenders in my area. When Somer Thompson’s neighbors did the same, the search brought up the names and locations of 162 registered offenders. 162 within a 5-mile-radius of her home. What they thought was a friendly, safe community turned out to be a veritable mine field, where innocent children walked daily among dangerous predators.

The point of all this is not to scare parents, not to declare that “no place is safe!” It’s to advise you to be aware. Dangers exist everywhere. You don’t have to raise your kids in a bubble; you can let them out of your sight for periods of time. Just teach them how to navigate safely through the world. The outdated warning, “Don’t talk to strangers” not only scares kids needlessly; it can prevent them from asking for help when they’re in danger. Instead, walk their route to school with them and point out places along the way that they can go to for help if they need it: “There’s Mrs. Green’s house; pound on her door if someone is following you,” or “Run into that coffee shop and tell the cashier if anyone makes you uncomfortable.”

Teach them about grown-ups who ask them for help: “Can you help me find my puppy?” and “Can you tell me how to get to the park,” for example. This is a common trick used by predators to get kids to go somewhere with them. Make sure your children understand that it is not their job to help a grown-up; that’s for other grown-ups to do.

Another way molesters lure children is by offering the chance to watch tv and videos, or play with toys and electronic games. Again, let your kids know that if anyone tells them this, it’s a trick. They need to run for help to one of the safe places you’ve pointed out to them.

Don’t let your kids walk unprotected through a mine field. If something happens, it can destroy their life and yours. Empower them with the knowledge that they’re important and that nobody is allowed to hurt them. They’ll wear this knowledge like armor, and it will help keep them safe.

Punish Bullies AND Their Enablers

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Nine teenagers have been charged in the death of a 15-year-old girl in Massachusetts. What are their crimes? Formally stated, they include assault, violation of civil rights resulting in injury, criminal harassment, stalking, disturbing a school assembly, and delinquency. In plainer words… bullying.

These students of South Hadley High School took it upon themselves to continuously and enthusiastically torment their classmate, Phoebe Prince, over a period of months. The constant barrage of verbal, physical, and cyber-bullying destroyed Prince bit by bit. Desperate for an end to their incessant cruelty, she escaped the only way she could. Her little sister found her body hanging in the stairwell of their home.

Bullying is about power, about gaining and maintaining dominance over someone through the use of terror tactics. It’s vicious, undeserved, and inexcusable. And in Northampton, Mass., that power struggle is beginning to be set right.

Bullying tears at the heart, the spirit, piece by piece. If left unstopped, it can lead to the annihilation of the one targeted. And in this case, even that wasn’t enough to stop the bullying. On the day they learned of Phoebe’s death, how did her tormentors react? They left sarcastic comments on her Facebook page.

And what about the teachers and staff of that school? The District Attorney in the case says that, during the investigation, it became horribly clear that many adults working in the school were aware of the pain and humiliation dished out daily to Phoebe by her classmates. And they did nothing to stop it.

This, to me, is an even worse crime than those committed by the students. There is no excuse for standing by and allowing an innocent child to be hurt. None. Surely, this school has safety procedures in place, precautions taken so that a stranger cannot barge in during the day, wielding an axe and threatening harm to their students. It is, after all, their job not just to teach, but to provide a safe environment in which all the students can learn. Why any of them would stand around and watch a group of bullies engage in such vile and destructive behavior, and choose to do nothing to stop it, discipline the perpetrators, or at least, protect the victim, is beyond me!

Those teachers and staff members who knew, but did nothing? They have her blood on their hands.

How the Predator “Grooms” a Child via Computer

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

We know it happens; we hear about it in the news way too often. But what exactly does it mean that a sexual predator “groomed” a child over a period of months? How do they do that? What about the kid–were they just naive? Gullible? Stupid?? Can’t they tell when someone’s trying to pull one over on them? What are the child’s parents doing all this time? Aren’t they paying attention? Maybe they’re too busy. You want to protect your kids and need to know the scoop. So, let’s get real here, okay? Okay, this is real:

Sara, now 17, opened up an account on a popular social networking site when she was 12. All the kids in middle school had one, but even so, her mom was taking no chances. She made sure Sara used the computer in the family room, rather than have a laptop in her bedroom. She installed filtering systems and used the parental controls to block access to “unsavory” websites. She employed a tracking program so she would know every step Sara took online. And she warned Sara not to trust anyone she didn’t know personally, because there were dangerous people on the internet who preyed on the innocent. She did everything right to protect her child.

