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Street-Proofing Our Kids: Rules to Protect Your Child from Possible Abduction

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Street Proofing Rules

With spring just around the corner, chances are our kids will be asking for a little more freedom than they had last year.  If you are considering allowing them the opportunity to develop their independence by walking to their friend’s house a few streets over or taking a small unsupervised trip to the park, be sure to “Take Time For Training” before you send them on their way.

When a missing child makes the news, every parent has the same thought flash through their mind: what if that was my child?  Unbearable thoughts. This is a good reminder that we should all talk to our children about street safety rules. 

First, some facts for parents. Most all missing children in Canada are taken by a non-custodial parent who could not gain access through
the court system. Random abductions are very rare indeed.  Canada is a very safe and friendly country.  Sadly, most harm that befalls children in our society is inflicted by their family and caregivers, not strangers.

Still, we need to teach our children safety rules and review them a couple of times a year.  Here are the rules every child should know, an abridged list from the Protective Parenting program created by one of my mentors, the late Larry Nissan.

1. I Won’t Go with Someone I Don’t Know

This is a rhyme your children should chant in their heads.  Have them say it out loud to you. Have them practice saying it out loud to another adult with assertiveness.  It’s a rule!  Children should not have to decide if a person looks like a nice person or a bad person.  It’s not their job to think, judge and assess. It’s only their job to follow the family safety rules.  

2. Adults Should Seek Help from Other Adults – NOT from Children

If an adult asks for help, go get another adult to help them. That means that even if they are old and have a cast or crutches and need help carrying their groceries to their car; even if they have lost their kitten and also have a picture of that kitten – don’t help.  Here is why: adults try to trick children, so children don’t need to think about how “real” the problem looks, they only need to follow the family safety rules. Adults seek help from adults, NOT children.  If you are asked for help, tell the adult you will help, by getting your teacher, or parent or some other adult to help them.

3. Never Display Your Name

Don’t dress your child with hats and t-shirts with their names on them.  It’s easy to convince a child that the adult knows them by using the child’s name.  Put labels on the inside of clothes, out of sight, but where they can be found if needed.

4. Family Code Word

Make up a family code word that ONLY your family knows, and keep it in your heads–no writing it down on paper to remember.   If someone needs to pick up your child for you, tell them the password and then create a new one since that one is now used up. Tell your child to always ask for the password if it’s not the pre-arranged parent picking them up.

5. Take Two Steps Back

Always keep two steps back from a car.  If a car slows down and asks for directions, take TWO STEPS back from the car. You can give driving directions from the sidewalk.  NEVER get into a car for any reason. Even if it’s cold or rainy and they can drive you a few blocks home.  Not even if they say your mom was in a car accident and they are supposed to take you to the hospital to see her and she didn’t have time to give the code.  Remind them that since these can be tricky, it not their job to evaluate the safety of situations, just follow the family safety rules!

6. A Weapon Means SCREAM, YELL, KICK AND RUN

Abductors are also cowards (why else would they be doing this?) and even if they threaten you, they will not chase you if you are running through a parking lot or screaming.  If they touch you, make a scene and shout at the top of your lungs:  “This is NOT my PARENT!”  This is even the case if they hold a gun. They don’t want to fire a gun in public and be noticed. 

About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

More about Alyson

15 Responses to “Street-Proofing Our Kids: Rules to Protect Your Child from Possible Abduction”

  1. Steven Baird

    By far, the most comprehensive program in Canada in regards to child safety, is the streetsmartkidz.ca program. Covering topics like internet safety, how to deal with bullies, what can happen if they run away, how to spot predators and much more can be found on this wonderful site and it will NEVER COST A DIME! This site is completely FREE. Put together by the OPP, RCMP, FBI, CHP, St. Joseph’s Foundation and many other Child Safety Experts, you will find I.D.Kits to Emergency Phone list. FREE.
    Steven Baird
    Managing Director
    Street Smart Kidz
    Canada
    streetsmartkidz.ca

    Reply
  2. Deborah

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.
    Deborah
    http://maternitymotherhood.net

    Reply
  3. Jasmin K

    This is great but we need programs that reinforce protection even with adults a chills knows. How many stranger abductions actually happen vs harm or even abuse by those people kids don’t perceive as threats?

    Reply
    • Edsy

      Exactly Jasmin. A good list here but not targeting the real danger, which needs to be highlighted in such a piece.

      Reply
  4. Alyson Schafer

    I couldn’t agree more! The family password would protect them from a family-friend abduction, but training for safety against sexual assault should be done IN ADDITION to this abduction training. Thanks for pointing that out to readers.

    Reply
  5. Ev

    Are you aware of any street proofing books geared towards children around age 8? I find if I communicate the message in a variety of ways, it tends to stick better.

    Reply
  6. Alyson Schafer

    Hi there,
    Thanks for the question. I suggest you ask your children’s librarian. They are such an under utilized resource to parents. They really know their stuff!
    Alyson

    Reply
  7. Karyn Climans

    Excellent advice that every parent should share with their kids!

    Reply
  8. Holly

    THanks for the tips.
    I always wonder about the family code word. Personally I won’t ever ask someone whom my children aren’t familiar with to pick them up. PERIOD. It’s better to get to know a couple trustworthy neighbor parents and build a back-up system with them, and of course my children will need to know them well and like them too, instead of using a word.

    Reply
  9. Holly

    THanks for the tips.
    I always wonder about the family code word. Personally I won’t ever ask someone whom my children aren’t familiar with to pick them up. PERIOD. It’s better to get to know a couple trustworthy neighbor parents and build a back-up system with them, and of course my children will need to know them well and like them too, instead of using a word.

    Oh I will add always try to notify the teacher/caregiver about someone else coming to pick up and let them inform my children too.

    Reply
  10. Hotel Booking

    An interesting discussion is definitely worth comment.
    I do believe that you ought to publish more on this issue, it
    might not be a taboo subject but usually people don’t speak about such issues.
    To the next! Kind regards!!

    Reply
  11. Kay Arre

    Just came across this. I need to have another conversation with my 4 year old. She said that she thought someone was nice because they smiled at her. I told her not everyone is nice and they pretend to be so they can get close to her and she can’t be too trusting.

    Reply
  12. Morgan

    At what age do you start discussing this with kids?

    Reply
  13. Kevin Jean

    The screaming yelling thing is very important and it even deters parents to some degree. My son doesn’t look like me (WIN!) so when he throws a fit, people start approaching until he yells “daddy” at me. I have a unsettled mix of paranoia and cultural pride with this.

    Reply
  14. Are Your Kids Ready to Walk to School Alone? | DigiWidgy.com

    […] Abduction by a stranger in Canada is exceedingly rare. Most missing children have run away from home or are taken by a non-custodial parent. Still, we have to ensure our children have safety rules to keep them safe from both people they know and don’t know. Check out the safety rules I suggest here. […]

    Reply

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