“How to Spot a Predator” — Really?

Hi Readers — Still trying to figure out what part of this Circle fieddddbbd
of Moms
post,  “How to Spot a Child Predator”  irks me the most. It’s by a lady who was at a cafe and heard a man asking two third grade boys questions like, “What’s your favorite subject?” and “Who do you want to marry when you grow up?” He also asked them some math problems, so the lady immediately “understood” what she was hearing:

…like a thunderbolt, it hits me! Those boys are being groomed.

How exactly did she know he was up to no good? She trusted her gut. And now she wants the rest of us to trust it, too:

I wrote this so you’d read about the types of questions a potential predator uses so you can prepare your kids.

Please don’t scare your kids, but do talk to them. Use these, or examples like the, so your kids know what bad strangers ask .

…Except that there is no evidence whatsoever that this was a “bad stranger,”  or that these are the type of questions a bad stranger would ask! It’s like saying, “I would have been raped by the man in the grocery store  today if I hadn’t realized what he was up to! So I’m alerting the rest of you: If a man ever asks, ‘Do you know what aisle the paper towels are in?’ RUN! He is a bad stranger. Don’t thank me — I’m just trying to help!”

Uh…thanks. But no thanks. – L.

How can you tell if a man is a predator? Easy! If he’s male and nice to kids — he is!

150 Responses to “How to Spot a Predator” — Really?

  1. Lauren May 8, 2012 at 6:52 am #

    Wow — how horrifying that an adult expressed genuine interest in children! (Even though the marriage question is kinda goofy.)

  2. trepto May 8, 2012 at 7:00 am #

    We’re 32 weeks along with our first, and my (admittedly scruffy (: ) husband is terrified that someone in a public place is going to mistake his happyglow when he sees kids doing adorable things for him being a creep. He tries to save his “dwee” moments for when they’re out of sight, but it makes him a little sad that he can’t compliment children on their manners or grasp of language or even their socks without the risk of security being called.

  3. Layne May 8, 2012 at 7:00 am #

    Wow. The author had no proof or facts and pinned the guy in a less than five minute conversation that he was indeed, a predator. She didn’t mention if she had any training, either. The internet makes us all experts, I suppose.

  4. Uly May 8, 2012 at 7:16 am #

    A stranger asked my nieces the EXACT SAME QUESTIONS last week! OMG!

    …because he’s a kindergarten teacher (used to teach fourth grade) and was interested in seeing a small child* doing long division. We had a nice, amiable chat about the different math curricula and it turns out he’s one of the ones who helped set up the nieces’ school.

    * Ana’s in the third grade, working slightly ahead of the curriculum in her “extra math” book in this area (but behind it in terms of fractions), but she’s very small so people often think she’s a grade or two younger than she is. Seeing a first grader diligently doing long division on a Saturday WOULD be surprising!

  5. Melanie May 8, 2012 at 7:35 am #

    That’s outrageous. Many years ago I was a volunteer mentor for young women who had already been identified as being ‘at risk’ by government authorities. Part of our training was how to recognise if a young woman was being ‘groomed’. Questions about maths didn’t really feature highly on that list.

    There are children out there genuinely at risk – and usually they’re in the most danger behind closed doors in the places they’re supposed to call ‘home’. I wonder if this well meaning but ignorant woman would be quite as diligent and vocal about protecting them?

  6. Donna May 8, 2012 at 7:36 am #

    “Who do you want to marry when you grow up?
    What’s your favorite subject in school?
    Who is your teacher?
    Do you like astronomy?
    What’s your favorite planet?”

    Really, those are red flag “grooming” questions? Those seem like average, everyday questions to ask kids in a CONVERSATION. I’ve asked some of them myself and the last thing I want is to add to my number of children by kidnapping one. Some days I’d be more likely to give mine away.

    Of course he was asking “get-to-know-you-questions” to a couple of boys he doesn’t know. What other kinds of questions is he supposed to ask total strangers? He can’t ask known-you-for-many-years questions. I suppose, then, the mere act of a man talking to boys is “grooming” since these questions are completely innocuous.

    This man could have been a pedophile, although I’ve never heard of one choosing to meet and groom total strangers in a sandwich shop. Most likely he was a lonely older man who was eating alone and wanted someone to chat with. Kids are much more receptive to conversations with unfamiliar older people than adults. The woman has now made him feel bad for trying to engage the human beings around him, chased him out of a restaurant (although he may have been heading out anyway), inconvenienced sandwich staff, inconvenienced the parents of the boys who are now coming down to the sandwich shop and scared the boys for a CONVERSATION.

  7. TaraK May 8, 2012 at 7:52 am #

    I always knew those math questions were grooming.

  8. kathy May 8, 2012 at 8:06 am #

    how sad is the world coming to when an eledry man is just trying to connect and make idle conversation with the kids and god forbid that the boys parents were not even at the park with the kids

  9. Lollipoplover May 8, 2012 at 8:16 am #

    Grooming questions:
    Do you floss your teeth? Do you brush after each meal?
    Do you brush your own hair? Do you use a hairdryer?

    To assume that a stranger who is making small talk with your kids is a sexual predator is Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. To write an article about it like you actually know something about the subject is insulting. Sheesh.

  10. obiwandreas May 8, 2012 at 8:24 am #

    According to the commenters, apparently “hateful” means “refusing to indulge a hysterical person in their idiocy”

  11. Nat May 8, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    The alarming part of this for me was the propogation of the belief that “mothers” have some sort of divine instinct for danger of this sort. Watching mothers park in illegally and sometimes quite dangerously in front of school everyday does not bear this out.
    Once upon a time the conversation would have been “I knew in my hear she was a witch, what with her living all alone with just that cat. I am glad we burned her”

  12. Michelle May 8, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    A lot of the comments defend the article on the grounds that the author is not saying anyone who talks to your kids is a predator, but is only trying to share information on what constitutes a warning sign. Which would be great, if she had half a clue what an actual warning sign looked like. Nothing that poor man said or did was anything a reasonably friendly normal adult wouldn’t say or do. Assuming, of course, that said adult isn’t affected by crazy stranger danger paranoia.

    I would have no problems whatsoever with a strange man talking to my kids, playing math games with them, and even becoming their friend! My kids are friends with lots of adults that I don’t know. I’m shy, and only know a few people in our neighborhood, but my kids know almost everyone. And the ones I do know, the kids introduced me. Same thing at church. I’m very glad that none of those adults were afraid to develop friendships with my kids.

  13. Michelle May 8, 2012 at 8:44 am #

    Uh, I meant “infected by crazy stranger danger paranoia,” not “affected.” I’m so angry I can’t type straight.

  14. Nat May 8, 2012 at 9:02 am #

    Which puts me in mind of a similar situation in which I overhear a man talking to a child. However this was an adult talking to a child through the toiler door in an airport.
    I hear him ask “Uh, are you okay in there”. I knew something was odd immediately. Primarily because the man’s voice and body language showed the discomfort you would expect of a man talking to a stranger in a toilet.
    The difference here is that I did not jump to a wild conclusion and finish my own business in private while listening to the child’s confident reply that all was good and subsequent flushing noises and small talk over the washing of hands.
    He and the child left the toilets at the same time as I did, so I was able to listen to the child’s mother thanking the stranger for taking her child to the toilet for her.
    This is what is normal.

  15. Southern Girl May 8, 2012 at 9:22 am #

    Thank you so much for posting this. I could not believe that article when I read it. My 70 year old father loves kids (not in a creepy way), and is very good at talking to them. It’s a shame that the author’s immediate reaction was ‘pervert’.

  16. Michelle May 8, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    Oh, awesome. Wil Wheaton just posted this image on his blog, and it is perfect:

    In case it won’t let me post an image:

  17. Eliza May 8, 2012 at 9:31 am #

    This reminds me of a funny story, a few years ago when I belonged to a parent group. Our children were betweent the ages of 2.5 – 3 yrs. One mother proudly told us she has taught her son about ‘stranger danger’ by dressing up as a stranger and role playing. She informed us she saw this on Oprah and was happy to tell us that her son knew who a stranger is and not to talk to them. The bewildering part of this story is that all the other mums thought this was a good idea and were going to do the same when they got home. For a while I thought I must be a dumb mum, because all I could imagine is a bunch of 2-3 year olds thinking that a stranger must be a person who looks like Mum wearing Dad’s clothes.

  18. maggie May 8, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    Granted, I’m not a male….being a Girl Scout leader, I could very well imagine myself having a conversation of this sort with the girls in my troop. In fact, I did have a very similar conversation a few weeks back on a camping trip when we had some down time. I’ve been a leader to the same girls for 5 years, and for (hopefully) many more years to come. There is a lot I don’t know about them, and probably don’t really care to, but I am semi-interested in their lives, as any halfway caring adult who spends time with children should be. Isn’t it conceivable the same type of scenario was being played out here, with a coach, or a leader, or a family member? And if math problems were a gateway to sexual abuse…..

  19. Book May 8, 2012 at 10:54 am #

    I wonder if it would ever occur to this woman, the complete and utterly insensitive way she has assaulted this man. Because that’s what it was. Her unfounded accusations were slanderous and abusive. She had no evidence what-so-ever that this was anything other than a nice old man chatting with two independent young boys.

    I feel ill just thinking of the hurt that she has caused- and she feels not a shred of guilt. In fact, she’s entirely self-righteous about her actions, as you can see by her response in the comment section.

    If only someone had stood up for that man and those boys.

  20. skl1 May 8, 2012 at 11:36 am #

    Well, and here I was hoping I was going to read some actual advice.

    See, there really are predators out there who do groom. We had some in our neighborhood and one of them did get boys’ trust by engaging them in intellectual discussions and interesting “come into my basement” hobbies. However, the reason that works is that it seems so normal – because it IS (or used to be) normal. Sigh.

    A few weeks ago, my kids and I were eating at our office building, near where an international business meeting was being hosted. The meeting broke up and an old guy came up and asked my kids the following:

    “What grade are you in?
    Can you write?
    In what languages?”

    I thought, good for him, he found a way to get my shy kids to actually respond when spoken to.

    I suppose I should have started having nightmares instead.

  21. Alecta the Aspie (@AlectaTheAspie) May 8, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    I’ve seen this happen in person before and I’m always horrified by it. Just this past Christmas, I (a young 20-something female college student who works in another stores toy section) and my mother were out at a toy store looking at the doll section when a young mother and her daughter, who was maybe five years old, came up and looked at the same area as we were. The little girl started talking about the dolls, and seeing that the mom was bored, I got down and talked about it with her. I knew a lot about the series from work and collecting and we started discussing our favorite characters.