Sara recalls, “For the first few months, I only talked to my friends online because Mom had asked me to stay safe,’ she says. ‘But then, I accepted the request from a guy I didn’t know to become his ‘friend’ online because I could see we had mutual friends on the website.” (What she didn’t realize was that none of her friends knew him either. They just “friended” him because he asked.)

She continues: “They hadn’t mentioned anything bad about him, so I thought it would be all right to talk to him, and we started chatting online every evening. Whenever I was on the internet he would be there, asking about my day and what I’d done at school.”

Right there. That’s how it happened. Sexual predators are some of the sneakiest, cleverest, most manipulative criminals out there. And this one smoothly convinced a 12-year-old girl to let him into her home and into her life. Sara explains, “I really believed that he was my friend and that I could trust him – he made me feel so secure.”

After a few months of benignly chatting about school, he began to ask her more personal questions–sexual questions. Then, questions turned to requests for her to perform sex acts in front of her webcam technology. She says,”He started pressuring me. I was so naive that I felt I had to do these things for him because he’d been such a support to me. I didn’t want to, but whenever I said no, he’d say: ‘Nobody has to know.'”

When Sara realized that something wasn’t right about her “friend,” she attempted to escape the relationship. “I tried to avoid talking to him but… he followed me to other websites. Whenever I set up a profile on a different social network, he’d find me there. He was really persistent.” Worse, now that she’d angered him, she feared for her own safety. In their early days of getting to know one another, she’d told him where she lived–in spite of her mother’s warnings not to reveal any personal information on the internet. She worried that he would find her and harm her.

Sara’s mother watched as her child deteriorated. She couldn’t sleep and refused to eat; she became irritable and withdrawn.  Finally, in despair, she revealed to her mom what had been happening, and they immediately went to the police. The predator was arrested, tried, and imprisoned. But Sara still suffers the consequences of his actions. Due to falling victim to a sexual abuser, she has a strong distrust of strangers, she is unable to make eye contact when speaking, and most of all, experiences a pervasive fear and sense of loss of control. And this is a girl whose mom did everything right.

So what can you do? Ban your kids from using a computer? That’s going to be tough, since schools have students doing internet research for homework as early as 1st grade, and even preschools are bringing computers into their classrooms for 3-year-olds to become familiar with. Just keep checking in with your kids, standing over their shoulder when they’re at the keyboard (they love that!) and asking, “Who’s that? How do you know him/her?” Find out who they’re talking to. Go over everyone on their “friends” list; if there’s someone who you think doesn’t belong there, delete them–and check to make sure they don’t come back. If someone is communicating with your child and you think they shouldn’t be, or that the communication is inappropriate, don’t take chances with your child’s well-being. Contact the police. Nothing matters more than keeping your child safe from some of the sneakiest, cleverest, most manipulative criminals out there.



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Bullies Leave Lasting Scars

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Kids who were picked on while growing up become adults with health problems. A new study finds that former targets of school bullying experience anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, fatigue, muscle pain, and even increased likelihood of catching colds in far greater numbers than their non-bullied peers. Doctors have known for years that chronic stress is debilitating to one’s health. The results of this study lead them to conclude that, over time, the daily strain of enduring threats and taunts causes permanent damage to bullying victims’ bodies.

There have been many tragic stories in the news of children and teens who have ended their lives to escape the ongoing personal destruction inflicted on them by bullies. This has led to a realization on the part of parents, teachers, and school officials that bullying is not just part of growing up, and not something kids should simply “learn to deal with.” As radKIDS Executive Director Steve Daley explains, “Bullying is not ‘kids being kids.’ Bullies are predators; therefore, bullying must not be allowed to continue.”

So, what can we, as concerned parents, teachers, and child advocates, do to protect kids now–and for the rest of their lives? Well, we need to stop doing what has never worked, which is telling victims to stand up to the bullies, to fight back. If it were possible for them to do this, they wouldn’t be getting picked on in the first place.

