Mom Taught Daughter, 5, the OPPOSITE of Stranger Danger…and She Saved Mom’s Life


In this zehnbreify
, Dr. Oz interviews a 5-year-old who saved the life of her mom and baby brother, then explains that this girl was empowered by her parents’ lesson: If you ever need help, find a STRANGER.

Great advice.

The girl climbed out of the car that had tumbled 40-feet down an embankment and knocked her mom unconscious. (Here’s the mom talking about the accident.) Then the little girl flagged down help.

(Feel free to compare and contrast with the Utah Boy Scout taught never to talk to strangers who ended up stranded in the woods for three days because whenever he heard the search party call his name, he hid, fearing abduction.)

More importantly, read the post below this one, about research on how and why we overestimate danger when it comes to kids on their own. That study just blows my mind. – L


This girl, 5, climbed a 40-foot embankment barefoot and saved her family. But we arrest parents who let their 5 year olds play outside.

Lexi Shymanski, 5, climbed a 40-foot embankment, barefoot after a car crash, and saved her family. 


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30 Responses to Mom Taught Daughter, 5, the OPPOSITE of Stranger Danger…and She Saved Mom’s Life

  1. The other Mandy August 31, 2016 at 12:16 pm #

    Well done!

  2. fred schueler August 31, 2016 at 12:19 pm #

    My brother and I were left alone one time and accidentally set a field on fire while fooled around with “trying to put grass fires out.”- so while I hauled water from the brook, he went down to the highway and lay beside it as if road-killed to attract a passing motorist. This worked, and help arrived before the fire reached the woods. How old were we? Old enough to have known better.

  3. Tara Kluth August 31, 2016 at 12:25 pm #

    I tell my kids either to find a “worker (store/fair/park employee) with a nametag” or a mom with kids. Any of those people are helpers!

  4. Lizanne August 31, 2016 at 12:34 pm #

    Or a dad with kids. Can’t dads be helpers also?

  5. Sue Luttner August 31, 2016 at 12:53 pm #

    What a story. I’m glad Dr. Oz articulates the message about getting help from a stranger, but for emotional engagement, I recommend the the mom’s account of the accident. Potent stuff.

  6. Reziac August 31, 2016 at 1:30 pm #

    Fact is, strangers don’t want to take your kids. Strangers don’t want to hurt your kids. Strangers are people just like you. What would YOU do if you came across a kid who needs help? Well, that’s exactly what most strangers would do, too.

    Unless we as a society frighten everyone into just walking away, lest they be locked up as a dangerous stranger.

  7. Vicki Bradley August 31, 2016 at 1:39 pm #

    I live in Canada, and often listen to the national radio station (CBC). There’s a program called “The Vinyl Cafe” and in the most recent episode of this radio show, the host (Stuart McLean) was talking about stranger danger, and how parents these days have been sold a bill of goods about the danger strangers present, especially to children. He lays the blame for this state of affairs at the feet of the news business that profits from this fear, and political candidates, who hope to get elected based on instilling fear in us, so that they can then enact laws to save us (presumably from ourselves). According to Mr. McLean, this results in us fearing one another and the world we live in. He goes on to say that the best childhoods allow children to wander among and interact with strangers, and parents should teach their children not to fear and avoid these interactions but to explore them. No truer words were spoken…

  8. Warren August 31, 2016 at 4:13 pm #

    So Tara no man is ever a helper? That makes you part of the problem today.

    My girls will tell you that they would seek help from men because in certain situations men are more likely to be able to assist.

  9. Jason August 31, 2016 at 5:06 pm #

    Obviously, in an extreme situation, you would welcome the help of anyone, and be far less discerning. If you were trapped in a burning house, you would probably yell down to some street thugs for help. But, would you ask them in to help move a bookcase?

  10. Anna August 31, 2016 at 5:49 pm #

    “So Tara no man is ever a helper? That makes you part of the problem today. My girls will tell you that they would seek help from men because in certain situations men are more likely to be able to assist.”

    That’s totally unfair. Tara never said no man was a helper, nor that all men are perverts, nor any such thing. She’s describing advice she gives her kids to help them have a better chance of choosing a safe person to help them in a public place. That’s a statistical issue, and statistically, women are quite simply a better bet than men, who are about 3 times more likely to commit violent crimes (violent crime being, presumably, the main stranger danger parents worry about in this context).

    Sorry if it hurts your delicate feelings, but the advice we give our preschoolers about who to trust is a pragmatic and personal judgment call, not an judicial act. Nobody’s sending you to prison for being a man; we’d simply prefer our kids ask a woman for help in a public place, if possible.

  11. Vaughan Evans August 31, 2016 at 6:30 pm #

    No adult ever did anything obscene to me-when I was a boy
    If anyone bullied me-or molested me .It was other boys-teenaged boys and pre-teen boys-who did the assaulting or molesting

    One 11-year old boy deliberately threw a hardball at my head.
    In high school P>E dressing rooms, boys did obscene things to me.
    They simulated kicking me in my “bag”(slang for testicles)

    -When I was in the army-at 32-the young men(who were 20)made obscene gestures to me.