    Instantly, the mother was on guard and started looking at me like I was some kind of sick pervert for daring to speak to her child, then quickly started putting off vibes and making comments to push me away. I became really uncomfortable and left, but I felt terrible for the child. Her mom won’t talk to her about her interests and she’s not allowed to speak to anyone else, she must be incredibly lonely. My heart breaks for kids like that who are isolated in a bubble away from the “scary” world their parents imagine for them.

  22. Krista May 8, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    I know it may not be popular, but I still believe in instinct. I believe that we can subconsciously pick up on cues that can signal a dangerous situation. So I can’t pass judgement on this woman because I wasn’t there. He could have been an innocent man, but he may have not been.

    The trick is distinguishing between instinct and paranoia. I feel it’s becoming increasingly difficult to discern between the two because of all the “stranger danger” hype AND the “most people are fine so calm down” arguments. I think it’s important to take each situations by themselves and examine them/listen to instinct.

  23. mollie May 8, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    This from the comments on that original article… “Ladies, predators are friendly. Wake up and trust your instincts. This article was well written about how a predator acts, not about normal people’s friendliness.”

    Come again? Okay, wait a minute. So if predators are friendly, then friendly people are predators? No, no, that’s not what she means. She means NORMAL people are friendly, and predators are… abnormally friendly? So if a NORMAL person asks you what your favourite planet is, it’s “friendly,” but if a PREDATOR asks you, it’s “grooming.” Okay, yeah. Thanks for that.

    Here’s my problem with all of this. Labels like “predator,” “normal,” “grooming,” and “friendly” tell me nothing. The direct quotes she provided in her story told me only that someone was using those words and directing them at a grade three child. Objectively, I can’t label it as either “normal” or “predatory,” but it sounds like that woman’s need for reassurance was VERY TRIGGERED, for whatever reason. And that’s HER response. It’s PERSONAL TO HER, and it is not universal. A need for reassurance is universal, but not everyone would have that need witnessing that particular scenario.

    So to go ahead and start proclaiming that there is some kind of absolute about this situation, that “anybody hearing this would think it was weird” kind of inference, is not helpful. Lady, you heard what you heard, you saw what you saw, you felt what you felt, you needed what you needed, and sure, make any request you like. Sounds like you did. But if you think you’re contributing to even one child’s safety by putting forth a judgment-filled article like this one, guess again!

    *shakes head, wrings hands, sighs deeply*

  24. mollie May 8, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    And could some news-magazine-y type show please, please PLEASE do a segment on how even a 220-lb, 6’2″ man can be cleverly lured into a situation where he is overpowered and abducted? Oh, right, nobody gives a sh*t about that. It’s just these concocted thrills of terror watching small children get lured into ice cream vans by actors pretending to be predators that are helpful to the public.

    *swats forehead*

    WE ARE ALL FALLIBLE. Yesterday, after one child or another left the chicken coop door ajar, a racoon chewed the head off of a baby chicken we’d just bought four hours previously. The three other chicks from the flock had disappeared, and I assumed they’d been slaughtered as well. I threw up my hands, cried tears, and mourned the loss. I told my 11-year-old and his friends it was done, over, the chickens were all dead and gone, nothing we could do. And you know what? They didn’t listen to me, thank God. They persisted, hunted, and found one of the chicks on the wrong side of the fence. They ran to get me from inside the house. I ran around the yard looking under bushes and found the other two survivors as well. If those kids had listened to me and my declarations about what was happening, well, the other three chicks certainly would have died. SOMETIMES KIDS KNOW BETTER THAN WE DO, people. KIDS HAVE INSTINCTS TOO!

    Frankly, I am grateful for my son and the insights he brings. Far from being a helpless blob, he contributes enormous wisdom and skill to many situations. It is enormously ironic to me that he spent so many years fearing he would be “taken” by a “kidnapper.” What a waste of worry that was!!

  25. Jenne May 8, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    It seems like the key should be to tell your kids that if they feel uncomfortable in a situation, they should take action, and that they should be very cautious about being alone or in a vulnerable situation.

    I’m the mother of a toddler. People have random conversations with my kid all the time. I have random conversations with toddlers all the time.

    There would be nothing wrong with noticing that something felt wierd in an interaction we were seeing and checking into it or asking people to keep their eyes open just in case.

    What’s wrong is when someone, like this mom, assumes that her gut feeling is substantiated by particular circumstances and that she can warn other people that those circumstances justify worry, instead of just claiming her gut reaction.

  26. peterbruells May 8, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

    I love Cheryl’s response on the site. She’s worried that her 14 year old son could at some point be exposed to such a potentially dangerous situation, yet doesn’t realize that in ten years her adult son may get chased out a sandwhich shop as a suspected predator.

  27. Tsu Dho Nimh May 8, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

    One commenter said, “He was asking them questions that are things that a stranger would only need to know if they were planning to do something.”

    Yes … knowing that their favorite planet is Mars, and asking for the answer to 5×7 is evil and predatory beyond belief.

    My SO is a total geek and is often found in conversation with children about how awesome science and math are.

  28. gap.runner May 8, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    I guess I’ve been parenting my son all wrong and thinking the wrong thoughts by being a Free Ranger. Two years ago, when my son was riding his bike (alone!) to the store, his chain slipped. I have always told him to find an adult when he’s on his own and needs assistance with something. The first adult that he saw on the walking/bike path that he used was an older gentleman. As the man fixed my son’s chain, he asked my son questions: What school do you attend, what grade are you in, what’s your favorite subject, etc. It turned out that the man not only owned a local bike shop, but his grandaughter was one of my son’s classmates. My son and I both thought it was cool that he met his classmate’s grandfather. I would never have imagined that this Good Samaritan was really a predator out to groom my son. The things I learn from reading other parenting blogs. *face palm*

    It’s sad how men, especially older ones, are automatically viewed as perverts in the States. How are children, especially boys, supposed to have male role models if men are not allowed to interact with them?

  29. Donna May 8, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    @Krista –

    The problem that I have is now (1) she insists that he absolutely, definitely IS a predator based on her gut feeling to the point of writing an article about the scenario entitled “How to Stop a Predator,” (2) she considers herself an expert on predators and their tactics based solely on her gut instinct while overhearing a portion of one conversation involving someone who may or MAY NOT be a predator, and (3) she wants us all to believe that, based on her gut reaction to a single individual who may or MAY NOT be a predator and nothing else, that this experience is somehow so indicative of predator behavior that we all need to know about it.

    Further, there is a HUGE difference between thinking something is off and being careful and roping store clerks and parents into your gut feeling and then writing an article as if your gut reaction has been proven 100% true.

    Last week alone, 2 people were freed after spending many years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. Everyone involved in those 2 cases – cops, DAs, judges and 24 jurors – believed in their gut that those 2 people were guilty of the crimes or they never would have been convicted. Sometimes our gut is wrong. Being wary is one thing, but we need to be really careful in publicly accusing people of criminal behavior to others based on nothing more than our gut feeling.

  30. Donna May 8, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    Uly, funny you mention the conversation with your niece. In reading the article, my first reaction was that these boys were talking to a retired teacher. The entire conversation, as described, sounded very teacheresque to me.

  31. Neighbor May 8, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

    “I move very quickly to the table where the boys are and ask, “Where are your parents?” The chatty boy loudly says what his dad’s name is, not where he is. The other boy remains silent; he won’t answer my question.”

    Maybe he didn’t answer because she was acting strangely, and frightened them. For all they knew, she was planning to kidnap them. Good call on their part, as she was clearly deranged. Trust your instincts, kids!

  32. gap.runner May 8, 2012 at 5:50 pm #

    The people who reply to Circle of Moms articles are scary. I was exploring that site and found this gem about the appropriate age for letting boys use the men’s bathroom by themselves. It’s amazing how many people still bring 10-year-old boys into the women’s bathroom because they think that every man in the men’s room is a pervert, child murderer, or predator. There was no way that my son would have set foot in a women’s bathroom when he was 10 (or even 6 for that matter).

  33. Donna May 8, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    Several commentors find the nature of the questions like “what grade are you in” and “what’s your teacher’s name” too personal. What the hell else are you going to ask a 8 year old about right off the bat? His views on the real estate market?

    Asking a kid about school seems like a rather natural conversation starter. The first questions I am generally asked when meeting someone new is “what do you do for a living?” and “where do you work?” “What grade are you in” and “what school do you go to” seem like the kiddie version of those same questions. “What’s your teacher’s name” is really the same as someone asking me “Oh you work a Acme. Do you know Will E Coyote?” The basic conversation model is the same. We’re supposed to consider it conversation 101 if it happens between adults and predatory if it happens between an adult and a child? So this brings me back to the first question – unless all conversation between an adult and strange child is forbidden, what is a “safe” topic?

  34. linvo May 8, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

    That is beyond sad. And if you dare criticise this kind of lunacy, you are slapped with the “better safe than sorry” argument. In which case we should take all kids away from their parents immediately because way, way more kids are abused and even killed by their parents or step-parents than by strangers. Better safe than sorry!

    And totally agree that this sounds like the only kind of conversation a stranger could have with a child that age, really.

  35. JustADad May 8, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

    What Irks me here, is the prevalent “all strange men are bad” vibe i get from both the article and the comments. sheesh. I am a single man who has 3 teenage sons,(they live with thier mom). I cannot tell you how many times certain moms will move thier kids away from me in stores, the library etc. I wonder what this woman would have thought if she had seen my 16 year old son and his friend sitting on the floor of a used move store discussing the merits of Star Wars Movies vs The Clone Wars cartoons with a little boy of around 5, 2 weeks ago, would she have assumed they were grooming him, or would she have, like me thought it was kid of cool that these older boys willingly engaged with ayounger child over a common interest. My self I thought it was pretty cool, (and for the record so did the boy’s mom, she did not assume the worst, she thought my son and his friend were cool.)

  36. Peter Wilman May 8, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

    That lady has committed what is commonly known as a syllogism – as in drawing a completely fals conclusion. Example. If I buy kippers on a Tuesday, it will not rain. There is no clear connection between the purchase of smoked herring and the weather. Similarly a man talking to children does not necessarily mean he is a paedophile, a paediatrician or just some lonely pensioner sharing a joke with some young kids.

    The woman who made those comments would be just the sort of Soviet curtain twitching busybody that would report her neighbours to the authorities for anti-communist behaviour if they park on the wrong side of the road. There’s a word for people like that: cretin.

  37. linvo May 8, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

    @Peter, for once I think the reference to Soviet communism is justified here! The self-righteous tone reminds me of that kind of propaganda. It does not tolerate any kind of retort. Any sort of criticism seems to automatically put you on the side of evil. As in, if you don’t condone people randomly accusing strangers of pedophile tendencies, you support kids being abused. It is insanity…

  38. Sean May 8, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

    Exactly what questions would NOT be ‘grooming’ in her world?

