The Wrong Advice to Family that Kidnapped Their Own 6-year-old

By now we’ve all heard about the Missouri family that had their 6 year old kidnapped, bound and taken into the basement, where his pants were removed and he was told he’d be sold into sex slavery.

So here’s the kicker, as reported in

Jerry zakrftrnda
Dunn, executive director at Children’s Advocacy Services of Greater St. Louis, would not comment directly on the case. But he said that if parents truly are concerned about “stranger danger” issues, they should increase the amount of supervision so the child is not in a situation where he or she can engage a stranger.

“We don’t want to make the child responsible for protecting themselves,” Dunn said. “The adults need to help protect the children.”

In other words, Jerry Dunn ALSO believes that if a child is talking to a stranger, the child is in danger.

Which is exactly why the boy’s family fake-kidnapped him: The misguided assumption that all adult-child encounters could and might well lead go bad.

My advice to parents trying to figure out how to help their kids navigate the world is not constant supervision, and it’s not, “Tie them up and make them think they’re going to be nailed to the wall.” (Which is what the fake kidnapper had told the boy. Nice touch.)

No, my advice is two-fold:

FIRST: Teach your children they can TALK to anyone, but they cannot go OFF with anyone. That way if, God forbid, they ever DO find themselves in a dicey situation and they need help, they will feel free to ask it of any stranger nearby. This makes them SAFER rather than LESS SAFE.

SECOND: Teach your children the 3 R’s: Recognize, Resist and Report:

Recognize — that no one can touch you where your bathing suit normally covers. You can teach this to children starting as young as age 3 and it doesn’t freak them out anymore than teaching them to “Stop, drop and roll” if they’re ever on fire.

Resist — If someone is bothering them, they can and should yell, hit, bite, run, and resist the person.

Report — Secrecy is the abusers’ greatest ally. Let your kids know they can and should tell you if something seems weird or someone was “bad,” even if your kids promised to keep a secret. Let them know that you will NOT BE MAD AT THEM for whatever happened. This can help keep the lines of communication open between your kids and you, making it harder for an abuser.

None of these methods is foolproof. But considering the vast majority of child abuse is committed at the hands of someone the child knows, obsessing about “stranger danger” is barking up the wrong tree. – L

Correction: DANGER Keep away from family.

Correction: DANGER Keep away from bad advice!

59 Responses to The Wrong Advice to Family that Kidnapped Their Own 6-year-old

  1. caiti February 13, 2015 at 11:38 am #

    Kids often take things very literally (I used to think “don’t drink and drive” meant you couldn’t drink any liquid while driving). I always thought that if I taught my son not to talk to strangers, what would happen if he was out in public without me and needed help? If someone attempted to take him, he would be afraid to ask any nearby adults for help.

  2. Richard February 13, 2015 at 12:01 pm #

    We added an interesting twist to the “don’t go off with anyone” clause. I really, really doubt that anyone’s going to try to abduct my kids, but since we have to have the talk anyway I wanted to make sure that there was a reasonable exception for police officers, etc. Then I realized that in the remote case that someone was trying to abduct a child, saying “I’m a cop / doctor / etc” would be trivial and likely believed (if there was any danger in the first place).

    Our rule is to talk to anyone, not to go off with anyone who hasn’t met us (their parents) (this gets around the Forrest Gump “Well, we’re not strangers now are we?” situation), with the singular exception that they can go into a police car, ambulance, or fire truck. Claiming to be a cop is a lot easier than faking a police car.

  3. Warren February 13, 2015 at 12:03 pm #

    I know of parents that have “don’t talk to strangers” regret. Because like caiti said, they take things literally. Now having you kid talk to cashiers, food servers, and strangers we have to talk to during the normal course of our day, becomes a huge effort, because they have made their kids shy of and scared of talking to anyone they don’t know.

    The stories of lost kids not answering search parties because they are strangers.

    But this idiot is no better than the parents.