    Children should be taught ghe circumstances-when they should ask a stranger for information-or whatever.

    Adults should be taught when they should voluntarily “go to bat” for a child.

    If I were a parent, this is what I would do.

    I would tell a child that if he should approach an adult: he MUST

    -disclose firml:’
    -that he approached the adult
    -why he approached the adult
    how the adult acted towards him or her.
    The fact that an adult may have a sexual problem-or psychiatric problem-does NOT necessarily mean that he/she will behave inacceptably-to the child involved.

    -One little girl in a swimming pool-asked me why the floor of the pool has black markings.

    I explained;
    -that in competitions, each swimmer says within his/her lane.

    It would also help a front crawl swimmer swim in a straight line(when his head is submerged, he can keep an eye on such line.)

  12. Mike August 31, 2016 at 8:03 pm #

    Teach your children to look for motorcycle riders. I’m serious. Most of us are fathers and REALLY dislike people who harm kids. A child asks for help from a group of bikers? Bam, that kid is safe and his/her problem solved.

  13. Edward Hafner August 31, 2016 at 10:19 pm #

    Anna and Tara:
    Please read all posts listed under “EEK! A Male! (and stranger danger)” under the “Hot Topics” category on the right side of this page.
    Tara’s advice is stated incorrectly and every male who is a regular contributor to comments at FRK knows that.
    Lenore Skenazy knows that.
    And now the two of you know it.
    (Apologies to your delicate feelings.)

  14. Anna August 31, 2016 at 10:41 pm #

    “Anna and Tara:
    Please read all posts listed under “EEK! A Male! (and stranger danger)” under the “Hot Topics” category on the right side of this page.
    Tara’s advice is stated incorrectly and every male who is a regular contributor to comments at FRK knows that.”

    Nope, I’m not teaching my son to be terrified of all males, nor am I obsessed with “stranger danger” – at all. But it’s simply common sense to tell your child, if they’re lost and looking for help, to ask a woman with kids first. This is no condemnation of random males in public places; it’s simple mathematics.

    Yes, strange men have helped me in a number of awkward situations, like needing a jump in a very bad neighborhood. And a couple of months ago, a young, scruffy, impoverished-looking Mexican guy helped my son when he thought he was lost in the thrift store (I was actually right where I had been all along, 15 feet away, but anyway. . .) I’m grateful to this guy, truly, and I’m sure he was a decent, helpful person, not a would-be abductor, but am I going to teach my son to preferentially seek out help from young, ill-dressed, unemployed men who don’t speak English? Well, no, frankly, I’m not going to do that, nor do I think I should. This is no condemnation of any individual; it’s simply a statistically sensible rule to give my son, who is not yet old enough to make a global assessment of random strangers’ reliability.

  15. Warren August 31, 2016 at 10:47 pm #


    You are wrong saying that women are statistically a better bet.
    Considering that most emergency services workers are men. The fire department, the police department and paramedics are filled with mostly men. So statistically kids run a much better chance going to men.

    Your advice is sexist and biased. My feelings are far from delicate and the fact you had to include that in your comment tells me just how prejudiced you are. Yes you and Tara are part of the problem.

  16. Anna August 31, 2016 at 11:01 pm #

    “You are wrong saying that women are statistically a better bet.
    Considering that most emergency services workers are men. The fire department, the police department and paramedics are filled with mostly men. So statistically kids run a much better chance going to men.”

    Um, I think you have a serious logic problem here. No doubt a child is well-advised to go to a uniformed firefighter or EMT for help over any other random person – but it does not follow that, lacking a firefighter’s or other such uniform, a child would do best to go to a man for help just because more firefighters are male than female. You have not addressed the general point that men are far more likely to commit violent crimes. Not to mention the fact that sex-crimes committed by women against children unknown to them (which let’s be honest, is many parents’ chief fear about strangers) are so rare as to be virtually unheard of. Yes, once in a while, a female junior-high teacher has an affair with a 13-year-old student, but when did you last hear of a woman abducting a child unknown to her? I don’t actually think I’ve ever heard of a single case, barring characters like Karla Homolka, who was acting in concert with her pedophile husband. (And I’m pretty sure she never looked like a nice, normal mom in public, such as Tara and I suggest our kids should seek out.)

  17. Backroads August 31, 2016 at 11:47 pm #

    Anna, women are more likely to be kidnappers.

  18. John B. August 31, 2016 at 11:59 pm #

    A lady I work with said she told her sons that if they ever were in danger and needed to find help, they should find a woman with kids and avoid going to a man.


