Cute or Depressing?


The girl is sooo cute. The parents are sooo worried. The message is sooo sickening:

Welcome to the world, little one! Let’s get rid of that trust thing RIGHT AWAY. DISTRUST is the name of the game. Start distrusting already! Soon you may have to save yourself from a terrible man. Cookies are good — men with cookies are bad. Remember: Your job is to be cute and DISTRUST!



Are irsaznzfeb
these parents really convinced that their child will be lured away? And that when this is attempted, she will have to “save” herself? Aren’t most kids this age pretty supervised?

I believe in teaching children not to go off with anyone, but this lesson strikes me as early and obsessive. I realize a million people are not seeing this video the way I’m seeing it. But…are you? – L


You've got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be carefully taught.


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24 Responses to Cute or Depressing?

  1. Lakshmi May 9, 2016 at 7:51 am #

    That depends on where you are from. In a Western country, you may not fear abuse as much. Where I live, I am justified in being paranoid – there is no age for rape.

    I have a daughter, who is 12 now. I am not an over protective tiger mom, no. But I taught my daughter the very same things when she was as young as the child in the picture. It killed me to kill her innocence so, but I had no choice. I was groped at when I was 5 years old. And I am not the only one.

    Don’t generalize.

  2. JT May 9, 2016 at 8:09 am #

    The tags for this post say ‘Japan’, this is not correct, they’re speaking Korean in this video..

  3. Emily May 9, 2016 at 8:37 am #

    Well, maybe “don’t trust strange men” is a bit of an over-generalization, but this child looks to be two, maybe three years old, so simple is best. Nuances and exceptions to the rule can be added on later, as she becomes old enough to understand them. What I see here is a little girl whose parents are teaching her safety rules early, so that they can feel confident in letting her play outside, walk to school, and roam the neighbourhood independently at a reasonable age.

  4. Shelly Stow May 9, 2016 at 9:16 am #

    But Emily, what if, when she is a “reasonable age,” she is safely playing outside or walking to school or roaming her neighborhood and she needs help? Maybe she falls and breaks something or cuts herself and is bleeding badly, and the only person nearby to help is — gasp! — a man. Will she be too terrified of a strange man approaching her to even give him her parents’ phone number?

  5. lollipoplover May 9, 2016 at 10:39 am #

    I guess the idea of Cookie Monster will totally blow this kid’s mind:

    (and the mom’s creepy *male* voice is shockingly similar to Cookie Monster’s)

  6. Crystal Kupper May 9, 2016 at 11:28 am #

    This might be a cultural thing. Girls are getting kidnapped for brides in China on a somewhat regular basis, thanks to the massively imbalanced ratios of girls to boys. I have a friend who works in an organization to prevent this in China, and she says it’s happening all the time there. Maybe it’s not so much about helicoptering this time?

  7. EtobicokeMom May 9, 2016 at 12:05 pm #

    I have a different reaction to this one.

    1. If they are teaching a girl this young how to properly handle strangers, they presumably think that she will be unsupervised at a fairly young age, which is a good thing, no?
    2. From what I read from the subtitles, the message being delivered is EXACTLY the message that Lenore and other free-range parents advocate, namely don’t GO ANYWHERE with strangers. Each question is very specifically about going somewhere with the person to do something that the child likes. And yes, that is exactly what we should be teaching our kids. Talking to strangers is fine, going somewhere with them is not.
    3. As another person posted here, there are some countries in this world where very cute little girls actually are at a much greater danger than in North America. Far eastern countries are amongst them, so it could be that the parents here are reacting to an actual danger and not an imagined one. (assuming that is where they are from, rather than being North Americans who speak another language with their child which is equally possible)

    I don’t see the video as so much telling her not to trust strange men as simply to not go off anywhere with them.

  8. EtobicokeMom May 9, 2016 at 12:08 pm #

    @Shelly – the parents don’t tell her not to talk to men. They don’t tell her not to give her parents’ phone number to someone if she needs help. They don’t tell her to be generally wary of strange men. They just tell her to say “no” if a strange man asks her to GO SOMEWHERE with him. Which is sound advice. The only thing wrong is that she shouldn’t go off with ANYONE, regardless of gender.

