By now, your child is probably pretty used to hearing the word "no." He's probably even pretty adept at saying it, too. But, as your child gets older, he's going to need some basic safety lessons, and saying "no" is a big one. We intentionally school our children to avoid saying "no" to adults. We tell them they have to obey adults and that saying "no" is rude and inappropriate. However, there are some situations – situations we hope our children will never encounter, but that we have to prepare them for – where a very loud "no" may be called for. As early as possible, it's important that we begin discussing stranger danger with our kids. Part of this discussion should be what to do when your child encounters a dangerous situation.
Many parents use the word "bad" to describe someone who could hurt their child. For instance, we tend to say "stay away from the 'bad" man," or "he's in jail because he's a 'bad' buy." The problem with using the word "bad" to refer to people who can cause harm is that we use it for so many other things. We say "bad dog," we tell kids that doing something wrong is "bad," and we throw away food that has "gone bad." All these references of bad can confuse children. Obviously, everything that's bad won't hurt us. And, obviously, we don't want our children to thing that all "bad" things are on the same level. After all, someone who is in jail for murder did more than break a vase. For this reason, it's a good idea to differentiate between strangers and safe strangers, and between what's really bad and what's harmful.
Teach your kids about stranger danger. Also, teach them what to do when confronted with situations that signal danger or in which they might feel uncomfortable. In addition to the standard kidnapping scenarios, make sure that your child understands the limitations of touching. And, teach them the difference between strangers and "safe strangers." Safe strangers are strangers who you can trust. A policeman, firefighter, and teacher can be classified as a safe stranger. Your child can be taught to seek out these safe strangers when he needs help. When your child encounters someone or something that either meets the definition of an unsafe situation or in which he feels uncomfortable, teach him that yelling the word "no" is absolutely appropriate. In such situations, all bets are off. Tell your child to kick, yell, scream – anything to get the attention of the adults around him. Kids that fight back – loudly – are less likely to become victims.