  4. Tiny Tim February 13, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    The taking things literally thing is an excellent point. I don’t think I got the “don’t talk to strangers” drill from my parents back in the day, but when I was a kid I did take things very very literally, and some things drill themselves into your brain so strongly that it’s hard to shrug them off even as an adult.

  5. Nadine February 13, 2015 at 12:40 pm #

    What about Refuse? The right to refuse kissing the slobbering aunt or creepy uncle. Or refuse a cuddle just because they dont feel like it. a lot of times it’s made out like that’s bad manners.

  6. Emily February 13, 2015 at 12:56 pm #

    >>Our rule is to talk to anyone, not to go off with anyone who hasn’t met us (their parents) (this gets around the Forrest Gump “Well, we’re not strangers now are we?” situation)<<

    Actually, I think this is different. In that scene, where Forrest was hesitant to get on the school bus, because "Mama always told me not to be taking rides with strangers," Forrest's mother was standing right behind him, and obviously wanted him to get on the bus. So, I think I'd amend the rule to "Don't go off with anyone who hasn't been APPROVED by your parents." I mean, besides the obvious examples of school buses and public transit, there'll be other situations where the "don't go off with people your parents haven't met" rule might not apply. For example, suppose the child's own parents are running late for pick-up after soccer practice or whatever, and a friend's parent offers the child a ride home? Suppose the child remembers the rule and says "no," and the parents never arrive (or, they don't arrive until hours later) because they had an emergency, but couldn't reach anyone to arrange transportation for the child? I think every rule has an exception, and it's probably better to teach a child common sense than just a list of rigid rules for everything.

  7. Reziac February 13, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

    Here’s another point about all this:

    If your kid is reasonably free-range already, that is to say, used to short-term taking care of himself, he’ll have a lot better judgment, and less inclination to meekly go with anyone who happens along. In my observation it’s the overly-sheltered kids who are unable to say No when they should be exercising this judgment.

    Kids are not stupid. But they learn mostly from experience, not so much from being instructed. The kid with experience in talking to strangers will be a lot sharper at identifying a stranger who’s up to no good. The sheltered kid won’t have any idea one way or the other. Likewise, the kid who trusts his parents will be a lot more forthcoming. (But overly-sheltered kids often don’t trust, because they are not trusted by their parents. It’s a two-way street.)

    Seems to me a good exercise might be to take your kid to some friendly public place — park, grocery store, somewhere there are lots of strangers — and let your kid speak to whoever catches their eye. Afterward, talk about each conversation. Let the kid be the one to pick out whatever (if anything) that seems “wrong”, rather than the parent pointing it out. Then discuss whether that was good or bad judgment, and why. But NOT under the misapprehension that all strangers are bad — in fact you might never encounter a bad one!!

    You can’t make your kids foolproof. But you can help them develop good judgment.

  8. Emily Morris February 13, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

    What does he mean it’s not the kid’s job to protect himself? Granted, at age 6 parents and other caregivers ought to have a big role in protecting Said Kid, but early on children ought to be getting responsibility and knowledge on how to protect themselves.

  9. Beth February 13, 2015 at 1:44 pm #

    “I always thought that if I taught my son not to talk to strangers, what would happen if he was out in public without me and needed help?”

    Not only that, what would happen if the new employee at the library said “hello” when he checked out a book? What if the lunch lady on the first day of school said “peas or carrots”?

    I agree (yikes!) with Warren. We run into strangers every day in our daily lives, examples of which he mentioned, and it’s just plain rude not to answer them when spoken to.

  10. Dee February 13, 2015 at 2:15 pm #

    I like this, although I don’t think Recognize is going to make sense to the kid. We need a different first R that gets at the same point.

  11. gina February 13, 2015 at 2:24 pm #

    NADINE: Yes!!! I have argued this point forever!! And also, the right to say “yes, I do want to hug you, kiss you,,,etc”…..That’s more a middle school problem, but these rules about “no body contact” are just as restricting as the rules that require kissing a slobbering aunt. We need to give kids COMPLETE autonomy over their own bodies…in BOTH directions. That is the only true way to empower them against abuse.