  9. BL May 9, 2016 at 12:16 pm #

    “The only thing wrong is that she shouldn’t go off with ANYONE, regardless of gender.”

    … regardless of age, as well.

  10. Liz May 9, 2016 at 12:26 pm #


    Really sad for this little girl, but naive of the parents for assuming all “bad” people are men. As I understand it, many traffickers use females to recruit.

  11. Jana May 9, 2016 at 12:38 pm #

    @EtobicokeMom: Exactly. That’s what my mom used to say to me. Male or female, just do not go with any stranger anywhere…

  12. Yocheved May 9, 2016 at 12:41 pm #

    I started teaching my daughter about this when she was 2. She has NO fear of strangers, and loves everyone on sight. She would be entirely too easy to lure because she doesn’t have the common sense G-d gave a hamster. (No offense, it’s part of a genetic disorder she has.) The only way I could keep her safe is to teach her how to read people, and to know the rules about not taking candy, and not going places with people.

    I told her it could be someone very nice looking, not a “scary” person, or even a lady. I told her that if anyone asks her anything, she should always say “Let me go get my mom, she can help”. I never wanted her to be fearful or distrusting, I just wanted her to understand the rules of polite society, and that good people do not try to take children away from their parents without permission.

  13. EricS May 9, 2016 at 12:57 pm #

    I hear you Lenore.

    @Lakshmi: That’s actually what most people do these days. They generalize. That’s why it’s pretty “normal thinking” that ALL unknown people should never be trusted. Especially unknown, single men. It’s not so much what you’re teaching, it’s HOW your teaching it.

    I’ve taught mine that there are some people you can “trust”, and some you can’t. And even with the ones you can “trust”, until they get to really know them, that trust is to be limited. Slowly, over time, I’ve also taught them how to distinguish those people. They talk to strangers all the time. But they never go off with them, or accept things from them without approval from us first. And we are always close by when they need assistance. And when we aren’t, we are confident that they know what to do. Children are incredibly smart. They are like sponges. They become the product of what we teach them. So what is it that you will teach them? And remember, YOUR fears, aren’t theirs. But it can easily be so if you instill it in them. And by doing so, you make them weaker in the long run, just so you can feel better about yourself. Parents. They can be pretty selfish. And that’s only because they’ve learned to be so growing up. 😉

  14. EricS May 9, 2016 at 1:04 pm #

    @EtobicokeMom: Watch the video again. The mother is generalizing. Which is not a good thing. She’s basically teaching her kid the right thing not to do, but at the same time, she’s teaching her that it applies to pretty much ALL males she doesn’t know. Which could be teachers, law enforcement, fire fighters, doctors, etc… Which, realistically, actually doesn’t make them any safer than real predators. Because there have been been/are teacher, law enforcement, fire fighter, doctor, etc…in jail for crimes against children.

    What she should have been teaching her kid as well, was to differentiate who would be ok to talk to, and who wouldn’t be ok. Doesn’t matter if they have cookies or ice cream. It’s the intent behind the actions. Do you think your a bad person? I wager not. But what if I were to teach my kids to distrust ANYONE they don’t know. And you say hello, because that’s the pleasant and courteous thing to do, and children run away from you out of fear. Is that a good thing? Now think about them growing up having a distrust for EVERYONE but their parents. You think they will get far in life? Exactly. 😉

  15. EricS May 9, 2016 at 1:08 pm #

    @Yocheved: Bam! Good for you. That’s how it should be. Keep it up. Your kid will grow up well rounded, and very adjusted. She will also the skills of reading people. That later in life, all this “thinking” and “assessing”, will just become second nature. And she’ll be able to deal with anything that comes her way. Without her parents being there.

    I always say, start them young. That way you’re not struggling to break the bad habits you’ve instilled in them, in place of good ones, as they get older.

  16. Papilio May 9, 2016 at 6:10 pm #

    Perhaps she should have asked a co-worker or something, because I bet all that kid sees is her mom offering to go eat cookies etc…

    Yocheved: “She has NO fear of strangers, and loves everyone on sight. She would be entirely too easy to lure because she doesn’t have the common sense G-d gave a hamster. (No offense, it’s part of a genetic disorder she has.)”


