There are Five Safety Secrets that truly make kids safe. These Secrets set the foundation of true safety for a lifetime in children, and can do the same for your child.
These Secrets will also surprise you. They work quietly and effectively beneath the surface of your child's brain. If you use these Five Secrets, they will make any safety technique that much more effective. Without these Five Safety Secrets, your child will never be able to keep themselves safe. Ever.
Secret #1: Confidence.
Confidence and a positive self image are crucial in good child safety. Confident kids are less of a target for sexual predators. Not only do they stand taller and keep their heads up higher, they represent a problem, a less than easy victim for sexual predators.
Confident kids project "struggle" for any predator trolling for kids and more often than not, predators will pass them by. More often, predators will choose kids that appear weak and sad, a child in need of a friend. These are the kids that hang their heads, shuffle down the street and have a hard time looking anyone in the eye when they talk to them.
Confidence is a powerful deterrent.
And yet, there is something more, something deeper when your child is confident. Confident kids display certain structural changes, physical changes in their bodies that serve them better than kids that have poor self-images. Confident kids can control their physical movements a little bit better. At the same time, they can move more quickly and with finer control of those movements. We find confident kids can actually focus better mentally and for longer periods of time.
In other words, these kids are better equipped physically, mentally and emotionally to learn the actual safety techniques that could save them from sexual predators than kids that feel bad about themselves. Kids that hang their head, shuffle around, are tired or ill, cannot move with as much control or quickness or think as clearly as kids that are healthy and confident. A high degree of self confidence and a positive self image matter in good child safety.
Secret #2: Empowerment.
Empowering your child to take care of themselves is one of the most powerful Safety Secret you can learn.
When you empower your child, you truly teach them to make choices for themselves. When you mentor them as a parent you actually guide them into learning to make good, positive choices for themselves on their own. When they can do this, they will truly be safe for a lifetime.
In its simplest form, empowerment means your child feels like they have a measure of control over their life. They feel they can make their own decisions. Most kids don't feel this ability. Most kids do not have it, either. Parents and adults are constantly making decisions for children:
-When to eat
-What to eat
-When to get up
-When to go to sleep
-Where to go
-Who to go with
-What to do
The list can go on endlessly. Life for a child can feel completely out of their control. Kids will engage in a struggle with their parents to get some control of their lives. In doing so it usually comes across as conflict.
-No! I don't want to go!
-I don't like that!
-I'm not eating that!
-I don't want to!
-Leave me alone!
The Secret to empowering your child, even at the youngest of ages, is in giving them their own choices to make. Give them alternatives to situations in their lives, let them make some of their own choices.
This too, can be pretty simple. For example, instead of serving them broccoli, ask them to choose between carrots, peas or broccoli or another vegetable. Give them a choice to make instead of just putting one on their plate. Instead of the green dress, ask your daughter which one she would like to wear. Instead of forcing your child into the brown shoes, ask them which ones they would like to put on today.
These are pretty simple examples, but this about as easy as it gets in empowering your child. Giving your child choices is crucial in their development. It is crucial in their ability to keep themselves safe, too.
Making choices matters to kids. When you do this simple, easy thing, miracles will happen within them. An empowered child starts to feel good about themselves. And what would consistent, good feelings about themselves lead to? Confidence!
Will your child always make good choices for themselves? No. That is where you, Mom and Dad, come into the picture. You, as a mentor to your child, can guide them through the array of choices they will face. You can guide them and teach them about good choices and the benefits of making good choices for themselves. It is what safe kids are all about.
Secret #3: Catch Them Being Good.
When your child makes a bad choice, it's important for you to stay calm about it. Yes, this is easier said then done. However, it is critical in your child's ability to keep themselves safe, that you learn to take their mistakes in stride.
You have to spend more time and energy catching your child being good.
A subtle prodding towards better choices is more effective than highlighting, in a big emotional way, any bad choice they make for themselves. If you have to highlight negative behavior, be very careful in saying, "That was a bad choice," rather than "You are bad." Take care to say, "You can make better choices," instead of saying, "How stupid!" Things like, "You're a great kid but that choice could have been better," keeps your child's image of themselves solid and highlights the choice only, not them, as being bad. Your child is good, the choice is bad.
Building confidence, building a solid self image in your child, builds safety. Capitalize on this and highlight the good things they do more often than the bad things. As a matter of fact, focus on highlighting as many good things as you can rather than making a big deal about the bad things they may do.
Catch Them Being Good.
Positive reinforcement is a much stronger teaching tool and technique for child safety than negative reinforcement. Praise your child when you see them doing good behaviors. Lavish the praise and adulation onto them when they do really great things. This is also positive mentoring. This is channeling your child into learning how to make good, solid and positive choices for themselves. It builds and fosters that ever-so-critical confidence in themselves.
It is easier to notice the bad behavior. We are tuned by society to notice the negative and bad things people do. It is very easy to notice the bad things your child does. It is a focus of many parents, naturally. Reverse the trend and make your focal point the things your child does well. Positive reinforcement will teach your child to repeat those behaviors you want and make it easier for you to guide them into those good choices.
Secret #4: Listening.
Another crucial Secret in teaching kids to be safe is to let them know you are listening to them.
Listening to your child goes beyond the standard, "Yep. Un huh. Sure." These kinds of responses they get daily. True listening, the kind that allows your child to feel like they are really being heard and understood, is a special parenting skill.
Listening to your child happens in two ways: one, you allow them to say what they need to say, in their words, in their way, however they want to say it. It may be challenging to follow this advice, especially when your child speaks in disjointed sentences or jumbled words. They may take 5 or 10 minutes out of your busy day, but just let them talk without interrupting them. You can tell when it is important versus when they are just mumbling or making noise. Sit and listen to them. Take the time, make the time.
Two, listen to what they say without judgment. Even if you do not like what you hear, even if you feel upset by what you hear, listen to it. Be quiet, look them in the eyes with your full attention and simply listen to them.
Your child is coming to you. They need your attention. They believe at that moment you will listen to them. Do it. Reserve judgment and negative feelings about what they are saying for another time.
When you do this you are building on the future, on your child's safety. They need to feel, deep inside, they can tell you about anything. They need the security of knowing you will listen to them and what they have to say. If your child is threatened in any way, they will need to come to you, Mom or Dad, and tell you. That rapport and comfort for them needs to be established at a young age. You start by simply listening to them.
Secret #5: Repetition.
This last Secret is probably the most important of all. You must use it and apply it, day in and day out at home.
True learning for your child comes with repetition. That is your job. You need to do it at home.
Repetition does not need to be boring, either. Make games out of things you want to teach. Use fun words and phrases your child uses when talking about safety. Fold in your child's favorite toys, cartoon characters or things they like into activities you do several times a week. These are simple yet exciting skills for reinforcement activities. It's repetition with excitement. What a great way to learn for any child!
Working with our techniques is also something to do a few times a week. Stay away from daily practice routines as if this was a sport as this is the surest way to bore your child and lose their attention.
Make learning safety fun. Make it exciting. Fold in the whole family and enjoy learning about true safety for a lifetime together.
Joyce Jackson is a child safety expert in northern California. For her extensive website and information see Keeping Kids Safe and a free special report at STOP Predators COLD!