  12. Warren February 13, 2015 at 2:24 pm #

    I have always encouraged my kids to talk to strangers. Which to this day they do all the time, and it is something I am proud of.

    They would come back from being out, and if they met someone, that was the first thing they wanted to tell me. About this lady, or that man, or the kid with the dog, or whoever. What was cool, was they would introduce me to them, if we saw them again.

  13. Warren February 13, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

    Sorry, if I had to kiss the aunt with the hairy witch mole on the side of her face, then so do my kids.
    There is a huge difference between that, and abuse.

  14. Wombat94 February 13, 2015 at 2:51 pm #

    I agree with adding “Refuse” to the list.

    This is something that we always told our kids – they have the right to refuse to kiss/be kissed at any time by any one and FOR ANY REASON.

    “I just don’t feel like it” is a perfectly valid reason.

    We caught a little bit of flack from some of the extended family for this approach, but not too much.

    The idea that kids should have sovereign control over their bodies is new to a lot of people, but people seemed to recognize the reasoning behind it.

  15. lollipoplover February 13, 2015 at 4:45 pm #

    “We don’t want to make the child responsible for protecting themselves”

    Why not?
    Treating them like helpless creatures needing constant protection doesn’t empower them or develop their social skills. The self-protection instinct is a strong one. We want our children to be careful, not fearful. Letting them talk strangers and gain confidence teaches them they’re powerful and can say no and refuse encounters that make them uncomfortable(especially hugs from gross relatives with hairs coming out of moles). We need to empower our kids to stand up to abuse.

  16. lihtox February 13, 2015 at 4:47 pm #

    Speaking of kids taking things literally, I’d rewrite that second rule a bit: “If someone is bothering them, they can and should yell, hit, bite, run, and resist the person.” could be interpreted as “My little sister was bothering me, and you said I could bite someone if they bothered me!”

  17. Nadine February 13, 2015 at 6:52 pm #

    Warren, I have been refused kisses amd hugs as a nanny. Not because of a hairy mole but because they were testing their independence and boundries. They needed to know that it’s ok to refuse an adult even when that leads to embarrasment for the adults. They can always give a handshake.

  18. Warren February 13, 2015 at 8:50 pm #

    That is absolutely selfish. Sorry, but sometimes kids need to know that when it comes to family, that small signs of affections make a huge difference in family member’s lives.
    Sometimes you just have to suck it up, and do that hug or kiss, to make an elderly lady or man feel good.

    Testing the boundries at the expense of the feelings of a family member? Nope not mine. Mine knew what good touch and bad touch were all about, and they also knew to respect a family member trying to show true affection.

  19. Puzzled February 13, 2015 at 8:58 pm #

    I don’t know that the point of not having to kiss your aunt is to learn “good touch bad touch” and bodily autonomy. The point of not having to kiss your aunt is not having to kiss your aunt – that even small invasions of personal space with no right to refuse are not alright.

    Your aunt is likely to be insulted. This is also a lesson for the child – that their actions have an impact on the feelings of others, and provoke certain reactions. I don’t think the aunt has a right not to be insulted at the expense of the right of the child to refuse to be kissed.

    Is it selfish to refuse a kiss from a loved one because you don’t feel like it? Well, you can recontextualize that – is it selfish to refuse to have sex with your husband? You can say it is – but we have a right to be selfish, in any case. I’d say it’s not selfish, though, since there’s no obligation to begin with.

  20. Warren February 13, 2015 at 10:11 pm #

    Are you freaking kidding me that you are comparing a toddler’s right to refuse to kiss their aunt, to a wife’s right to say no to sex with her husband?

    That is the most insane comparison I have ever heard. Because by extension you are comparing the parent that tells their kid to kiss the aunt to a rapist. Give your head a shake, or get it out of your ass. One or the other.

