Folks! This essay comes to us from Glen Evans, a 22 year police veteran and father of four. In 2004, a man in a car pulled up to his son and said some strange things. Instead of freaking out, he and his kids developed what he calls “a program to teach his kids how to handle creeps.” He likens it to cops learning how to use a gun. Most likely, they’ll never need it. But knowing what to do in an emergency makes them not just prepared, but confident. Once parents see how smart and assertive their kids can be, they gain confidence, too. Being a cop has not stopped Glen from letting his kids lead “fun, free, and adventurous lives,” He blogs at childsafetyfun.com.
WHEN YOU CALL 911 YOU GET ME, by GLEN EVANS
The government has done a good job of programming people to call them for everything. Being a street cop for 22 years, I have witnessed America’s slide from self-reliance to dependence in incremental steps.
The invention of 911 has been a good thing and undoubtedly has saved many lives, prevented crimes, and has aided us in apprehending dangerous people.
It has also revealed an embarrassing lack of critical thinking and common sense among some who call the police for everything. My favorite 911 call is the unknown problem call.
You haven’t lived until you have rushed to a capable citizen’s home to discover they want you to change the channel on the TV, take out their garbage, guide them out of their house when a tree has fallen and blocked the front entrance. (HINT: Go out the back door), or to tell a kid they should wear a helmet while jumping a bike over a ramp.
It has also led to a convenient tattle-tale machine, which allows helicopter parents to report non-helicopter parents anonymously if they observe behavior they don’t agree with.
SPEED DIALING THE COPS
I have actually responded to calls like a parent yelling at their kid in a store, leaving pre-teen kids in a car while they go in to shop, or allowing them to stay home alone with (YIKES!) no parent at home.
If yelling at your kid in a store has become a crime, I am in serious trouble. In the interest of full disclosure, I have also allowed my 10 year old daughter to stay home with younger siblings for a little while.
I haven’t gone to jail yet, but if Children’s Services shows up at my door, I take comfort in the fact the statute of limitations has probably expired.
While I am required to answer every call under the heading of service, I find these types of calls a bit annoying, especially when I arrive and find a smart kid who has exercised his Constitutionally free choice to climb a tree, or hold a boxing match with his buddies in the front yard.
WHAT AGE CAN I LEAVE MY KID ALONE?
One question I receive from many parents is, “How old does my child have to be before I can leave them home alone?” Having come from a generation of latchkey kids, where 8 year old kids could walk home alone, unlock a door, and watch TV until mom or dad came home from work, I’m never sure what I should say. So I always ask, “Well, how old do you think your child should be?” They usually answer 10 or 11. I tell them that since they are the child’s parent, they would probably know the best age to allow this.
Parents are afraid. Along with the daily media reminder their kids might die tortuous deaths, they also worry they might end up in jail if they allow their kids to walk to school alone.
All of this can be solved by applying good, old-fashioned common sense and a balanced approach to safety.
A PRETTY SAFE WORLD
Having taught thousands of parents and kids simple, common sense safety techniques, I have learned that they all want reassurance that the world is generally a safe place with very nice people in it. In spite of being a cop for 22 years, I still believe it is.
I teach them that most strangers are great people who are very helpful, but give them a few techniques to bolster their confidence and give their minds a rest knowing they will probably never need their skills, but if they find themselves in a jam, they know what to do.
After the seminar, I hope they go home and let their kids go out to play past the time of the street lights going on and to live full, fear-free lives.
I want parents to apply the advice from modern sage Ron Popeil of Ronco Chicken Rotisserie fame: “Set it and forget it!”
Once you know you have taught your kids self reliance skills to handle unlikely scenarios, you can go back to living your life knowing you did your best and covered the important bases with very simple plans.
WHEN YOU REALLY SHOULD CALL 911
Here is a simple guide for 911 and use of your local police department. If someone is bleeding or about to die feel free to use it, we would love to help.
However, if your neighbor’s kid is doing something they shouldn’t be doing, refrain from calling the police, unless bleeding or about to die criteria apply, and let their parents know what you saw and trust they will do the right thing.
But be careful, you might have to actually talk to your neighbor, which may lead to them reporting your child’s behavior to you. And that kind of old-fashioned communication may lead to neighborly relationships and co-discipline agreements amongst neighborhood parents — all letting their kids play outside.
Imagine that. – G. E.