  39. Heather G May 8, 2012 at 8:00 pm #

    Trepto, your husband is welcome to compliment my children anytime and I would LOVE it if he (JustaDad and your sons too) engaged my speech delayed son in conversation as he is quite shy verbally and needs to practice speaking with people outside our family. Of course there is also the benefit of your husband being a good example for my kids too- I always want them exposed to as many of those as possible even if they are strangers.

    I am not going to read the original post because if I do I will have a compulsion to read the comments and that will just ruin my day. It absolutely makes me sick that I can raise both my son and daughter well and one may be accused of being a monster for the same activity that people will say would make the other a natural born teacher or mother. I just can’t take those thoughts today. Not when my son is asking to go for a walk in the nature preserve, where he met the retired ranger who took him by the hand and was showing him all kinds of birds that his nature-ignorant mother would have missed. (BTW the retired ranger wasn’t grooming him, just thought it was great that my son was so excited every time he saw a bird and wanted to encourage a love of nature in the next generation).

  40. EGAMA MANAGER May 8, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

    Wow, what a state of paranoia we live in these days. By legitimate statistics, most sexual abductions/abuses come from people the victim already know, not by strangers. The media leads us to believe the opposite because fear sells.
    Before you know,it, it will be a crime to talk to any children other than your own. This is America??

  41. EGAMA MANAGER May 8, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

    It’s no wonder why people don’t enjoys events or holidays anymore with these paranoid mothers preaching fear and hate everywhere they go.

  42. Filioque May 8, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

    If I may put a positive spin on all this, I was at least relieved to see all the common-sense responses to this ridiculous article. It’s good to know that there are still SOME sane people out there, and they’re not all just on this blog! 🙂

  43. Lollipoplover May 8, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

    When did we stop respecting elders and start fearing them?

  44. Nanci May 8, 2012 at 9:28 pm #

    This really saddens me. Older people don’t understand today’s crazy overprotective moms. The guy probably thought he was doing a good thing, talking to some boys he possibly saw as lonely. He was being friendly and kind a stark contrast to how the woman behaved. I was in a fast food restaurant last night and there was an older man in there alone talking to everyone, a group of women near him, they guy cleaning the tables, everyone. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t grooming the much larger grown men he was talking to! I’m sure if there was a kid in the restaurant he would have been just as friendly and talkative to them.

    My uncle is 72, he raised 5 children. He and my aunt like to go to Wendy’s to eat quite a bit. He has a card that gets him a free junior frosty every time he’s there. He doesn’t eat it himself, he gets it and then finds a kid in the restaurant to give it to every time. I can only imagine what this woman would think of that!

  45. Jenna May 8, 2012 at 9:28 pm #

    I know! I saw this article and there was another one similar to it a few days later on Circle of Moms. I was about to cancel my account there because I was tired of seeing articles like this. Is there a way to send articles like this to you in the future? I looked for one but couldn’t figure out how!

    And I think that lots of older men, especially who have grandkids that they might not live near, will do this–talk to kids–because they miss their grandchildren. My dad does occasionally.

  46. peterbruells May 8, 2012 at 9:29 pm #

    @lollypoplover When we renamed them from “Elders” to “Elderly”, I think.

  47. Emily W May 8, 2012 at 9:40 pm #

    I was one of the people who commented on the idiocy of this article. I just knew that you would write about it. I was such a perfect example of stranger paranoia. Blech!

  48. CrazyCatLady May 8, 2012 at 9:40 pm #

    She assumes that because this man was not sitting with the kids, that he doesn’t know them. These are all questions that a neighbor who has moved away and come back for a visit, a retired teacher, a coach or ex-coach of a team, an elder in their church, or such would say. But no, she just assumes that he doesn’t actually know them.

    The “Stranger” in this case was her demanding to know where the parents were. And the kids absolutely answered correctly by not telling her!

  49. Dirge. May 8, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

    That’s why I, as a single man, spit at every child that comes near me. I do not want to give the impression that I want to have anything to do with them.

  50. Lollipoplover May 8, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    My father passed away recently (and he was an elder, never elderly) and loved kids. He had 10 and was a very hands-on dad with a wicked sense of humor.
    He liked catching the kid that was picking their nose out in public. Years ago he lost half of his pinky finger in a freak accident. He would show them his half-finger, and tell them the story of when he picked his nose, too. But something in his nose bit off his finger, and he never picked it again, he told the kids. My kids never picked again after hearing his story, but sadly the police would be called if he told this story today.

  51. L. C. Burgundy May 8, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    This Ms. Silver is, as far as I can tell, just a Life Experienced(tm) floozy with no particular qualifications writing articles on a second-rate web site to promote her third-rate parenting books that she can’t even manage to get onto amazon.

    Oh, was that harsh? Look on the bright side, at least I don’t go around telling stories about her as if she were a sexual predator based on no evidence whatsoever.

    It’s very amusing that she did not think of herself as a stranger herself when interrogating these children about details regarding their parents. Then again, I have enough sense to realize that she was about as likely to be “grooming” these children as that man was.

  52. Claudia Conway May 8, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

    Oh, no need to worry about this, in a few years’ time the generation that enjoys chatting to kids sometimes will die out, and instead all adults will know never to talk to kids they don’t know (and maybe some they do if they’re a man) and all kids will know that the correct response to being talked to by an unfamiliar person is to scream ‘Paedophile!’ and immediately contact the police.

  53. Marcy May 8, 2012 at 11:15 pm #

    @mollie Thank-you for expressing what I have always thought. ANYONE can be tricked into a bad situation, child or adult. Heck, I’d be willing to bet that the most helicoptered kid could get abducted if the exposée actors were motivated enough. I’ll add to your magazine scenario: compare adult to helicoptered kid to free-range kid and see who fares best….if only we knew someone with connections at a cable station like Slice to propose the idea….. 😉

    @HeatherG. you are a smarter woman than I, I am a glutton for clicking on the comments section even when I know full well it will ruin my day

  54. Krista May 8, 2012 at 11:21 pm #

    @ Donna–

    I agree with you. There have been situations The Hubby and I where we feel some people (any age or sex) taking extreme interest in our kids hasn’t been quite right. What we do is don’t let our kids wander off with them. It’s okay to talk, but not to leave. Also, I haven’t been in this exact situation yet, since my kidlets are only 4 and 2, but we’re trying to instill in them that rule: Talking okay, leaving is not.

  55. Nay May 8, 2012 at 11:22 pm #

    I’m not a member of Circle of Moms, but if I were this what I would say:

    Let’s turn this situation around, shall we, and look at it from the gentleman’s perspective.

    The author doesn’t state how old he is, but I imagine him to be between 60 to 75, possibly with grandchildren of his own. In today’s mobile society, his grandchildren may live out of town, therefore he doesn’t see them as often as he would like (does any grandparent see their grandchildren enough?!). He may love and miss them very much. He is retired and eating lunch next alone; perhaps he is widowed.

    He might be lonely and decides to strike up a conversation with the neighboring table…where seated are two boys whose PARENTS have decided that they are old enough to have lunch on their own. The gentleman, who is of advanced age, is “shouting” his questions above the loud din of customer orders and other conversations possibly because he has a hearing problem, as would be common for a man his age.

    The only question that is concerning is, who is your teacher, and yet, if this is an older gentleman with ties to the neighborhood, it may make perfect sense. Maybe his wife, sister, or his own child, or friend, is a teacher.

    The world is not always a safe place, true, but hyper-vigilant parenting of others’ children is not always the answer. Shaming and implying that a fellow café customer is a possible predator is not the answer.

    Assuming that the man left the café because of your actions is rather presumptive. Maybe he had gone to the restroom, as elderly men are wont to do.

    By asking, “where are your parents?” you have inadvertently given your so called predator more information that the boys themselves.

    Now he knows the child’s parent’s name. Good job, you!

    If you were so concern about the situation, instead of minding your own business, you could have asked:

    Is this man your grandfather?

    You would have learned more about the situation before “loudly” making an innocent café patron the center of everyone’s attention.

    Bless your heart, now you know better.

  56. EGAMA MANAGER May 8, 2012 at 11:27 pm #

    I say let’s go back to the 70’s 🙂 2012 has lost it’s marbles.

  57. Kate May 8, 2012 at 11:27 pm #

    Ugh! This story makes me think of some of the nice guys that my toddler and I have encountered in our travels. The nice guy who played with my toddler and chatted with me at the airport. At one point he got a little misty eyed and talked about how much he missed his own little boy during his business trips. Or the elderly gentleman at the health food store who gave my kid a lollipop (classic predator!) and then started talking about how hard it was to live so far away from his grandchildren. Stranger danger? Or wonderful, spontaneous, nurturing role models for my son?

  58. gap.runner May 8, 2012 at 11:37 pm #

    If this woman was so concerned about unattended children talking to strangers, what was she doing talking to them? The boys didn’t know her. Therefore, she was a stranger. I think that she was “grooming” these kids more than the man was because she’s the real predator. Why else would she ask the boys where their parents were?

    By the way, I have been doing everything wrong by asking kids what grade they’re in and what their interests are. The next time I strike up a conversation with a child, I’ll ask him or her about the Greek debt crisis, quantum physics, or whether it was a mistake to go off the gold standard.

  59. Moira Hennings May 8, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    i think this is a woman i would stay away from. i hate conspiracy theorists…

  60. Amanda Matthews May 8, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    “Where are your parents” seems like much more of a predatory question! But I guess it’s okay if a female “grooms” children?

  61. oncefallendotcom May 8, 2012 at 11:57 pm #

    I don’t think your pic is a child predator, Lenore, but I think you’ve found a moonshiner.

  62. librarian May 9, 2012 at 12:08 am #

    from comments on that site: “I can’t believe how many people are defending this man! Seriously, any male who, in this day and age, doesn’t know that talking to strange kids is risky probably doesn’t care because he wants what he wants. Let me ask you something: if you see a man surreptitiously taking pictures of a child (say, a little girl around the age of 7 or 8) with whom he is clearly not familiar, do you assume it’s all “harmless”? Or do you take precautionary measures? Why in the world are we afraid to be safe rather than sorry??? I want you all to understand something. There are key questions the man asked that *are* recognized by law enforcement as potential stalker/predator questions. They include: Who’s your teacher? What grade are you in? These two questions alone can give anyone a way to find out what school the kids go to and track them from there. Moreover, the article suggests the other boy may have felt alarm bells going off too. I think we need to trust our instincts more when it comes to safety, ours and that of children in particular.”
    Oh! My! God!