  21. Andrea February 13, 2015 at 11:02 pm #

    “Don’t Talk to Strangers” is a Rick Springfield song as far as we’re concerned. I don’t want my son to be so scared of other people that he can’t get help if he ever needs to. He’s sometimes shy, but only for a minute.

  22. Puzzled February 14, 2015 at 12:54 am #

    I’m sorry that you don’t know how analogies work, or that they don’t need to share all characteristics. But please feel free to explain to us why we are required to submit to unpleasant physical contact if it makes an elderly person happy. Or maybe we’re not, and it’s only kids who are.

    There’s no arguing that refusing to submit to unpleasant physical contact, by the way, if it’s small and with someone you love, and would make that person happier than it makes you unhappy, is selfish, as you said. Don’t we have a right to be selfish with our own bodies, though?

  23. hineata February 14, 2015 at 3:09 am #

    @Puzzled – I don’t support Warren’s language, but I do think it’s rude to refuse hugs and kisses from relatives etc. Our children are not the be-all and end-all of the universe, and neither are we. We should be expected to put ourselves out for others sometimes. ..that’s part of community.

    Maybe American groups live separate from one another, I don’t know, but my own family anyway has to move between 3 different ways of doing things, and in none of the ways do they get a choice about whether they follow the cultural dictates. One group generally shakes hands, kisses cheeks or slaps backs, one presses noses and one doesn’t usually touch at all. And they cope fine with the different styles.

    I can’t imagine why anyone would raise their children to think that they are above others. Which is what this sounds very much like to me, anyway. ..though I might be taking you all wrong. But this idea of total body autonomy really is beyond me. How do you expect kids then to do chores etc?

  24. Sarah J February 14, 2015 at 3:29 am #

    I agree with the commenters saying that “stranger danger” is a bad idea because kids take things much more literally. I guess this means that many extreme policies and views could be pretty bad to teach kids. Like telling kids that they need to stay close to mommy and daddy because kidnappers are everywhere. When the time comes that they have to be left alone for a minute, just a minute, that poor kid is gonna be scared. My mom was rather paranoid about home invaders, and when she started leaving me home alone, she would often be gone a lot longer than she said she would and I’d be scared. (my mom was paranoid about lots of things and that screwed me up, but it’s a story for another day. I managed to work through most of my issues early on, thankfully)

    Hineata: I’ve heard it argued that when kids are taught they have no right to refuse hugs and other forms of contact, it makes them more susceptible to abuse because they were never previously in a position where they were allowed to say no. There are also concerns that this could teach kids that it’s okay to invade the space of other children. It seems fine when a family member is giving a hug or a kiss, but what if a kid tries to do the same to another kid who doesn’t want it? Would that be appropriate or okay?

  25. Dhewco February 14, 2015 at 6:17 am #

    I think (hope) what some are saying is that we need to teach children the difference between hugs that are appropriate and not. It’s okay to refuse the pervy uncle who wants the wrong sort of kiss, but chicken pecks with others is more of a polite thing.

    We need to teach them when unsafe contact trumps politeness.


  26. lollipoplover February 14, 2015 at 8:05 am #

    While I want my children to have good manners and reciprocate greetings, I also want them to obey their inner Spidey sense more importantly. I don’t see a problem with a child opting not to kiss his aunt and giving a light hug instead.
    My daughter didn’t want to hug her late uncle and gave him high fives happily. When I asked her why no hugs (she was 5), she said it was because he smelled. She also asked a distant aunt of mine with a very deep voice if she was a man but that’s another story. Anyway, as long as they’re polite (and not calling someone smelly) I don’t really care how they choose to greet people. Its their body and I respect their choices.

