Post 3 in Discipleship in Safety:
Explaining to kids who think everyone they meet wants to know their birthday and favorite color, that not everyone they meet is a good guy, is hard.
My three year old will be freely passing out hugs while my oldest is reciting our entire family's first, middle, and last names to the lady behind us in the check out lane. We've had to up our safety school training with all their friendliness.
Talking about good guys and bad guys almost comes naturally with kids, but the most important part of instructing is to never introduce fear, that's Satan's weapon. Our's is the Word of God. We start off our stranger safety school by reading Ephesians 6:12. I ask them, "is our fight with the man we don't know at the grocery store? How about the woman talking to us at a playground? How about the stranger knocking at our front door? No. God made these people, all the people we see. But the most important is what we can't see. That is where our fight is. We have to use wisdom and discernment to determine where the fight is. That's the only way we can recognize who is being used to fight on the bad side or not."
The Bible tells us to always have on the full armor, so we are always at ready. We can never let our guard down, not on playgrounds, grocery stores, Sunday school, friend's houses, or even playing outside our front door. We must always be standing firm. I talk about how the enemy is disguised and we won't always recognize bad guys. Our job is to recognize bad situations and foolish decisions that lead to them. I discuss a nice man asking them for directions or showing them his puppy. We discuss friendly strangers that say things like, "Your Mommy said it's ok for you to come with me..." or "I already talked to your Mom and she said it's ok if you want to come help me..." We talk about people in uniforms with badges even saying "it's ok to come with me". We rehearse until they know by heart the answers to all scenarios and little voices repeat what they would say, "No, I'm going to ask my Mommy," and then to come immediately and quickly to me.
As hard as it is, it's important to not stop there. What if that stranger persists and grabs at you or a sibling? We've gone into detail and much to their enjoyment they have permission to scream, kick, claw, fight, bite, writhe, hit, and punch while hollering at the top of their lungs, "You're not my mommy/daddy! Where's my Mommy/Daddy?!"
We talk about being polite to strangers in stores. While standing with Mommy it's ok to say "hi" to someone and answer their simple questions, but to obey mommy first time if I say it's time to move on. In parking lots the kids know to get into the car quickly not dawdling and leaving mommy in a precarious situation standing outside. At home we've trained the kids to not answer the front door without permission from mommy and daddy, no matter what; not even if it sounds important or if it's someone you know.
It's also important to develop a family code word to be used when a parent perceives a dangerous situation and needs their children to understand that it's time for their training to be utilized. The code word can be said if Mommy sees a stranger by their car in the parking lot, or a stranger is being especially attentive at a park, etc. The kids know when the code word is said it's gravely serious and they must not hesitate to do exactly as instructed after it's been said.
Just like training for sports, hobbies, or anything else you want to excel in, it's important to train regularly and often. We have safety school once or twice a week where we review all of these things. But the most important aspect in stranger training, is discipleship. Ensuring our children know where the real fight is, that they know how to identify the enemy and his tactics, and that they are equipped with the weapons to fight it. It's not about making them fear their surroundings and people they don't know. It's making them strong in their ability to take on the full armor and stand firm. They don't need to be scared of people they don't know, they need to grow in their discernment of recognizing bad situations. God created all the strangers we see. God loves each of those people. Our first mission is to be in prayer for all the people we interact with on a daily basis. But in the event the enemy uses one of these strangers for evil, we must have our children trained to respond and react.
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6:12
More 'Discipleship in Safety' coming soon: sexual abuse, who can kids trust, fire and home invasion drills...