  63. Bernadette Noll May 9, 2012 at 12:18 am #

    “asking questions he shouldn’t have asked…” What grade are you in? What adult doesn’t ask that to a kid as the very first question ALL THE TIME?? Also, why shouldn’t a couple of 3rd graders be in a cafe by themselves? Especially if it’s a neighborhood cafe where they are known which apparently they were because even the waitress knew the kids’ parents. And it was always my belief that most predators go after the lonely child. Is that true?

    I think we can teach our kids to be safe as in don’t walk off with a stranger. But not to talk to a stranger? ALl the world is a stranger until we get to know them. Including the waitress taking our order.

    ANd by the way, I think less people are defending the man than are blasting the woman for her paranoia.

  64. vhaisphammj May 9, 2012 at 12:28 am #

    While I definitely think that this is over the top, I do believe that there’s a lot to be said for trusting your gut. There is a man in my neighborhood that ALL of the neighborhood moms are wary of. It’s not due to anything in particular that he has said, but there is a definite creep factor and I have told my children to stay away from him. I don’t automatically think that every adult male who talks to my kids is a potential predator, but there is something off about this guy and alarm bells start ringing in my head every time he comes around. That means something to me.

  65. Amanda Matthews May 9, 2012 at 12:46 am #

    vhaisphammj, trusting your own gut is good. Forcing your opinion onto other people – whom have guts that are saying things are fine – is bad. Being wary is good. Making a public spectacle, glaring at other people for talking to someone elses’ kids, having other kids’ parents called because those kids are having a conversation, making someone feel they must leave a public place – those are all bad.

  66. EricS May 9, 2012 at 12:55 am #

    @librarian: this is a worse case scenario, paranoia thinking. You think just because law enforcement say it is so, that’s what it is? It’s the same law enforcement that scold parents for letting their children wlak to the corner store to buy groceries. They are humans too, with the same paranoia and insecurity as the rest who allow themselves to succumb to it, but with a badge. Which gives them a sense of power and holier than thou attitude that they tend to force on everyone. For the record, I know plenty of other law enforcement officers who think these same people are ridiculous and fearful as well.

    If a someone, Man or Woman (yes women can be just as bad if not worse than men, for the simple fact that most people would never suspect women, making it more easier for them to lure kids), wanted to stalk, kidnap, harm your child, they can and will do so. Even without knowing what grade they are in, or who their teacher is. Is this how this world has turned into? A bunch of sniveling, cowardice, and distrusting individuals? Where a “stranger” talking to a child, or showing some sort of joy (which children to do bring) watching them play, laugh or smile, is automatically a predator? Everyone we have ever met since we were kids, has been a stranger at one point. And no doubt, friendly to us. If we go by yours and everyone else with no common sense reasoning, we wouldn’t be friends with ANYONE. Except for family, we’d be recluse. That article, to me, sounds of a woman with fear, holier than thou, and insecurities issues. The fact alone, that her husband witnessing all of this, already knew what she was going to do when she came out. Sounds to me, he knows here very well and shrugs it off as OCD. Had it been a real concern, she would have mentioned her husband getting involved. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. You can’t condemn or defame a man’s character because YOU think something MAY BE off. She even said, her head was thinking friendly conversation, but her body was tingling something was off. Your head thinks more clearly than your body. That tingling sensation is natural reaction to an inner fear you’ve conditioned yourself to fear for key things you have let yourself to believe. One boy was quiet, and I would no doubt because that’s how he was raised, fearful. The other kid, not so much, because that’s how he was raised.

    I let my kids talk to “strangers”. They can ask and answer any question THEY want to. And because they know what NOT to divulge, I’m completely confident in them. They have been taught to know to deal with people they don’t know. And yes, they aren’t under the notion that ALL strangers are bad. And talking to them is not going to harm them. And in the remote chance that person does something in inappropriate, they are more than capable of dealing with it. I’ve seen it first hand. They are able to do this, because they are knowledgeable and confident in themselves. We don’t put fear into them. That is the best way of helping our children. And best of all, they have great social skills, with everyone. This will server them extremely well as they get older. Don’t take everything you read or hear at face value. People will have varying fears and notions of how things are. That includes people of authoritative positions. You judge for yourself, using your own experiences, knowledge of human behavior, without bias, and above all using logic and common sense. You’ll find you will see things much differently.

    I’m neither defending, nor condemning this man for talking to those boys. I don’t know him. I have no reason to judge him negatively for talking to children. As I talk to children as well, and they talk back, inquisitive as they should be. I’m just glad that where I live, the parents don’t freak out. They actually encourage them to speak to me. In turn, I speak to the parents. They get to know me, I get to know them. We become a community. Not a bunch of paranoid individuals who choose to scare themselves from the rest of the world.

  67. skl1 May 9, 2012 at 1:03 am #

    I agree with trusting your gut. But that’s not really what this woman is advocating. Explaining in an article “what” about that conversation gave her bad vibes would be like my trying to describe the itch I’m feeling right now, in these comments. It’s not the words, it’s not the way the guy looked. It was a vibe.

    I’m all about trusting the vibes I feel, and those my kids feel. Kinda like that feeling you get when you just know you’d better go indoors, and two minutes later there’s a dangerous weather situation.

    Thing is, letting other people tell us what to fear – in words, across the media waves – only serves to distort our own sixth sense. I mean, look at the way many Americans have internalized the generalized fear of other races, even when their actual personal experiences do not support a generalized fear.

    I also feel this woman (who needed a topic to write about for pay) went into the situation looking for something bad. If you look for a problem, chances are you’ll find one – in your own mind, anyway. Come to think about it, I tend to get a bad vibe when confronted with most of the media. Do you think attempted grooming is occurring there? Quite likely!

    It might have been more helpful to advise parents to listen to the conversation, look at the reactions of the kids, and trust your gut. Or, do we really need “trust your gut” training in the first place? Who doesn’t avoid a situation that feels really bad going in?

  68. EricS May 9, 2012 at 1:08 am #

    @vhaisphammj: Perhaps you should engage in a casual conversation with him one day. Because of media, movies, tv shows, and their own fearful state, people always have a preconception of what a “bad” person is. When in reality, the most unassuming people can be just as bad, if not worse than those that seem suspect. Example, I have biker friends, tatted up, rough looking, your typical biker guy look. If I didn’t know any better, my preconception as how society has painted people to be, he has a criminal record, is violent, and over all a bad person I don’t want to associate with. In reality, this guy is one of the most decent guys I know. He’s caring to his family, he’s generous and kind to everyone in our community. No criminal record, doesn’t do or has ever done drugs, casual drinker, doesn’t smoke. And he’s a chiropractor. And on the other spectrum, you have guys like Paul Bernardo, a clean cut good looking young man, whom everyone adored. No one knew, or could believe he was the sadistic killer that he was, murdering 2 teens in the 80s. Point being, your senses may be proving you wrong. Consciously or subconsiously, your making yourself feel that way because that is how you’ve been conditioned to react. Just like if someone were to tell you a house was haunted. When you step into that house, you’ll get shivers. Doesn’t mean it’s haunted, but just because your viewing it as such, it makes you on edge. Just like the old saying goes, “don’t judge a book by the cover”. Be friendly, give the guy a chance, strike up a conversation with the guy, get to know him. He is after all part of your community.

  69. mollie May 9, 2012 at 1:16 am #

    Getting tuned in to your own “creep factor” is a great thing. If this woman’s “creep radar” or “spidey sense” was alerted by this man, all she needed to do was hang back and observe. If the boys left with him, that’s one thing. If they’re just chatting at the table, so be it!

    All of this “if someone knows what grade, what teacher, what school, then they’ll track the kid down” sounds like outrageous nonsense to me. Is there even one case of this happening? Sounds like the whole, “Don’t post photos of your kids on the internet because they have location stamps on them, and someone will track down your house and steal your precious child!” thing.

    Frankly, I’m way more wary of people who position themselves in guises of authority to children (coaches, leaders, sitters) than I am of strangers in shops, and I’ve told my kids that if someone starts offering them a lot of “extras,” not just a one-time thing, but many times, this is worth looking into. When my son started hanging out at the skate park alone last summer, I had a moment where I was wary hearing about a guy who worked at a skate shop offering my son a new set of wheels for his skateboard if he could do a certain trick, and then walking with him to the skate shop from the park to get the “prize.” I didn’t really like this too much, and I told my son that while it might be perfectly harmless, that he damned well better not ever get into a car with someone like that, or be alone with them. “I wasn’t!” He protested. “We were on our skateboards, on the street, and then in the store while it was open!”

    I relented.

    Anyway, I decided that what would be best was if I actually MET this person, and found out for myself if they were creeping me out, instead of hearing about it secondhand and assuming something untoward. After all, if you’re passionate enough about skateboarding to make it your career, and you see a kid with some chutzpah and ability, maybe you want to encourage him, and you’ve got no ulterior motives whatsoever. I leave space for that possibility, right? And in this case, that’s just what it was. I love my son, but I don’t hate all men who take any sort of interest in him. And I was proud of my kid for knowing the difference between putting himself at too much risk for a reward and having a fun contest at the park.

  70. EricS May 9, 2012 at 1:17 am #

    Well said ski1. I might add, that trusting your gut, or as I like to refer to as instinct, is just a part of the equation. One also has to use common sense, and logic. Yes, they all go hand in hand. My instincts have never failed me. But only because I use my head as well. That initial vibe we all feel is part of our fight or flight conditioning (millions of years of evolution will do that). It’s a natural feeling to have in uncertain and suspicious situations. But if you notice, when we quell that fear, by confronting it (talking to the person, or researching the situation), depending on what we find out, the vibe is either heightened or considerably diminished (most times diminished). Unfortunately, common sense and logic is sorely lacking in people these days. They’re instincts are ‘groomed’ by media and fear.

  71. Charles J Gervasi May 9, 2012 at 1:51 am #

    Asking where they’re parents are could be seen as more suspicious. Maybe it’s not suspicious if you’re a woman.

    I would laugh out loud if someone gave me the hairy eye for helping kids. Since I’ve had kids, I feel an inclination to look out for all kids in my community if I see them needing some kind of help. Maybe it’s because they remind me of my kids. I reject any notion that I’m not supposed to talk to kids because I’m a man.

  72. mollie May 9, 2012 at 1:57 am #

    “What happens in the grooming process?

    First, the offender identifies the specific area where he plans to look for a potential victim. He will set up shop where there is easy access to children like schools, community clubs and especially churches. Because he is an expert in manipulation, he is able to project a fake persona that will bring him closer to his potential victims. Many sex predators try to establish relationships with single moms, for example, and use the relationship to get closer to a potential child victim.[i] In reference to the issue of sex abuse in the church, they are able to find and fill a need among children such as a teacher, mentor or coach.