  27. Emily February 14, 2015 at 8:08 am #

    >>But this idea of total body autonomy really is beyond me. How do you expect kids then to do chores etc?<<

    Easily. When I was growing up, my brother and I were taught to clean up after ourselves and pitch in around the house, and the "body autonomy" lesson was more in the context of interactions–it wasn't "You have total body autonomy, so you don't have to clean up after yourself/help around the house," it was "Your body is your own, so you can refuse any touch at any time, AND don't let anyone touch you anywhere that's covered by a bathing suit." Done and done. Actually, the "your body is your own" talk (which happened when I was about five) had a lot more impact on me than the "pitch in" talk, which was repeated throughout my youth, usually in response to comments like, "He made the mess, so I shouldn't have to clean it up; it's not FAAAAIR!!!" It wasn't that my brother and I were bad, or spoiled, but even when I was five, I could tell that my mom was being Very Serious when she told me about Bad Touch, so she only really had to say it once, whereas "We're a family, everybody helps" just sort of faded into the rhythm of daily life. I'm sure my mom didn't give me the Bad Touch talk only once either, but the first time is the time I remember.

  28. Donna February 14, 2015 at 8:19 am #

    Hineata and Warren – We say here all the the time that a child is most likely to be molested by a family member or close family friend, and yet you insist that they should be forced into physical contact with the same people who are most likely to molest them. And understand where they are actually allowed to draw the line with those exact same people. And still trust their gut when you may well be overruling their gut that is saying “this person makes me uncomfortable.”

    It is easy to say that your child understands good touch and bad touch because they can parrot back the concepts, but truly understanding that it is demanded that they submit to completely unwanted hugs from Uncle Bill but not to other unwanted touching from the exact same Uncle Bill is a different story, particularly for a young child that has no concept of sex so no real understanding of the difference between hugs and touching of the privates.

    And before you start with my Uncle Bill would never … I’ve never had a child molestation case where everyone in the family didn’t come in and say “I never thought Uncle Bill would do something like this.”

  29. Beth February 14, 2015 at 8:27 am #

    I mentioned this before, but I really would like a discussion on the rudeness aspect of “don’t talk to strangers”. It’s been mentioned a few times about not wanting a kid to be afraid to get help if they need it, but I think it’s also important to raise a person who can interact politely with society – responding to VERBAL greetings, thanking someone who was helpful, chatting with a fellow bus rider etc.

    I think the thought of raising a generation unable to function in this manner is almost scarier than one being afraid to ask for help. Maybe it’s just me. Anyone?

  30. Havva February 14, 2015 at 9:00 am #

    I’ve been the kid who took never talk to strangers far too seriously. I was a very talkative kid overall. But after being taught that rule I got really scared. I became terrified of store clerks, pharmacists, bank tellers, waiters, and friendly old people. I was too scared to talk to them even with my mom literally holding my hand.

    It is hard to describe what it was like, because it was so irrational. Unlike with a lot of the other stranger danger rules, the path to harm was so unclear as to make it hard to rationalize and thus unclear how to determine safe exceptions. To illustrate the difference take, for instance, “don’t take candy from strangers” (it could be poisoned) this fairly obviously didn’t apply to the lolly pop from the bank, or the stuff they threw from floats, or even the Halloween candy mom and dad inspected, or any other parentally authorized taking of candy. It seemed more obviously a don’t eat candy your parents don’t know about/approve rule. And seemed to have an element of candy offered to you alone where no one would see. Granted I know now that was overblown too. And I over reacted once. But that wasn’t so paralyzingly impervious to reason. Then the thing about not approaching a car when someone pulls over to asks directions or whatever (it could be a lure to pull you in and drive off) also had the antidote of, staying out of arms reach.
    Now the path from talking to harm made no sense, but all the adults believed in it. So it was like some nebulous witch craft, like steeling a soul. Worse talking was so natural to me that the rule filled me with fear that I would forget and say something to a stranger and whamo! Disaster! What disaster I couldn’t tell. But everyone, even strangers, seemed to believe it. So I had no way to cope, and that let in fear.