Bullies choose their targets through a complex process, winnowing out those who would readily defend themselves verbally and/or physically. They zero in on kids who, by their very nature, will not stand up for themselves. Bullies determine who they can hurt, and when and where they can get away with it. Therefore, advising victims to fight for themselves is as ineffective as telling them to ignore a slap in the face; it’s useless because they simply cannot do it.

What can they do? The most effective way to stop bullying seems to be to increase the targets’ self-confidence. That’s where we, the caring adults in their lives, come in. Child behavior experts have found that the fastest way to improve kids’ belief in themselves is for them to get good at something they’re interested in, be it running track, acting in the school play, joining the math club, or exploring some other area that excites them. Joining these activities not only helps them develop a new facet of themselves, but it brings them into the company of other, like-minded kids. Thus, a support network is formed.

Also, in our efforts to rebuild what bullies have broken down, we must attend to kids’ damaged self-esteem. We need to tell them, over and over again if necessary, that they are not to blame for the bullying; they have done nothing wrong. As kids become more self-assured and understand that they did nothing to invite abuse, they become less-satisfying targets. Eventually, bullies must seek a new target or modify their own behavior.

Real-Life: Not-A-Stranger Danger

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Scanning the national headlines this morning, the first thing I read is this: More than 100 Could Be Victims of Pediatrician. Setting aside concern for what the actual number of children violated by this doctor may be, the point I want to draw attention to is that this man was not a stranger to them. As their doctor, he was someone they were familiar with–and he held a position of authority in their eyes. And he used that authority to help him commit his crimes.

Parents, you are in charge of your child’s safety and well-being. You know this; I’m not telling you anything new. What I will recommend, though, is that you do not leave your young children in the hands of an adult you do not know very well. If your child’s doctor or dentist says, “We prefer to bring the child back for the exam and have Mom or Dad stay in the waiting room,” they may have perfectly legitimate reasons for that. Or, they may want to separate a child from the best caretaker they have. My response to this practice has always been either, “No thank you, I’ll go back, too,” or “Thank you anyway; we’ll go somewhere else.”

Frequently, a concerned parent will come up to me and ask if my classes will teach their child to “Beware of Stranger Danger.” While I assure them that we do cover this quite a bit in radKIDS, I also want them to understand that, very often, it’s not the strangers that they need to watch out for. The danger may well lie with the people their kids already know–especially when those people hold a position of authority over children. This can include teachers, clergy, police officers–adults in general. Children are taught to “respect” their elders and do what they are told. But what does that mean? Is respect demonstrated by blind obedience?  By quietly acquiescing and allowing oneself to be belittled, injured, raped by someone with a sick mind? If a child unwittingly finds him/herself alone with someone who wants to harm them, are they forbidden from protecting themselves?

I believe we must be careful in what we teach our children. They want to please us and do what we tell them. Therefore, we must tell them that it’s okay to protect themselves if they feel they’re in danger. More than okay, it’s important. They need to know that they’re valuable, that they’re worth fighting for, and that no one has the right to hurt them. Not a stranger, not a neighbor, family friend, babysitter, teacher. Not even a doctor.

And Strangers Aren’t All Bad Guys

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

In my last blog entry, I talked about how the Bad Guy isn’t always a stranger. So, teaching kids about Stranger Danger and painting anyone they don’t know with an “evil” brush doesn’t help them as much as parents might think. First, as I mentioned, it becomes confusing if a neighbor or “friend of the family” takes indecent liberties or otherwise tries to hurt them. The child doesn’t think, “Stop touching me; I don’t like it and I’m going to tell!” but rather, “This person is our friend, so this must be okay.”

Second, it doesn’t prepare a child to look for help outside of a known circle of adults. What if your young son or daughter is in an open, public place—the movies, a playground, even a store—and the accompanying adult steps away momentarily? Maybe they want to make a call, go to the restroom, or ask the salesperson a question. And what if your son or daughter is then approached by a predator?

Your child may be able to run away. But who will he run to for safety? Who will she tell to call 911?  Kids need to be taught how to pick a safe stranger out of a crowd, especially if they’re alone or just with other kids. Having their own cell phone isn’t the answer. Having sound judgment and knowing how to make smart choices is.

There are ways to choose whom to go to for help in a crowd. They’re simple and clear, and kids understand them. We teach them in radKIDS because knowing who to go to for help can help save a kid’s life.