  17. Sara May 9, 2016 at 11:27 pm #

    So – not related to this post, and a little old, but I couldn’t see a response to it on your site. I do love what you are doing and totally agree with you – but also, I do see some legitimate points in here. I think she overstates your emphasis on parents (and implication that that comes at the expense of the kids), but I do think that the argument is better made in the current US zeitgeist as that it is GOOD FOR THE CHILDREN, not in terms of “parents’ rights.” I mean, a lot of parents are total dumbasses.

    Just food for thought. Maybe we do need to focus on it being about the kids growing up healthy. Keep up the good work.

  18. diane May 10, 2016 at 12:21 am #

    Sara – I read the article you linked to, and it made some good points. But I think the larger point is that parents know THEIR PARTICULAR KID best, not kids in general. And even allowing for some dumb-a** parents and a few truly harmful ones, parents know their particular child better than any stranger or agency, even ones staffed with professionals. There is so much individual variation in, well, individuals. The author in the patheos article relates a personal scenario involving what would happen with her kid if she left them in the car for two minutes, but that can vary greatly with someone else’s kids the same age. If we stick with foolish consistencies without engaging our brains and judgment, we will descend into a morass of inaction and fear.

    Yes, sometimes there is some oversimplification happening in this blog but by and large it does more good than harm, IMO.

  19. SKL May 10, 2016 at 12:58 am #

    Well I guess it is a positive if they think she may encounter a stranger without her parents right there. That means they are preparing her for a little independence, right?

    Something tells me she isn’t really convinced that she should say “no” to cookies / ice cream / swimming. 😉

  20. SKL May 10, 2016 at 1:17 am #

    I was a free range kid, and when I was her age nearly 50 years ago, my mom told me not to take candy etc. from strangers. I am not sure what is wrong with this message.

    As far as the gender, I don’t know Korean, so I’m not sure the translation is “strange men but not strange women.”

    Sometimes we used to use the term “bad guys,” which did not mean “just males.” For example, Carmen Sandiego was a “bad guy” (but not super bad, since she never actually let the kids get hurt). So if we were talking about things “bad guys” do to lure kids, my kids understood it to mean people of any gender having bad intentions.

    When I was about 6, my younger sister (4) and I were lured into the house of a guy across the street who most definitely had bad intentions. I knew we should not go, but my sister couldn’t resist the offer of hot chocolate and later quarters; and I went along because I instinctively felt there was safety in numbers. (When I realized what the guy was up to, I forced my sister to leave with me.) Goodies from bad strangers isn’t just a fairy tale.

  21. sexhysteria May 10, 2016 at 2:37 am #

    Hilarious and sad! A sick sense of humor.

  22. hineata May 11, 2016 at 6:55 am #

    Awww, forget strange MEN, I would happily run off with that little cutie, given half a chance ☺☺. Reminds me of Midge at that age, right down to the willingness to go off with anyone who looked fun ☺.

  23. JP Merzetti May 12, 2016 at 12:54 am #

    Some of the wisest people I’ve known in my life have been the most innocent – and that always makes me stop and ponder the correlation between the two.
    When smiley faced women become the only source of cookies and other good things to eat, then we perpetuate the myth of the human male grizzly bear.
    Teaching any child how to tap into their own gut responses (and pay close attention to their own understanding of what a “creep factor” actually is) can be a long and difficult process. Especially when (and this can easily be proven statistically) the greatest dangers show up in the form of people who are not strangers at all.
    “Don’t talk to strangers” doesn’t work a lick when the creep is a known relative or family friend.
    And isn’t it ironic – that in some circumstances, a complete and total stranger could actually be the best allie that a kid could have?

    In hardly a few dark moments, I’ve pondered that perhaps this methodology actually plays nicely into the hands of just such creeps – apparently, they’re supposed to be the trusted ones.
    I grew up believing that a kid’s best friend and best defence was their own smarts.