  31. lollipoplover February 14, 2015 at 9:33 am #

    @Beth- I see many children (tween girls especially) who have been told to beware of strangers all of their life now facing serious anxiety issues. The parenting approach of always supervising for protection leads to the fear of being alone. At an age where many of my daughter’s friends would usually be considered for babysitting jobs, many of these girls won’t consider it because they would be scared to be alone in a house (even though the children are with them).

    Instilling fear in children to protect them can seriously backfire. Basic communication skills. from talking to strangers (cashiers, bus drivers, future employers) need to be developed in children and cannot if an adult always handles everything. It’s the “self” part that we talk about being so important with children (self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-esteem) yet we don’t allow kids the opportunity and tell them they need to be protected.
    And we wonder why so many of them need medication to cope.

  32. Havva February 14, 2015 at 9:56 am #

    Beth I agree with you. Polite social interaction is a gate way to understanding others, and having respect, even for people who seem different in some way. That is fundamental to how I pull through negotiate seemingly intractable problems (and I’ve aquired a reputation at work as a negotiator).

    But so many people dismiss those with differing opinions out of hand. And so many people become so focused on harping on what is wrong with others, they fail to show what is right with what they believe. And I don’t think it helps our society at all to switch from “words can never hurt me” to “don’t talk.” Would the, so called, mommy wars even be possible had it not become not only acceptable, but encouraged, to quit interacting with others. As though simply talking to this stranger might corrupt you, rather than that it might be enlightening.

  33. Papilio February 14, 2015 at 11:00 am #

    “no one can touch you where your bathing suit normally covers. You can teach this to children starting as young as age 3”

    That makes sense for boys as they only wear swimming pants, but a girl’s bathing suit also covers the belly, chest and much of the back. Isn’t it a bit… much (early) to tell a 3-year-old girl no one can touch her chest?

  34. hineata February 14, 2015 at 12:54 pm #

    @Donna – all the interaction I’m talking about goes on in public, in front of multiple ‘witnesses’. I had the bathing suit talk too, with the exception of doctors, who again would only ‘touch’ in front of a parent. Yep, can imagine the Uncle Bill thing….fortunately none of our family ever gave me the creepy feeling as a kid, though I also talked to the kids about looking out for that and talking about it.

    But there are times when you do have to physically interact with people, and you need to be prepared for those too. Particularly now, as a professional in NZ, I need to be able to participate in the traditional nose to nose, forehead to forehead greetings (or kisses to the cheek, depending on group) that are part of the formalities in Maori settings. All that goes on very publicly. My kids have to do that too, just goes with the territory.

    Actually you and Maya(?) must have had to put up with lots of hugs etc in Samoa, surely? I can’t imagine Samoans letting you get away without a crushing hug or two 😊.

  35. hineata February 14, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

    @Beth – yes, I think too that not speaking to people when you’re spoken to is very rude. I find these days though that it’s not just children who do that…maybe it’s just living in a city, but I will be walking down a footpath and ‘helloing’ people as I go (which used to pass as the bare minimum of politeness when I was growing up ) but these days only about half respond. And the kids usually just ignore you. I often feel like stopping them and giving them a lecture on polite interaction, but that probably WOULD come across as creepy 😊😊.

  36. Beth February 14, 2015 at 1:31 pm #

    I read a comment once from a mom who said her child is not allowed to talk to any strangers without her standing right by his side. I’m guessing she went to school with him on the first day then? But I did wonder at what point she would not be standing at his side, and if he would even be able to have a civil interaction. The point about future employers made above is a good one – there are SO many strangers we run into in our daily lives, and we all have to be able to deal with that without fear.

  37. Henry February 14, 2015 at 1:36 pm #

    When I was three my parents wanted me to take a picture sitting in my grandfather’s lap. I cried and cried refusing to sit in his lap. Why? He had “the wrinkles.” I was afraid they were contagious and if I touched him I would instantly get them too. My parents pleaded with me to take the picture because I was hurting PawPaw’s feelings. I finally relented agreeing to take the photo sitting next to him but not touching him.