    Next, the offender chooses and begins to groom his victim(s). Offenders and predators frequently aim at those who possess clear vulnerabilities. These include:

    Being neglected by parents
    Lack of self-esteem, confidence, and independent judgment
    A child who is a natural loner and aloof
    One who is consistently subjected to family and domestic problems
    One who has experienced prior sexual abuse by a family member or relative

    There are several ways that predators entrap their victims, but the common thread is strong use of manipulation and deception. The process usually starts by befriending the child. Then, the predator is able to gain not only the trust, but the curiosity of the potential victim. He offers wholesome activities like going to playgrounds and children’s parks, paying for rides, giving treats, toys, or candy. For older victims, he will offer mentoring, tutoring and a listening ear to teenager problems. Predators make sure to present a certain kind of image that is very friendly, approachable, fun, and understanding.[ii]

    All of it is pure deception. Right after providing the kinds of things a child desires, like rewards and gifts, the offender starts to offer something much darker, like drugs, alcohol or pornography. Because the victim has built trust and confidence towards the offender, it’s easier for the predator to convince the child to use these things.

    Other than convincing the victim to use alcohol, drugs and pornography, predators are able to groom their victim to a point that the they become emotionally attached. By always being there, by listening to whatever they say, and by sharing the same sentiments for problems and issues, the victim is totally deceived in creating a strong bond with the predator.

    The third part of the grooming process has to do with secrecy and building trust. Secrecy is the best weapon in guaranteeing that the victim becomes bonded to the predator. For instance, he might convince the victim to try and take some drugs. Right after using them, he tells the victim to keep it a secret because if the parents found out, they’re going to get in huge amounts of trouble. Or perhaps he gives an innocent child some gifts and then reminds her not to tell anyone about it because other children may ask for the same gifts. When the child asks why she would not give gifts to the others, then he can lie and say that she’s the only one who should be given a gift because she’s special to him. This use of “bad secrets” is also effective for kids victimized within the church. The predator can use the drugs and pornography to hang over the victims head with the threat that everyone in church will think they’re dirty and they’ll be kicked out. They may even go so far as to use the lie that God is angry with them for their sin. A sin that the offender tricked them into doing in the first place.

    Eventually, when the grooming process is complete, the bond created by it leads to sexual contact. It will usually start with non-sexual touching first, as the predator tests his boundaries and pushes them further. As soon as the predator gains full trust, it becomes a lot easier for him to convince the victim to take part in a sexual act.[iii] Although the experience does not always cause instant trauma and pain for the victim, the reality is many victims struggle to survive the experience as they grow. One of the most difficult things for the church and society to understand is that many molesters know how to molest their victims without physically hurting them. They can even cause physical pleasure in their victims. However, the emotional and spiritual damage is what can take a child’s life.

    It is vital for every parent to understand the behavior of their own children, so that they can identify when something is wrong. If you don’t give them your full attention, there’s no chance of gaining this understanding. That is why it is imperative for parents to pay enough attention to the kids in order to prevent them from seeking it from other people. You should bear in mind that young kids do not have the ability or capacity to know what things can place them in danger.[iv] They aren’t capable by instinct of identifying which people are bad and good. You especially cannot assume that they will figure it out on their own, since the majority of children’s movies consist of a simple hero and villain plot where it is easy to visually identify between the “good guy” and “bad guy”. You do have the ability, as their parent, to teach them how to judge a person by their actions, not their looks. You also have the ability to empower your kids by talking openly about “right touch” and “wrong touch”. Many child sex abusers use their victim’s ignorance of their own body parts and what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate touch in order to deceive them.”

    So. First the predator positions himself. In a cafe? I don’t think so. Then, he befriends the child. Uh-oh, this means that anyone who has “positioned” themselves in public, anywhere, and then starts talking to your kid, is a predator. Look out!

    “Grooming” is a pretty specific set of behaviours linked to a criminal act. If you think that every friendly initial conversation with someone you just met is “grooming,” well, that’s a pretty failed strategy for existing in the world peacefully, in my view.

  73. skl1 May 9, 2012 at 2:02 am #

    OK, so I just clicked on the linked article. Oh my goodness, that is an outrage. How dare this woman (a) interrogate a couple of boys she does not know, (b) insult an elderly man she does not know, (c) publicly accuse someone of wrongdoing, (d) order the staff to prevent someone else’s kids from leaving except with their parent (like the staff knows who their parents are), and then (e) feel all proud of herself for doing all that?

    Even if she truly did get a bad vibe (regardless of the actual words spoken), she should have kept quiet and just observed, maybe placed herself closeby (in a friendly manner) until either the vibe, the man, or the kids went away.

    I also agree that “where are your parents” is the least appropriate of all the questions those boys were asked.

  74. Donna May 9, 2012 at 2:07 am #

    “My instincts have never failed me.”

    How do you know that your instincts have never failed you? Who knows how many people you’ve dismissed as creepy, boorish, nerdy, obnoxious, stuck up, etc. who would be proven not to be so if given the chance. In fact, it is rare that we know if our instincts are correct or not. If someone gives me a creep vibe, I’m not actually going to hang out with him until he rapes me just to prove my instinct right. I accept that, although I may be wrong, I’m better off ending the encounter than continuing to make myself uncomfortable. Short of reading in the paper the next day that the creepy guy raped someone after I left, I have no real way of knowing whether my instinct was correct or not. What you know is that nobody who you’ve trusted based on instinct has proven themselves not worthy of that trust. You have no idea how many people you’ve dismissed as untrustworthy who would have proven themselves wonderful friends.

    I’m sure that every person in the world has had an instinct that was completely wrong … most likely many times over. The difference is in what you do about it. Thinking someone is creepy and making an excuse to get out of his presence is one thing. I may possibly be judging the situation wrong and missing out on making a friend in the process, but ultimately nobody is hurt. Alerting store personnel and parents, or worse cops, and basically accusing someone of being a predator is completely different. At some point, we have to remember that our instinct can be wrong.

  75. Heather G May 9, 2012 at 2:10 am #

    Marcy, I’m not that good. I caved.

    vhaisphammj, If Mrs. Silver had written a post on what to do when your instincts say something is amiss there wouldn’t be a problem (except interrogating the kids and glaring at the man). I would actually support her if that was the subject of her writing. It wasn’t. What she chose to write about was identifying child predators. She even offered a list of normal conversational questions as evidence of “grooming”. She doesn’t seem to have any credentials or expertise in the areas of law enforcement, social work or anything involving victimized children. This didn’t stop her from writing as though she is an expert without presenting any supporting research or expert opinion to support her claims. She publicly accused the man (who seems to remain anonymous thankfully) of being a monster with NO evidence and is advising other parents to do the same. We all can agree that instincts are good but when you present your instincts as having some magical power that makes you an authority on subjects with such serious consequences without any training, experience or evidence it is not over the top, it’s down right dangerous. Those children were no more safe because of her, nor are the children of the readers taking her advice and certainly not the man she accused. The only thing safer is her ego. Not letting your kids hang out with the man in your neighborhood who gives you the creeps is whole different situation than what she did.

  76. LTMG May 9, 2012 at 2:19 am #

    How to spot a predator? Easy. [1] Predators have good binocular vision to aid hunting. Predators’ eyes are close together versus on nearly opposite sides of the head. [2] Predators have teeth designed for ripping and tearing flesh. [3] Predators have digestive systems capable of processing flesh. [4] Predators can sleep for several hours without waking to check their surrounding to assure that they are safe. In short, the mother who wrote the article is biologically designed to be a predator. Given the right set of circumstances, she would certainly behave as a predator. It’s in her genes.

  77. pentamom May 9, 2012 at 2:37 am #

    Donna, I especially appreciate what you said in the comments on the article about how there IS a downside to being wrong about this — you’ve just taught a perfectly nice man who wants to be friendly to children that he is a pariah. And yet it seems that some people actually think that isn’t a true downside — that society would actually be *better off* if lone men never interacted with children, because at least that way we’d know who the predators were. There’s just no sense that creating suspicion and hostility between entire classes of people isn’t good for anybody.

  78. Lollipoplover May 9, 2012 at 2:41 am #

    “Parents, I believe the older man was a potential predator. Am I sure? There was no way of knowing. Did I prevent him from harming those boys? I don’t know. I did what I could without falsely accusing someone of something that hadn’t happened yet.”

    By her “reasoning”, I may have prevented my local supermarket from burning down today. I stomped on a lit cigarette butt in the parking lot. It is very windy today. Could the smoldering butt have blown into the building? I don’t know. But I did what I could, and I’m going to tell myself that I, Supermom, prevented a make-believe fire with my special powers.

  79. mollie May 9, 2012 at 2:59 am #

    Lollipoplover, I’d say what you did is FAR more “heroic,” linked to an actual threat, and performed without negative repercussion, while this woman’s actions in the cafe did nothing to promote safety for anyone, while, bit by bit, unraveling the fabric of society itself.

  80. pentamom May 9, 2012 at 3:10 am #

    “I did what I could without falsely accusing someone of something that hadn’t happened yet.”

    Funny, I thought she falsely accused every man who makes small talk with unattended children of grooming them. Wonder why she thinks she didn’t?

  81. Heather G May 9, 2012 at 3:20 am #

    pentamom, See, she is an expert. She made sure to put falsely in there so we would all know that her accusations are true even though she has no evidence to support them.

  82. Jimmy the Bitch May 9, 2012 at 3:51 am #

    What’s refreshing at the actual Circle of Mums link is the list of comments. Most of the mum’s comments at the actual site are very critical of the post. Thank God.

  83. Steve D. May 9, 2012 at 3:52 am #

    “My instincts have never failed me.”

    Mine are all messed up so that forces me to think things over carefully before I act.

  84. gap.runner May 9, 2012 at 4:07 am #

    Had to blog about this post because it was so outrageous.

  85. AW13 May 9, 2012 at 4:31 am #

    I read the article about grooming, the one to which she linked, and wondered if she realized that what she described and what the article described bore no relationship to each other.

    Then I thought about my dad, who has always had a sense of responsibility towards all kids. And who, if he saw two little boys sitting alone in a busy cafe, might keep an eye on them, or engage them in conversation, in order to make sure that nothing untoward occurred until they left or their parents came to get them.

    And then I wished it had been my dad that the author had run into, as he would have certainly given her a piece of his mind about her rude behavior!

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for following your instincts. But this article implicates all men as predators, and that is simply not the case.