  19. Nina September 1, 2016 at 12:23 am #

    To Anna and Tara

    Statistically certain races commit more crime than others. Does it justify racial profiling by police?
    By telling your kid to prefer women over men as helpers, it is not an innocent statistically justified advice, you are indirectly contributing to the bias towards men being more dangerous as a gender, which they will learn and apply in other situations (when they grow up and are serving jury duty for example, and need to decide whether person is guilty or not).

    Whatever messages we are giving to our kids are not that innocent and contribute to overall society bias that you will be horrified to face later on.

    Start small by telling your kids to judge people by their actions and behavior, not by gender,race or how well they speak English!

  20. Backroads September 1, 2016 at 1:01 am #

    You can argue all day how men are more likely to be violent criminals. Doesn’t change the fact that the average man you come across is still statistically not a violent criminal. It makes the “women are safer than men” argument statistically meaningless.

    This little girl rocks.

    And to the Utah Boy Scout, apparently he was on the autism spectrum

  21. Warren September 1, 2016 at 1:29 am #


    No uniform needed. Odds of a man being an off duty emergency worker are much higher than if it were a woman. Should actual physical intervention be called for to protect the child odds are that a male is more physically capable.

    As for your choice be a mom with kids, who the hell are you to possibly put those kids in harm’s way?

    So go ahead and tell your husband or father or brother that you would tell your kids not to trust them.

  22. Jessica September 1, 2016 at 7:21 am #

    I feel like I’ve taught my 5-yo son well. But I have to admit, in this situation, I think he would probably stay in the car and cry. This little girl is amazing! Wonderful story!

  23. Beth September 1, 2016 at 9:23 am #

    Thanks guys, for taking up the fight against “find a mom to help”. That philosophy makes me want to scream.

  24. ChicagoDad September 1, 2016 at 9:24 am #

    Anna & Warren,
    I’d like to weigh in. I’m of the opinion that a kid who needs help should take their first, best opportunity to get help. Whether the kids are lost, hurt, or running from bullies, stray dogs or saber-toothed tigers, the risk that they don’t get timely help is greater and more urgent than the risk that they ask the wrong person for help. If it is an emergency and you need help, take your first best opportunity to get help and get it sooner rather than later.

    Statistics aren’t very predictive when you apply them to a sample of 1, or a single situation. I walk with my kids to school every morning. Most of the drivers who run stop signs or drive recklessly are middle aged women. The only people who have threatened to report me to the authorities when i let the kids play on the playground while I walk across the park are moms with kids. Nearly all of the local social media posts shaming “bad” parents are by local moms. Bad drivers, reports to the authorities, & shaming are risks too. However, I live within walking distance of 4 elementary schools, 2 montessori schools, and a handful of daycares and preschools, so almost all of the drivers in my neighborhood at 7:30am are moms dropping their kids off, so of course most of the bad drivers are from the same demographic. Most of the parents at the park are moms, not dads. Most of the parents on local facebook groups are moms, not dads. There is a bias in my observations that just isnt helpful in coaching my kids about how to handle an emergency. Even though I see these things all the time, I don’t coach my kids to avoid moms with kids when they need help. First best opportunity.

  25. ChicagoDad September 1, 2016 at 9:39 am #

    *maybe it I would have been clearer if I had said “first good” opportunity. I hope you understand my meaning.

  26. BL September 1, 2016 at 10:08 am #

    If Lexi had spent time selecting a helper with the right demographic, this story might have had a less-happy ending.

  27. JulieH September 1, 2016 at 12:42 pm #

    I’ve just taught my kids that people that we don’t know are not a danger as a general rule of thumb. However, if the person “seems strange” to them, trust their guts and look for help elsewhere.

  28. Jason September 1, 2016 at 2:27 pm #

    So, faced with, say, 20 random people whom you could ask for help, you won’t consider what you need help with, exactly, nor who you feel is most likely willing and/or able to help you? You would just randomly choose someone or choose the person closest to you? Or, you would evaluate each person based on their specific behavior and past deeds, then pick the most worthy?

    I, stupidly, use my lifetime of experiences when I need to ask someone for help, and I would attempt to pass some of that judgment on to my kids. Sometimes I make a sub-optimal choice, but I’ll still trust my developed instincts over either random choice or some socially-conscious methodology.

    And yet, when I’ve been on jury duty, I’ve managed to avoid finding half the courtroom guilty just because they’re different from me.

  29. Forrest September 1, 2016 at 2:52 pm #

    Same here JulieH.

  30. hineata September 2, 2016 at 5:29 pm #

    In an emergency, one should be looking at the nearest person for help….stuff mucking around making value judgements about their suitability or lack thereof.

    As to lost children etc, I would have thought that a ‘minority’ person or a recent immigrant might be the best bet for a child to approach, as many cultures lack the general paranoia that seems to be becoming par for the course among White Americans about children, and will help out a strange kid. Some, as a commenter above noted, will step in first to help.