    I know that may seem ridiculous to remember that. However, my mom and I were looking through some family photos of that day. She said I cried hysterically about taking that photo. She never knew why do what changed my mind about sitting for it. We both got a good laugh when I explained my fear to her.

    That being said. We need to teach our children that while they may refuse a hug or a kiss from a relative, they must offer some form of greeting (handshake, high five, etc.) when encountering them for the first time in a large group or when when leaving the gathering or when expressing thanks (when opening presents, etc.). The key is public (acceptable social interaction) vs. private (may be inappropriate and abusive).

  38. bmommyx2 February 14, 2015 at 2:19 pm #

    Wow, what sad & misguided advice. I talk to “strangers” all the time & I encourage my kids to also. We chit chat with people we meet through our day. My kids tend to by shy & I’m trying to get them a little out of their shells & their comfort zone. Before I go someplace busy / crowded I remind them if they get lost to look for people with kids or who work there & ask for help. I hope that poor boy is not scared by this.

  39. Donna February 14, 2015 at 5:20 pm #

    hineata –

    I agree that the actual touching in public is not a problem, but how do you expect a small child to understand that a forced public hug is fine, but a forced private hug is not? And while you never got a creepy vibe from any of your family, it seems ridiculous to keep stating that most child molesters are family members and then everyone insisting that it could never possibly be their own family.

    My child is not forced to touch anyone regardless of culture or family relation, including when we were in A. Samoa. They can think we are rude. I don’t really care.

    Think about it, as an adult, you are never forced to touch someone against your will. You may choose to hug someone out of social and cultural dictates, rather than actual desire to hug them, but that is still a choice. If you would rather take the negative social repercussions for not hugging, you are welcome to do so. Nobody with power over you is ever going to insist you do it under penalty of punishment.

  40. Puzzled February 14, 2015 at 5:40 pm #

    I started to reply then saw that Donna said exactly what I planned to. Sure it’s rude to refuse to kiss your aunt – and people are allowed to do rude things. If I refuse to touch someone, and they force me, that’s a crime. If instead I suffer negative social consequences, that’s life. Why shouldn’t children be treated the same?

    And, indeed, combining “children take things literally” with “most molestation is within the family” why on earth would you want to tell children that they’re not allowed to refuse a touch from family?

    But I’m most struck by the sense of entitlement: I want a kiss from you, and by golly, I’m the sister of your mother so I get it! Perhaps someone needs to start teaching adults how physical expressions of affection work.

  41. Barbara Strong February 14, 2015 at 8:16 pm #

    To all you parents who assume kids today are safe because no one attempted to kidnap you, let me enlighten you. As a 63 year old woman who escaped from a pervert who tried to kidnap me when I was 12 years old and walked less than a mile to our town beach in a small close knit town, let me tell you, there really are crazies out there. Teach your kids that anyone who approaches them seeking directions or seeming to want to make friends with them when no one is around, has no good intentions. Tell them to be alert for danger. I was smart and screamed like hell when some 30 something guy followed me when I swam out to an island and then followed me up a dirt road where I lived. If I had not had the presence of mind to pick up rocks and let him have it when he came after me, and if I had not run home when he tried to get me to get into his car so he could explain to my father, I’d be dead today. Same thing happened when I was 18 and my car broke down. Some guy tried to jump me. Crazies out there!

  42. Warren February 14, 2015 at 9:23 pm #

    This is where so many people get into trouble trying to get their ideals and principles across.

    There is a huge difference between hugs, kisses, and contact during greetings, and hugs, kisses, and contact just out of the blue, with noone around.

    Damn I am near 50 yrs old, and still give my dad a hug and kiss when we visit. For some reason it degrades to a handshake and backslap at the end of the visit, I assume that the intial emotions of not seeing each other for sometime are replaced with the picked up right where we left off emotions.

    Greetings and farewells are totally different from unexpected creepy out of the blue contacts. And that is a lesson that kids need to know.