  86. Emily W May 9, 2012 at 4:37 am #

    Exactly, AW13! My dad is the same way. My husband has told me that he never talks to kids in public and feels awkward when he takes my sons to the park because of the looks he gets from people. If this attitude in people continues, we aren’t going to have any good male role-models because they are all going to be too scared to speak to a child!

  87. LauraS May 9, 2012 at 5:00 am #

    Just the other day my husband, our two daughters (4 and 6) and I were at a restaurant waiting for a table. During that 20+ minute wait, a man, probable 55-ish, talked with my girls. He asked them these EXACT same questions, engaging them in conversation even asking the 6 year old math problems. It’s called conversation not grooming.

    The kids she encountered were probably just not used to a stranger talking to them, because of the ‘stranger danger’ they’re brainwashed with. So they could have looked a little uncomfortable.
    It took my girls a few minutes to be comfortable with the man talking with them too.

  88. Dirge. May 9, 2012 at 5:03 am #

    Recently I told some friends (including some new parents) about how when I worked at Toys R Us in college, I would make jokes to fussing infants and todlers, such as “Yeah, I’m having a bad day too.” Most parents seemed to chuckle. But my friends seemed to think it was odd that I would talk to random childern.

  89. Beth May 9, 2012 at 5:53 am #

    I would like to see verifiable proof that “What grade are you in?” is publicized as a known grooming question by police departments. Name one adult that has never asked a kid this question. Name one police officer that has never asked a kid this question. Ridiculous.

    Also, the “thing” about being able to track kids if one knows their school and maybe their teacher’s name – if a child-snatcher-pedophile is having an actual conversation with a child, why does he need to then track that kid on another day? Can’t he just unobtrusively follow the kid he just had a conversation with, as opposed to going through the kind of big hassle of locating one single child at an elementary school?

    I am so confused by the illogic of these arguments. In this day and age.

  90. annie May 9, 2012 at 6:50 am #

    Bunch of BS. Myself and entire family NEVER SPEAK TO ANYONE UNDER 18. Seriously, we don’t and never will. We do not allow them in our cars, in our homes, or even in our yard, in fact, all of us have custom made signs on our gates advising no children allowed. We steer completely away from any types of functions that have anything to do with chidren. If we see any on a grovery store isle, we turn around and go down another isle so we don’t get accused of touching them if we accidently brush against them while trying to pass with our shopping carts. False allegations of child molestation and molester hysteria is at an all time high in this country. Soon, we will see a closing of schools because people are starting to realize the lies that can ruin an innocent persons life. Currently, teachers and all staff within our schools are being taught to have zero contact with any student except for what is absolutely necessary. Our whole lives as we once knew them are being ruined and changed due to the false allegations of child molestation. We all need to stand up and fight prosecutorial misconduct and teach ignorant humans about these lies and what this hysteria is causing.

  91. linvo May 9, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    I feel a bit guilty about leaving a nasty comment on that article, but the tone and the content of the article makes me so very angry that I could not resist. I wrote that only a truly perverted mind could make such an innocent conversation into something sexual. Not a constructive comment at all, but it is kind of true, isn’t it?

  92. Chris May 9, 2012 at 9:14 am #

    @jimmythebitch… sadly I think most of the comments calling the lady nuts came from people who found the article through this blog – until then it was just a bunch of crazy moms urging her on. i would not be able to participate in that site long, seems like everyone is crazy uptight / paranoid.

  93. Chris May 9, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    @mollie – thanks for the real info on grooming, etc. good info.

  94. sylvia_rachel May 9, 2012 at 9:38 am #

    So, let me get this straight: “What grade are you in?” and “What’s your favourite planet?” are predator questions, but “Where are your parents?!?!” is friendly and responsible.

    Um … o_O

    I post at Circle of Moms. I have to take periodic breaks from doing so because there are so many posts exactly like this one, but I keep going back because I think it’s important for parents who are genuinely wondering if they’re the only ones considering letting their kids do X, Y or Z to hear from other parents whose kids already do whatever-it-is, and not just from all the parents shrieking “OMG NO ARE YOU INSANE?!!” I get called all kinds of names, but whatever.

    Kids have instincts, too — if they’re not blunted by adults’ paranoias. Maybe the kid who wouldn’t answer was freaked out or offended by this woman’s aggressive attitude, or by her assumption that he was too young to be out and about without a parent. I know my own kid (she’s almost 10) is way more likely to answer politely when you ask her a normal people question than when you get in her face and demand to know where her parents are…

  95. Donna May 9, 2012 at 9:38 am #

    I’ve read several other articles with comments. They are all hyper-paranoid. Definitely not a website for me.

  96. Jenna May 9, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    @sylvia_rachel–That’s why I post at Circle of Moms too. And I get a lot of slack too. In fact, if I recall, it was at Circle of Moms where I saw a post from you over leaving the kids in the car that led me to this website.

  97. skl1 May 9, 2012 at 9:57 am #

    Yeah, when I was in 3rd grade I would have been very offended by “where are your parents.” The answer would have been “they are at work.” I was more than capable of finding my own way around town by the time I was in 3rd grade. The thing is, in those days, that’s what adults assumed. Nobody asked kids questions like that.

  98. Jackie May 9, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    Oh my God-I looked around that stupid website and got suckered into reading the question about how long will you take your child into the bathroom with you. One poster actually commented that “too many children are hurt/killed using the bathroom” that she would not let her kids go without her. I am curious as to the statistics about this, because I’m 100% sure she’s full of it. I couldn’t read further on that website, because I felt I would then have to log in and make inappropriately nasty comments.

  99. linvo May 9, 2012 at 10:37 am #

    lol Jackie, I just had exactly the same experience!

    And regarding the toilets, I do remember a case here of a 12yo girl being murdered in a mall toilet a few years ago. It really shocked the whole country. But I’ve lived here for over 14 years and that is the only case I have ever heard of (and it would be hard not to hear about it even when you don’t deliberately follow the news). I recently discovered that 9% of child deaths in Australia are because of kids being murdered by either parents or step-parents. Yet you rarely hear about these cases in the news and no one is suggesting that kids should never be alone with their parents.

  100. skl1 May 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    Funny about the bathroom. Today my kids were in the locker room changing and two little girls were in there using the restrooms. I observed the littler girl crawling out under the stall door (I guess she could not unlock it) and shortly thereafter, both girls just stood mutely watching my kids get dressed (I put put up a towel between them as it was kind of awkward). After a while their mom came looking for them and took them out of there. Imagine what could have been happening to them while away from their mom! I could have been a pedophile just waiting for such an opportunity . . . .

    To Iinvo: “no one is suggesting that kids should never be alone with their parents” – YET.

  101. KD May 9, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

    I belong to a different parenting site where these types of questions/blogs/comments are posted frequently. My favorite and a new one for me are the posts about slumber parties and asking your husband or teenage son to leave during the party as men cannot be trusted. When I commented that my husband and teenage son are part of my family and would never be asked to leave I was vilified for trusting them and not taking the protection of my three daughters and their friends seriously! Why would I procreate with a man I did not trust? Where should I send my almost 17 year old son and my husband of 10 years so that other parents feel more comfortable? No one could answer those questions….I should just not trust them. I should develop an assumption that 1/3 of my family is made up of potential predators and act accordingly…..

  102. Jespren May 9, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

    Someone get this woman a book (or tape) of the show “Kids say the Darndest Things”! These aren’t ‘grooming’ questions, they are normal questions to get kids talking. You know, conversation, which is healthy, normal, and harmless.

  103. pentamom May 9, 2012 at 8:26 pm #

    “So, let me get this straight: “What grade are you in?” and “What’s your favourite planet?” are predator questions, but “Where are your parents?!?!” is friendly and responsible.

    sylvia_rachel FTW.

  104. Eriwtoh May 9, 2012 at 10:34 pm #

    As a victim of child sexual abuse, this post irks me on so many levels.

    To my mind it is not “stangers” that parents need to protect their children from so much as the people that they entrust their children to on a routine basis (i.e. school teachers, sports coaches, tutors, uncles, aunts, friends, nannies, day carers, etc). This is where the weakness lies, these people have the child’s trust handed to them on a platter, by the parent, who is totally oblivious to what subsequently takes place. Those people have the child’s trust and can fully manipulate the child’s emotions.

    Only a very small few of these people cannot be trusted, and most of course are just fine. Parents need to hunt out those few, but more importantly prepare and teach their children accordingly to fend for themselves and speak out. It would have helpd me had my parents had done so.

  105. Heath May 9, 2012 at 11:19 pm #

    The thing that sucks about situations like this, is that it makes it uncomfortable for most men to talk to little kids. I am in my mid-30s, have a 2 year old son, and I’m a high school teacher. Naturally, I have a predilection for talking to kids, since that’s my profession. But even I have to be wary of talking TOO much to some strange kid in a store or at the park, because I know most women (sorry, but true) will think I’m a predator. And it’s not like I even instigate the conversation. I’m just a friendly-looking guy. 🙂 I’ve even had people give me strange looks when my 2 year old and I are at the park, and I try to talk to some kid he’s playing with. I’m usually just trying to be something more than the parent who sits there telling the kid what NOT to do. Do they think I have the 2 year old as a front for some advanced “grooming”? Also, think about how the old shows, like Andy Griffith and Leave It To Beaver, always had kids talking to strangers. Nobody was in hysterics then. And you can’t argue that things were safer back then. It’s simply not true.

  106. mollie May 9, 2012 at 11:27 pm #

    “Parents need to hunt out those few, but more importantly prepare and teach their children accordingly to fend for themselves and speak out. It would have helpd me had my parents had done so.”

    I agree that teaching your children what to do if they get the “creepy” feeling about an adult they are “supposed to obey” and cultivate an open, honest and attentive relationship with your kids so they really do feel comfortable telling you about what happens in their lives, reassuring them especially that if they experience something involving touching where their bathing suit covers, that you are there for them, no matter who it was who did the touching.

    The whole “hunt out those few” people in positions of authority over children who would harm them, well… too many “first time” offenders out there to “hunt” them via background checks, and if it’s all left up to parents, sounds like zero men would be entrusted to teach or lead kids anywhere. So it would seem the best approach is what Free-Range Kids’ parents do for any hazard: PREPARE your child, then let them go out into the world.

    Between riding in cars and living with parents, it’s a wonder any children survive these days, predators be damned!

  107. judy May 10, 2012 at 12:08 am #

    What I find most disturbing about this is the attitude that no man anywhere can ever be trusted with any child. And then I have to wonder, how much of this “all men are perverts” thinking is internalized by these women’s sons?