    And one other thing: kids learning to trust not only their own (well-developed) instincts – but also their own special and particular abilities to spread and share information amongst themselves (often done with no adults around.)
    We have become so quick to assume that this leads to mayhem, chaos, ineptitude and misinformation.
    Why is that?
    I heard some pretty dark stuff from friends when I was a kid. Stuff that parents and teachers didn’t talk about.
    Kids sharing secrets.
    And that….is a whole entire volume unto itself. Face-to face and heart to heart contact – amongst kids learning how to trust each other….in their own time and space that they have control over. Peer-pressure….getting replaced with peer understanding and acceptance (kinda like – we’re all in this together, guys….and who better than us understands what we’re up against?) ……I remember that.
    Why is it that such notions as these…these days, get about as much respect and traction as a Hardy Boy novel?

    Why is cute such a depressing thing?
    Should the opposite of cute (hideously ugly) be cause for ecstatic celebration?
    Has “cuteness” become it’s own worst mortal enemy?

    But that’s just it, isn’t it? Kids themselves don’t go so all gaga over cuteness….
    Big people do.
    And maybe it’s the big folks – that make cute so depressing.

  24. ViciousD May 12, 2016 at 1:23 am #

    Okay, first of all this is too young. She has absolutely no idea what her parents are trying to tell her and has the attention span of a well-fed goldfish to boot.

    Besides, is a two-year-old really smart enough that an adult cannot outwit her? Or strong enough that she cannot be coerced?

    Allright, that was the criticism, now for the constructive part.

    I very much enjoyed the advice Shava Nerad (a very nice and sensible person, gave, in regards to young people using the internet and communicating with strangers.

    If you want to pass advice to this journalist, here’s what the execdir of the Tor Project taught her son, and gave him free rein to use the net from I think about age six, in 1999. People tell their kids, “Don’t talk to strangers!” For some kids, maybe this is the right answer. For extroverted, curious kids, probably not. Why not talk to strangers? Just don’t grant them any authority. “Talk to strangers, don’t listen to them.”
    (1) Strangers are interesting. Feel free to talk to strangers.
    (2) Strangers are not trustworthy sources of information. Feel free to talk to strangers, but don’t listen to them too sincerely.
    (3) Strangers never have authority to tell you what to do. If Tyler and I delegate a stranger to give you a message, it comes with the family password. This password will never change without all three of us there in person, and anyone who tells you different is a creep.
    (4) Something feels weird, ask us. If you feel uncomfortable asking, that’s a bad sign. Bail out. This is a natural danger signal. Even if it’s interesting and uncomfortable (since, after all, strangers are interesting), bail.
    You have a long life ahead of you without the kind of trouble people can heap on you, but if you are clever, you can have adventures and stay safe.
    Just listen carefully to that voice inside about what’s right. It’s a hero’s voice. It will tell you when you are safe, and when to run, almost perfectly always, and if you ever get in trouble, just bail as soon as you can and come to us with anything — anything — and we will help.
    And it worked. He got to know thousands of amazing people (mostly through strategy gaming), many of whom had no idea how young he was, had incredible adventures, bailed on a few people who he “didn’t like at all,” and grew up with an amazing sense of assessed risk that completely surpasses any of his age peers, plus was being asked advice, for example, his freshman year at Norwich, on diplomatic studies papers by upper classmen, partly due to his exposure to so many people (and our rather extraordinary dinner conversations…).
    Helpful? I don’t think you can control the environment. But you can teach parents and children to deal with changing times bravely and in healthy ways.
    If a child lives next to the ocean, we can’t drain the ocean — but we can teach the child what the risks of drowning are, and how to swim — even better, how to use a boat and how to fish, and use a life preserver.
    We can say, “Oh, every time, I will go with my child. And I will keep the gate locked so the ocean can’t be reached.” But a curious child, once on a boat and knowing that freedom, will find a way to climb that fence. Far better to teach our children to sail safely, yes?
    If they stay in the garden, it’s all the same. If they go to sea, we are still good parents.
    Because regardless, the ocean will be there. It’s never ever going away

    So yeah. Teach kids what they can understand.