How to Avoid a Chilling Scenario – What Teaching Safety is All About
By Miko Peled
6th Degree Black Belt
Founder and Chief Instructor, Martial Arts America, Coronado
I want to share a few thoughts that came up as a result of a conversation I had with a very dedicated parent who took the time to write to me and express some genuinely productive ideas. From where I am sitting, parent input is always appreciated. Those of you who have written and spoken to me about things know how much I appreciate it. This parent said this: “I was at the park and children who I do not know came up and talked to me. What should I do?”. The thought of children walking up to a complete stranger and talking to them gives me the chills. Obviously their parents did not drill them in what we call Rule Number One: Never Talk to Strangers.
In response to numerous requests from parents in Coronado and in the aftermath of the horrible child abductions we too often hear of, we at Martial Arts America have been swamped with requests for safety classes. Martial Arts America is hosting a free Stranger Awareness class at the end of the month and we hold mini sessions for small groups and individuals as well as working with Coronado schools to implement a few ideas to benefit all Coronado kids.
There are two myths that I want to dispel right off the bat: the first myth is that only small children are prey to predators and that older kids are somehow safe. The second myth is that predators somehow act in a random fashion. They don’t. Predators look for their prey, they stalk and they act when it is convenient for them.
When we teach our children about strangers, we say (or if we don’t then we should) Rule Number One is Never Talk To Strangers. When we explain rule number one, never talk to strangers to a 4 or 5 year old, it is entirely different from when we explain it to an 8 or 10 or 15 year old. Older children understand differently so while young children are taught to memorize the rules, older kids need to go beyond memorizing the rules. We need older kids to understand that the way a predator gets to kids and manages to abduct them is by building trust and trust is built through conversation.
It is less likely that someone will grab a child and run. It is more likely that someone with ill intentions will try to develop trust. This is done over time. The predator will “accidentally” bump into a child somewhere by the school, perhaps, and just say hi and wait for a response. If the child responds, that means success. Then the predator who may look like just another parent (or may even be another parent) will seek that child again, perhaps at the park this time and say hi again. The result of these “accidental” meetings is that after the second or third meeting, this person is no longer a “stranger”.
Eventually, they will strike up a conversation with the child and that is the trust that will allow the predator to eventually lure a child into his car or house. This is the chilling scenario we want to avoid at all costs. It would be very difficult for any child, young or old, not to fall into this sort of a trap.
Abduction is rarely a random occurrence; predators take their time and look for easy prey. A child who understands this is more likely to look away and not respond when approached. So when we say never talk to strangers to a 10 or 12 or 17 – year – old, I explain this and they have a better appreciation of what it means and what scenarios might occur if they do not follow this rule. Once eye contact is made and a conversation is struck with a predator, it is a slippery slope from which few kids are able to turn back.
The reality is that we are preparing our children for something that we hope will never occur but we know how important it is so we need our children to be aware and to practice. At Martial Arts America, we go over this again and again so that this is etched into our students’ memories. We also encourage parents to talk about this at different times and in different places so that children understand how important it is.
Our next Free Stranger Awareness class is on Thursday, August 30 either at 3:15pm or 6:00pm. To reserve a space for your child, call us at
619-435-8223, visit us at 1005 C Avenue (corner of 10th and C Avenue in the Crown Shops), or download a registration form from our website at www.coronadokarate.com.
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