Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Fear : Bad or Good?

Is it good to instill fear in our children to protect them? For them to protect themselves? Can we educate even the youngest of preschoolers too much, enough to put them at risk?

As parents, we want to what is right, so what is it? We are to learn them that talking to strangers is bad, wrong, even dangerous. Yet we are to encourage them to know where they live. This is a double-edged sword of sorts. We also want them to be polite, kind, warm, respectful and courteous (to name a few) but only to certain hand-picked pre-approved individuals. Whatever.

I have been learning a lot (a little to much?) lately due to my involvement with the
Missing Children's Network. I have attended a couple of educational seminars. This is what has me thinking.

Example: today we are walking in a small, local mall. An elderly woman walks up beside us, looks down at one of my boys and asks, "What's your name?" No hello, good afternoon, or acknowledgement to ME HIS MOTHER if it was alright to chat it up. It was so quick and rather abrupt, it almost disturbed me. He stops and blurts out his name, she asks the brother, he does the same. She said "Those are nice names" and off she went. Does that sound weird? I am not too concerned since the safe haven part of this mall is that 98% of the patrons are senior citizens. BUT...had she proceeded to ask "Where do you live?" The odds are very high the answer would be: our street address, followed by city and "Air Canada" (which fyi is the country in which we live, at least in our house).

At one of the seminars, a book that was recommended to us as parents, for the children is
The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers. Ya right, sounds harmless enough, right? This book is scary. S-C-A-R-Y. I won't read it to them for another year, at least. I shared my comments with the librarian, and even she reiterated my concerns by telling me she has known this book to put some anxiety in a lot of children. I have to believe that I can educate and protect my kids without scaring the crap outta them.

I was discussing this with a friend earlier today and she brought up something else. This has never been a problem in our house, but her almost three year old twin girls got freaked out at Dr. Seuss'
The Cat in the Hat cause the Mommy left. She left her children alone and took a walk down the street. I never thought of that, but apparently this genuinely disturbed both of those sweet little girls (potential marriage material for my boyz) enough that their Mommy is waiting another year before trying that one again.

What is needed is self-esteem, confidence and pride. We need to ensure that our children have as much of each of those characteristics as possible. It is felt that 'bad guys' don't go after the kiddies walking with their heads up high, among friends, or skipping while happily singing a tune. They want the feet dragging, head bent over with scowl on face kids.

I could go on and on, but this is on my mind now. Last night I attended a speaking engagement where
Barbara Coloroso presented for two hours. It was very good. She touched on so many things, the main intention is what we already know. Our kids deserve every extra hug, touch, pat, high five, kiss, cuddle, praise, congratulations, no matter how insignificant whatever it is may be. Out.


Blogger BeachMama said...

Interesting Nancy. I am always amazed at the amount of people (and not just seniors around here) that think it is ok to talk to your kid without acknowledging you the parent. When somebody does that to my, my protective instincts take over and I say "we shouldn't talk to strangers". I usually get funny looks but, I am used to that since I would attack strange people that touched my baby!

My Mom told me that she was like that so I informed her that she needed to change. I don't want to scare J so I will wait before reading the Berenstein Bears. But, we do read "The Cat in the Hat" and so far, he is ok that the Mom isn't there. Go figure.

6:01 AM EST  
Blogger nancy said...

I didn't mean to stereotype or judge ALL people (strangers) that talk to us, but that was the first time in many that made me feel a little uncomfortable. Usually the 'old folk' in that mall are very courteous and always introduce themsleves first, or at least say "Good morning" or the like.

My guys also don't seem to be bothered with the Mom leaving in the Cat in the Hat book, they are just more interested in all the mischief he is getting into.

7:58 AM EST  
Blogger Silver Creek Mom said...

You've both made me think. I will smile at a young child just because they are so darn cute. I think I will stop this. I have never spoken unless the parent spoke first.

