Is it time to stop teaching our kids about 'Stranger Danger' and instead tell them how to spot 'Tricky People'?

Is it time to change what we teach children about strangers? [Photo: Pixabay via Pexels]
Is it time to change what we teach children about strangers? [Photo: Pixabay via Pexels]

“Don’t talk to strangers!” It’s the safety rule that our parents drummed into us and now we repeatedly tell our own children. But is that still the right advice to be giving our little ones? One mum doesn’t think so.

In her blog, Time Well Spent, Jodie Norton explained that a certain safety rule about identifying “Tricky People” that she taught her children years ago may actually have saved their lives. And now she wants to encourage other parents to share the advice with their own children.

The incident, reported by Netmums, occurred one morning after the mum of four became crippled with unbearable abdominal pain. Deciding she needed to go to hospital, she took her four kids with her but arranged for her two eldest children- aged 10 and eight – to be picked up by a neighbour outside the A&E.

Jodie had mistakenly assumed her neighbour was coming from home and would be around five minutes, but she learned later that her children had been alone outside for around 40 minutes.

“Their story of what had transpired while I had stupidly left them out there alone made me simultaneously sick and grateful,” Jodie wrote in her blog.

For while the boys were waiting, they were approached by three strangers who tried to persuade them to go into the hospital toilet.

“They were approached by an adult female and two punk males who asked them if they’d help them out by going into the bathroom where her boyfriend was hiding from the doctor and see if they could convince him to come out and get treated,” the mum wrote.

Her eldest son politely declined to go, but the strangers were persistent. “Please? You could really save his life if you’d just go in that bathroom and tell him it’s safe to come out,” they pressed.

But the boys stood their ground and continued to refuse. It was only later when her sons were recounting their story that Jodie understood why they hadn’t gone off with the strangers.

It boiled down to an old rule she had taught the children years ago about how to identify a ‘tricky person’.

“Mum, I knew they were tricky people because they were asking us for help. Adults don’t ask kids for help,” her eldest son had explained.

Should we be teaching children about identifying 'tricky people'? [Photo: Negative Space via Pexels]
Should we be teaching children about identifying ‘tricky people’? [Photo: Negative Space via Pexels]

This simple rule was enough to alert the boys to the fact that the strangers they’d met might not be genuine and now Safely Ever After, the parents and kids safety programme behind the concept wants to encourage other parents to teach their kids the rule.

They believe we should stop telling our children not to talk to strangers, as they might need to talk to a stranger one day. Instead we should teach them which sorts of strangers are safe.

As Jodie points out in her blog “If a safe adult needs help, they’ll ask another adult. Not a kid.”

Time to switch up the stranger safety rules parents.

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