  108. denise May 10, 2012 at 12:08 am #

    The takeaway message society is shaping kids with is to stick within a very narrowly defined group, trust authority to make decisions about your safety and don’t think because you don’t know enough.

  109. pentamom May 10, 2012 at 12:33 am #

    “To Iinvo: “no one is suggesting that kids should never be alone with their parents” – YET.”

    Can’t remember where, but on one of those over-the-top Mom sites that tends to be filled with paranoid types, some woman actually did post that she never let her husband alone with their child, or change his/her diaper, or anything like that. So we’re getting pretty close.

  110. Donna May 10, 2012 at 2:26 am #

    @Judy – I wonder this as well. I wonder what type of men are being created. Afterall they’ve been told from infantcy that all adult men are attracted to young children and can’t control their sexual urges even for 5 seconds while they pee. Will they act accordingly?

  111. sassystep May 10, 2012 at 3:50 am #

    I read that too Pentamom – I remember thinking to myself “why would you have a baby with this man if you don’t trust him to help raise it?”

  112. Beth May 10, 2012 at 4:12 am #

    I remember that too, Pentamom, and I wonder now as I wondered then. Why does the husband put up with that? Granted, I suppose he might be not that into fatherhood and not care, but most men I think would be pretty put out (to say the least) that his wife prohibited him from normal interactions with his child.

  113. AW13 May 10, 2012 at 6:51 am #

    @pentamom: That is so sad!!! The look of joy on my son’s face when he sees daddy is one of the best things about being a parent, as it watching the two of them together. He spends a lot of time with his dad and uncle doing things together, like going to the park (and what a scare that must have put into people – two grown men with a little boy at the park! The horror!). I can’t imagine my husband and son not spending time together – they would both be missing out on a fulfilling, nurturing relationship. Plus, my son learns about being a man by watching and interacting with other men. So he’ll watch his father, grandfathers, uncles, cousins, and other men in his life. This is a good thing.

    I’ve watched my brother-in-law go through a very nasty divorce, and the first thing his ex did was to take away his access to his children (thankfully he has visitation now). It hurt him and his children immeasurably. I can’t imagine the heartbreak of having your child in the same house and not being able to participate in their life.

    And lastly, it never occurred to me that I should have expected my friends’ parents to send their male spouse and child(ren) away when we had slumber parties. I….I don’t even know what to say to that!

  114. KD May 10, 2012 at 7:05 am #

    @ AW13…you broke another mommy site rule…you mentioned the dreaded grandfathers, uncles, cousins, male friends etc….didn’t you know they are also predators that should be looked upon with dread whenever they are within ten feet of your child????? I have commented that ALL of those individuals spend time with my children and have GASP even babysat and you would think I had locked my children in a cell with a serial killer….lol
    I don’t understand the slumber party thing either. My children’s friends have always been at my house and my husband has always been there…he is practically a second father to many of them….

  115. baby-paramedic May 10, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    Asking what year they are in at school, and what school they go to are often the third and fourth question I ask children (name, dob, school year and school THEN onto what hurts). Yes, it does build trust. And asking about school is a good starting point, as most children attend.
    If I pick the children up from a rugby match, for example, I change the questions to ask about their team and if they were winning.
    If we have a long transport time we discuss teachers, friends at school, favourite subjects, pets… Because honestly, I do not know enough about specific children activities, generic is easier.

    Of course, I can get away with this. Female and in uniform.

    My other half is scruffy, male, and has an interest in spiderman and little plastic men. He can engage children about these topics so quickly! But he is afraid to unless a female is nearby. And that is SO sad.

  116. Snarky Mom May 10, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    I used Senator Palpatine from Star Wars to talk to my boys about this. Here is a bad guy whom seems like one of the good guys. He is trusted and on their side. He befriends Anikin but then bad things happen. He wants Anikin to keep secrets. He tells him things that confuse him. He asks him to do things that make him uncomfortable. He gets him to do things that are wrong. This is a predator. Trust your instincts. Don’t keep secrets. Don’t trust someone who wants you to do things that don’t seem right. Child or adult.

  117. skl1 May 10, 2012 at 11:47 am #

    My dd was totally groomed tonight in the museum’s “discovery room.” As I was reading with my older dd, an employee took the opportunity to hone in on my youngest. She somehow got my kid’s age out of her, and then asked what grade she was in. I am still wondering whether I should call the cops or just never go there again. :-/

  118. mollie May 10, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    I can’t decide which is worse: the old days when child molestation was an unspoken and well-hidden secret, and molesting male relatives and authority figures had impunity… or this new era of hypersexualizing the relationship between children and men and behaving as if having a penis makes you an automatic would-be criminal of opportunity when it comes to kids.

    Could we go to some kind of happy medium where the crime of molestation is safe to be discussed, children are educated and unashamed of their sexuality and their bodies, and we go about our business, enjoying a sense of connection, trust and community with each other?

  119. Eriwtoh May 10, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

    I never said anything about men, why did you assume that?

  120. mollie May 10, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

    Eriwtoh, my last comment was addressing the original article and the overall discussion that has ensued here; many of us commenting have bemoaned the sexism and suspicion directed at men specifically when it comes to “stranger danger” and kids.

  121. CrazyCatLady May 10, 2012 at 11:23 pm #

    Snarky Mom, which episode was that?

  122. Jenna May 10, 2012 at 11:29 pm #

    CrazyCatLady–That’s in Episode III.

  123. Donna May 11, 2012 at 2:11 am #

    So I got annoyed with the number of people commenting “it doesn’t matter if his feelings are hurt as long as children are protected” and “he wouldn’t have left if he had nothing to hide” and pointed out that loudly accusing someone of essentially being a pedophile in a crowded restaurant is defamation of character and the author is lucky that all he did was leave rather than sticking around to confront her and then suing her for every penny she has. Interestingly, that comment has been removed and the comments shut down.

  124. Heather G May 11, 2012 at 2:18 am #

    Donna, I honestly wondered how long anyone was going to get away with making sensible statements against Mrs. Silver before the whole thing got shot down. Clearly you hit a nerve pointing out that there could be legal consequences for people exhibiting such behavior as well as the implication of consequences for websites that encourage it.

  125. gap.runner May 11, 2012 at 3:09 am #

    @Donna and Heather, I also saw that the comments have been closed for that article. Also, all of the comments that dared to criticize the author have been removed. It sounds like this Circle of Moms site should be renamed Circle of Paranoid Moms. What is really scary is that the editor stands by the author’s post about how the man was grooming the boys. Here is most of what the editor posted:

    “Editor’s Note: We stand behind the cautionary information provided by this author. “Grooming” is widely recognized as a process that sexual predators use to make children into victims. Parents.org explains that when predators “groom” a child victim, they often begin by exhibiting interest in the child, presenting themselves positively to child, complimenting the child, learning the child’s habits, likes, and dislikes, and pretending to share common interest, backgrounds, experiences, etc. Please see: http://www.parenting.org/article/victim-grooming-protect-your-child-sexual-predators….”

  126. gap.runner May 11, 2012 at 3:12 am #

    And of course the article that the Circle of Moms editor posted also ends with the standard “better safe than sorry” line. Sheesh!

  127. mollie May 11, 2012 at 5:34 am #

    I reject the motto “Better safe than sorry.”

    I support this one: “Better to live fully and joyfully than in fear.”

    How lovely it would have been to have that article TAKEN DOWN, and the editor to apologize for putting something totally unrelated to child safety under a headline that leads parents to believe they’re getting something useful in that vein.

    I’ll indulge that fantasy:

    Note from the Editor: Our motto on this site, Circle of Moms, is “Motherhood, shared & simplified.” I regret that this article, “How to Spot a Predator,” written by Ms Silver, a regular contributor, presented personal impressions and judgements as advice for parents. She implies that any “stranger” who strikes up a friendly conversation with a child they’ve never before met is actually a “potential predator” who is “grooming” them for sexual molestation. This is absolutely not the case. “Grooming” takes place over time, and involves a gradual increase in pressure on the child to do things the child would not ordinarily do. Answering conversational questions in a public place does not in any way qualify as “grooming.”

    We suggest that you speak openly to your children about touching and boundaries (reference article giving helpful guidelines for this) and cultivate a relationship of trust and acceptance with them. This is far more effective as a strategy to support their safety than following the guidelines for “inappropriate” questions people might ask children and accosting someone who asks a child their age, their school, their teacher, and if they can multiply 4 x 6. Again, our regrets if this article triggered any confusion or frustration for our readers, and may we as parents support both our children’s development and a sense of connection, caring and trust in our communities.”

  128. Donna May 11, 2012 at 5:55 am #

    I liked to Editor’s comment about grooming. You’d think that we were saying that the whole idea of grooming is a figment of this author’s imagination, rather than explaining that all conversations between a strange adult and child are not grooming.

  129. Jenna May 11, 2012 at 6:04 am #

    A great resource for teaching kids how to interact with adults, what to watch out for, etc. is a pamphlet prepared by the Boy Scouts of America called “How to Protect Your Children From Child Abuse: A Parent’s Guide”. It gives great guidelines about teaching your children proper boundaries, not stranger danger. It teaches them personal safety rules like checking with a parent first about changing plans, going anywhere or accepting anything from anyone, going with a friend, and being empowered to set personal limits and resist anyone who fails to respect those limits.


  130. mollie May 11, 2012 at 6:10 am #

    I wrote to the site and gave this feedback. We’ll see if I hear back.

    The motto on this site, Circle of Moms, is “Motherhood, shared & simplified.” My impression is that the goal here is to create a community of support, ease, connection, learning and sharing for parents.

    I found that this article, “How to Spot a Predator,” written by Ms Silver, a regular contributor, presented her personal impressions and “gut feelings” as safety advice for parents. She implies that any “stranger” who strikes up a friendly conversation in a public place with a child they’ve never met before ought to be viewed as a “potential predator” who is likely “grooming” them for sexual molestation, and by chasing someone off from a conversation with a child, we are doing a that child a service.

    The editor closed the comments to this article and referenced a link explaining “grooming,” and going by that referenced article’s information, what was observed by Ms Silver did not in any way qualify. “Grooming” takes place over time, usually involves both the children and the parents, and the hallmark is the incremental and gradual increase in pressure on the child to do things the child would not ordinarily do. Answering basic conversational questions in a public place does not constitute “grooming,” and yet Ms Silver insists that it does. To suggest that it does is to unravel the very fabric of community. Talking to someone you’ve just met is one thing. Accepting favours, rides, treats, alcohol, pornography, and touching where the bathing suit covers is quite another. Perhaps they all start with “Hello, what’s your name?” but that doesn’t make “Hello, what’s your name?” a red flag. “Would you like to go to the amusement park? Don’t tell your parents, we can go in my car” —now that’s a red flag, but Ms Silver didn’t distinguish this.

