Due to the recent number of inquiries that I have received about protecting children from being kidnapped, let me talk frankly about protecting your children from being kidnapped by strangers, like the boys in Missouri.
Practice Positive Action - What "TO DO!"
Protecting children from being kidnapped by strangers is a great opportunity to apply Rule #1 from the Parenting with Dignity Curriculum.
First, it is necessary to decide exactly what you want your children TO DO! Then you must decide on a strategy for teaching them to do exactly as you said.
Telling your children, “Do not talk to strangers,” is actually pretty ridiculous! First it tells them what not to do but does not teach them a bit about what to do.
Next, it is really pretty silly to tell them to not talk to strangers because that would mean that they could not order a meal in a restaurant unless they know the waiter and they would not be able to get assistance from anyone in a store unless they knew them.
So, what would be a reasonable thing to teach a child?
1. Teach them to be cheerful and cordial with adults... BUT teach them to walk rapidly and immediately away from gifts offered by strangers. Teach them to walk rapidly and immediately away from offers of rides with adults. Teach them to Run, Shout, and Fight to foil abductions if they are ever grabbed by some person, even if the person is familiar to them! (Over 70% of child abductions are committed by someone that the child knows!) repeat this rehersal many times. (You are then applying Rule # 3 from Parenting with Dignity.)
2. Rehearse regularly with children, at as young an age as you possibly can, their vital contact information. Then repeat the process in many situations and settings. (By doing this you are again just applying Rule # 3 from Parenting with Dignity.) Have children say, out loud, to you, their phone number over and over regularly. (That recitation must include area code because if they are abducted and taken outside your area code, a seven digit number will do them no good.) Have them repeat your home address over and over until it is just like a part of their name. Have them include the city and state in their recitation of your address. Have them state, out loud, the complete names of both parents. Stating it out loud, and repeatedly insures that they really do know the complete names. Just think about this for a brief second; in the recent abduction of the two boys in Missouri, those boys were allowed access to computers and telephones. Teaching your children to dial your home phone number will help them to let you know they are in trouble and where they are. Practice dialing your number on your home phone. Have them call your home when you are at friends, and teach them how to leave a message on your answering machine. If those Missouri boys had simply dialed their own home number after their abduction, they could have been immediately rescued.
3. Practice precise “escape actions” with children. Like I said above, teach them to Run, Shout, and Fight. Teach them to shout, “I am being kidnapped!” at the top of their lungs. Teach them to run to the nearest adult and sream, “Help! Help!” Practice hitting at the arms of someone who is grabbing them and running at top speed away and toward the nearest person or house, all the while pointing at the potential abductor. Create possible scenarios with them and role play.
4. Have a "secret word" in your family. There are many uses for a "secret word" but teach your children that one use of the secret word is to communicate distress to you in a phone call. Teach them to include your secret word if they are ever abducted and are forced to call home and are forced to say that they are at a friend’s or that they are OK. Teach them that their abductor will not even know that saying the secret word will give you the distress signal but that it will get you activated to rescue them.
Please check back tomorrow for some tips for parental actions that can reduce the chances of having your children abducted.