Now I've read this book to Nathan and it has not scared him. (of course he is a strange duck my lovely little boy)

BUT I do stress that if they feel butterflies or BIG MOTHS in their tummy's not talk to that person. I have no problem with them talking to strangers as LONG as I am There. YOU Do not talk to people you don't know if Mommy or daddy is not there. Miranda still uses this method most times, and it has worked. AND I will not make my kids talk to someone if they do not feel like it. Miranda said one "Mommy I feel the butterflies" and I said ok and we excused ourselves and walked away. Something about that person bothered her and that was enough for me.

I think when we aren't talking about strangers we should tell them they are not mean looking and they are usually very nice people. If they are too nice then maybe you should not talk much. Never give out the address, just your first name. That's enough. Also one thing I did was tell my kids if you see them more than once and they keep talking tell mommy right away.

Oh I could go on, but I would like to know what the experts think. Very interesting Nancy. ( I Love Barbara, she is a very smart woman)

8:29 AM EST  

It's funny that your blog touched on strangers and children today. Yesterday after school my 13 year old daughter was walking to the corner store with a friend. As she walked out the door I said "Remember don't talk to any strangers." she looked at me like I had 2 heads. But I still felt good about reminding her.

9:49 AM EST  
Blogger Marla said...

You must be tapping into some communal anxiety that's been rearing it's ugly head lately. Yesterday I was talking with a friend about how to simply keep Josie from running away from me at a store or even a park. Or to come back to me when I said. We were at the farm, and she took off toward some stairs. I was explaining to the other mommy that I knew how to train dogs, but not kids and this was frustrating because she's got such great verbal skills at two, but not the self-control or comprehension to go along with them.

I went home and looked up some advice online (of course), and one piece came to the forefront everytime I Googled "how to (keep, prevent, stop etc.) toddler from running away". This lady's article says to tell kids that cars will EAT them if they run in the street, because toddlers don't understand words like "hurt, kill, maim, destroy". Well, in our house, there are no negative associations with eating, so I don't get how this is better.

But I agree, I need to teach her fear that something bad will happen when she goes away from me - but how to control fear? Good fear vs. bad fear? Yikes! I'll be wrestling with this for months.

But, as for strangers, since we work in a store and people often enter and ask her questions and I reallize we're vulnerable - I say to her loudly enough for them to realize what they did doesn't fly in 2006 "It's okay to be quiet around strangers, but you can just say Hello and that is polite enough." Because it's the evil people who seem nice in appearance or manner to children that I worry about; but a truly nice person will understand that protecting my daughter is more important than an answer to their question of her name and age. I want them to be aware that it's not a lack of manners (so I don't look like a bad parent) but that they are STRANGERS.

Being in the store did help her confidence and demeanor - she doesn't have the stranger anxiety that she used to where she cries and screams if they so much as look at her - but I like that whenever someone enters she runs to me first to see what they're doing in the store. I've always told her "it's good to check with me or Daddy."

10:35 AM EST  
Blogger Isabella said...

This is a very interesting topic, Nancy! When I was first starting to think about this, I got a book called "Protecting the Gift" by Gavin De Becker and it was really interesting, because it's written by a security expert and debunks some myths. It makes the point that talking to strangers is actually okay--after all we each model this for our kids day in and day out, at the grocery store at the mall etc. But what we really need to teach our kids is don't go anywhere with a stranger. The book is really excellent for dealing with all these issues, and I highly recommend it. It also has real statistics to help wade through the fear. For example, I believe I remember the statistic that a child is more likely to die of a heart attack ( a very rare event indeed) than to be kidnapped by a stranger.

8:23 AM EST  
Blogger DaniGirl said...

Great topic, Nancy! I've been thinking about this post for a bit (I originally read it through bloglines) and I think I'm going to percolate on this question for a bit more and then post my thoughts on my own blog - if you don't mind! (Lord knows I need the material!!)

Very interesting responses from everyone, too.

8:36 AM EST  
Blogger nancy said...

isabella - I got that book at the library just this week...just gotta hope I have the time to read it.

9:17 AM EST  

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