    I would suggest that all parents speak openly to their children about touching and boundaries (perhaps an article giving parents helpful guidelines for this already exists on your site) and cultivate a relationship of trust and acceptance with them. This is far more effective as a strategy to support their safety than following Ms Silver’s guidelines for “inappropriate” questions people might ask children and thinking the worst of someone who asks a child their age, their school, their teacher, and if they can multiply 4 x 6.

    Your site plays a very important role in forming the cultural norms of North American society. This is a major responsibility, and affects communities throughout the continent, and beyond. Ms Silver’s article, and the comments that were allowed to stand afterward, suggest that we are better off assuming that strangers who speak to our children mean our children harm. This is a slippery slope of paranoia, mistrust, and diminishing safety, not increasing safety.

    There is a happy medium between the “old days,” when male authority figures who molested children had impunity and molestation was something too shameful to discuss, and the hysterical assumptions we’ve got today that any man who speaks to a child he just met means them harm, simply because he is a man.

    I would love to hear back from you about how these comments have landed. I care very much about community, safety, and kids.

  131. Heather G May 11, 2012 at 6:13 am #

    Mollie, that would have been a great response from the editor. After all that is all that anyone who had the gall to disagree with Mrs. Silver wanted- to differentiate between an *actual* threat and unfounded fear and advice to protect kids from *real* danger. I don’t think they even get how the link Mrs. Silver provided on grooming contradicted her post.

  132. Diane S. May 11, 2012 at 6:26 am #

    @lollipoplover – mind if I lift this for some kids I get in class? I’m getting weekly pickers.. and I even found a candy called “boogers’ that are evidently sticky green things that resemble the original thing. (found at Spec’s downtown houston). I’m continually armed with a roll of TP for those that have runny noses.

    On another note, I’m one of those that regularly talk to kids, and ask how their school is going, what do they like to do, etc. But I’ve also been the ‘freak’ in the grocery store going after the woman who was screaming at her boy calling him a s****head, the kid was about 7. I told her what I thought of her parenting skill, and herself personally.

    I just don’t get the “all men are pedos out to get the kids” mentality. Its not something I grew up with, or was brought up with. I was taught that conversation is a skill, one that needs practicing with people, and not necessarily people you know. Both my parents were gregarious types, and I guess I got that from them. I know guys that actually LIKE kids, not in the sick sort of sense this woman in the article is thinking, but that they are fun.

    I was watching a documentary that I had recorded off the Doc channel, “The War on Kids” that takes into acct the ‘zero tolerance’; security cameras, treating kids as criminals, etc. that I thought was very interesting.http://www.thewaronkids.com/MAIN.html an interesting and enlightening 2 hours. Never really thought about how we are treating school age kids, same as a minimum security prison does for prisoners that actually have done somethign wrong.

  133. AW13 May 11, 2012 at 6:55 am #

    Mollie – that was very well put, a thoughtful and detailed explanation of why so many disagreed with that article. I’ll be interested to hear anything that the editors might say, if you’d be willing to share it with us.

  134. Donna May 11, 2012 at 7:34 am #

    mollie, let us know if you hear back.

  135. backroadsem May 11, 2012 at 11:19 am #

    The article disgusted me, as did the comments. Trusting your gut, listening to that sixth sense? All good things. But I don’t always know if I’m sensing a true sense of the not-quite-right or just my own fears. Another commenter here said gut-trusting is only part of the equation. Very well put.

    Now, there are a few ideas from the article I did like: this woman was “watching out” for children of the community. She should have left it at that. Don’t trust the situation, not sure if it’s good or bad, keep watching. Smart. Loudly making a scene? Not so smart.

    I once got into a conversation with a little girl at an international airport–in the bathroom. She said she was going into first grade in the fall, and I said I would be teaching first grade in the fall! She was all kinds of impressed at that, and we went on our merry ways. Shame on me for allowing her to mention her grade.

  136. Snarky Mom May 11, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    @ mollie. That letter to the editor was brilliant!

  137. gap.runner May 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    @Mollie, I also think that your letter to the editor was excellent. Let us know if you get a response. It’s my “gut feeling” that you won’t, but “you never know what can happen.” 😉

    That Circle of Moms site is like an accident on the Autobahn or a train wreck. I know that I shouldn’t look at it, yet I do anyway. I thought that the helicopter parenting phenomenon was being exaggerated, but sites like Circle of Moms make me realize that it really is the norm. Yikes! Thank goodness for Lenore and the other Free Rangers.

  138. mountainmornings May 11, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    This struck home for me, but in a round-about way. I’ve noticed an incremental change in my husband over the years. We love kids and our daughter is about to have our first grandchild, so naturally we are now attracted to babies everywhere. He recently said he would never talk with a child or approach a new mom for a baby chat “by himself.” In Europe, everyone feels free to adore children – I’m afraid the good men in our country have been virtually gagged by our communal fear of strangers.

  139. Janet Rosenzweig May 11, 2012 at 8:52 pm #

    I’m all for letting my kid having some independence, but as someone who has worked with child sexual abuse for decades, I strongly believe that giving kids information and language about sexuality is as important as buying them a bike helmet. When my child takes off on his bike and runs into a family friend, I want him to know exactly what it means and what to do if that person’s hands end up in the wrong place.Language and knowledge about healthy sexuality is a gift every parent can and must given their child, and not just to scare them away from strangers. Free range kids need Sex-Wise Parents! (www.SexWiseParents.com) Please read my blog post on this topic at http://bit.ly/Lo2os3.

  140. backroadsem May 11, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

    Janet, I completely agree with you. KNOWLEDGE is what kids need, not vague fear of everyone. Kids need to know what to look for and not be afraid of every random greeting that comes their way.

  141. mom of 3 boys May 11, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

    As a nurse anesthetist, I engage my little patients in this kind of talk all the time as I wheel them back to the OR. I even–gasp–rock them to sleep with the gas if they’re small enough. I guess I’ve groomed them to accept predator behavior too :/

    When I’m out with my three boys, I appreciate adults taking the time to talk to them. My kids are outgoing and engaging and sometimes it makes an elderly person’s day to have a child talk with them for a while in the grocery store.

  142. Beth May 11, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

    @Janet Rozenzweig, what if that family friend asks your child any of the questions referenced in this Circle of Moms post? “Hands in the wrong place” is completely different from being suspicious of and criminalizing thye getting-to-know-you-type questions that adults ask kids *all the time*.

  143. Edward May 12, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    Ms. Silver,

    It has taken me several days to calm down enough to reply to your post about the incident in the cafe.
    The only person in that cafe with thoughts in their mind of a sexually perverse nature was you. Repeat your act in front of a mirror and don’t lie to yourself.
    I promise you I will “groom” every child I possibly can to recognize and fight the evil in this world today – that evil, Ms. Silver, is you and all who think the way you do.
    On behalf of that gentleman and those two young boys, I demand you publish a public apology for your actions.
    You disgust me.

    Edward Hafner
    (never a molester and never molested)

  144. Marion Ros May 13, 2012 at 10:00 am #

    The last comment allowed on that piece, by one ‘Lori’, boldly states that:

    With the statistics of abduction and molestation ever increasing in this country—by the way, that’s 1 child abducted every 40 seconds and 37% of those abductions at the hands of a stranger, and 1.3m children sexually assaulted last year alone—it is cause for alarm.”

    A child abducted every 40 seconds? That’s nearly 800.000 EVERY YEAR!!!
    And a third of those by strangers, no less! A quarter of a million kids kidnapped by strangers every year… One would think one would notice! It would mean that every year a couple of your children’s classmates would get abducted, at least. There would be several brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles in every family who were once the victim of such an abduction.

    Where did this woman pull that number out of? Some dark and damp place, no doubt.

  145. linvo May 13, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    The 1 child “abducted” every 40 seconds myth has been doing the rounds for yonks. It actually refers to the number of kids that are reported missing. What they fail to add is that the vast majority of those reports turn out to be false, as in the kids are found unharmed within the hour. Often it is just a child that got lost at the mall or something.

    I’m not sure about the abductions by strangers figure. But I do know that the vast majority of sexual assaults on kids are by relatives (parents and step-parents mainly) and other people they know.

  146. Donna May 14, 2012 at 1:43 am #

    If that many kids are abducted by stangers every year, why would we still be referencing Adam Walsh and Etan Patz – kids who were kidnapped a long time ago and far away from most of us – when we talk about how dangerous it is out there? Clearly we should be able to come up with many names from recent years and our own state, at least, if kidnapping is that common.

  147. Uly May 14, 2012 at 7:12 am #

    Also, linvo, the vast majority of abductions are also by parents and step-parents, and sometimes other relatives. They’re custody disputes.

    This doesn’t mean they’re harmless – the abductor might have been denied custody for a VERY GOOD reason – but it’s certainly not what people are thinking of when they think of abductions. For one thing, you generally have some clue when your child might be at risk of dad or aunt nutsy stealing them away.

  148. skl1 May 14, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

    I was out yesterday with friends. At one point we were putzing along the waterfront and there as a little girl around 5 or 6 putzing in our direction, making eye contact. My friend (a middle-aged woman) said what came naturally: “what’s your name? How old are you?” It’s clearly the most normal thing for a person to do when a strange child is looking you in the eye. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but I can’t believe so many people just accept the whole “that is grooming” assessment. Have these people never taken a walk in a neighborhood?

  149. Warren September 17, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    Attitudes like those of the author are oh so dangerous.

    How many men out there are coaches and teachers? I have coached.
    I routinely am talking to kids in public, other than mine. Why? Because they come up to me. They know me from sports, the school, being at and in my home, or from walking my dogs. If I remember them it is one thing, if my memory lapses, I ask many of the same questions just to get my bearings with him/her again.

    I rarely go shopping or around town, without running into a child that knows me. What would this author have me do, ignore them? Not going to happen. And if I am ever approached by authorities because some busybody called them, I will demand his or her name, then go and demand an apology.

  150. Cub October 3, 2012 at 8:11 am #

    :finishes seething: As a 35 year old man, I HATE this mindset. I LOVE children of all ages, and I babysit. A friend’s mother didn’t like the fact that I babysat for the friend’s baby, because she doesn’t think “boys should be babysitters”. Yay gender roles. >P I might add that she had a “masculine” job that most women would not have if one listened to woman stereotype. Yeesh.

    I will add that I look extremely young, and I’m short, and strangers who talk to me ask what school I go to often, and what grade I’m in every single time. (I love telling them how old I am, LOL)

    As for planets, my favorite planet is Venus, followed shortly by Jupiter. XD