  43. Warren February 14, 2015 at 9:29 pm #

    Sorry for your incident, but that is a very rare event. Three kids, 2 16 yrs old, and my oldest daughter is 24. All of which were raised free range before Lenore coined the name.

    3 kids, all taught it was fine to talk to whoever they wantend, whenever they wanted, and none of them ever had an incident. That is not luck, not a fluke. That is reality.

  44. Beth February 14, 2015 at 10:27 pm #

    “Think about it, as an adult, you are never forced to touch someone against your will.”

    I think all the people that have to shake hands in a business setting, or elsewhere, no matter how grimy/sweaty/whatever that hand might be, will disagree.

  45. Warren February 15, 2015 at 12:21 am #

    You are so right. At the outset of a business meeting should someone refuse to shake my hand, that would be a huge mark against them.

  46. Dhewco February 15, 2015 at 6:42 am #

    I have to say this. I’ve never asked a child for directions, but I’ve wanted to. I was lost once in a strange small town and there were no adults nearby, but there were a couple of kids I found playing in a church playground across from the closed store I’d thought was open. I wanted to ask them questions like, “Did the store move? Did they know where a similar place is?” Instead, I kept driving until I gave up and turned around. I probably missed a sale. (I was in insurance at the time.)

    I guess I could have approached them as asked them to direct me to their parents, but that, according to some parents is creepy too.

    PS. I’d been asked to come to the town by the customer, but said customer wouldn’t answer the phone to get new directions or to find out if I’d missed a step.

  47. MHM February 15, 2015 at 8:31 am #

    You should also teach them if they are being pulled to yell stuff like Help I don’t know this person. Then pick someone out and say hey guy in blue shirt I need help. People will assume someone else will step in or that the child is being disobedient. So yelling these things will indicate more is going on.

  48. Papilio February 15, 2015 at 8:43 am #

    I always feel kinda lost when a website I frequently visit suddenly looks entirely different… 🙁
    That said, I liked the list of recent posts (especially when there’s an interesting discussion going on under a post from a couple of days ago), so now that you’re at it…?

  49. Queenoid February 15, 2015 at 9:33 am #

    I also told my kids that if an adult said he/she needed the child to come and help (example: the puppy is hurt and crying and I can’t reach in to get it) that the child should NOT go to help – it was the adult’s job to work out the problem, not my kid’s.
    However, the sad truth is that a predator preys on what is sweet and innocent in a child, and bad things can happen. And always have.
    I always hate it when I smile at a child and say “hi” and I see a look of fear in the child’s eyes. Because I know that child has been frightened with the absurd “stranger danger” rhyme.

  50. Donna February 15, 2015 at 9:45 am #

    “I think all the people that have to shake hands in a business setting, or elsewhere, no matter how grimy/sweaty/whatever that hand might be, will disagree.”

    “You are so right. At the outset of a business meeting should someone refuse to shake my hand, that would be a huge mark against them.”

    First, shaking hands is less intimate than a hug or a kiss. But besides that, you are right. With certain people, it is likely a huge mark against you if you refuse to shake hands. You can still make the decision that you would rather take that huge mark and not shake hands. Nobody outside of the two of you is going to insist that you shake anyone’s hand nor will you get some completely separate punishment. You may lose business points from some individuals, but refusing is still 100% a choice and you are not going to be jailed or slapped (aka grounded or spanked in kid language) for continuing to refuse to do it.

    And people are successful in life despite an unwillingness to shake hands. I don’t leaving them hanging, but I generally don’t shake the hands of my jail clients. None of us in the office regularly do. We don’t want the typhus that is constantly passing around. I dealt with a CEO of an extremely well known company who refused to shake hands due to OCD back in my corporate days. If you ever watched Deal or No Deal, the reason for the fist bump with contestants is Howie Mandel is OCD and won’t shake hands.

    “Greetings and farewells are totally different from unexpected creepy out of the blue contacts. And that is a lesson that kids need to know.”

    Yes, kids absolutely do need to LEARN that, but learning is not instantaneous. And they learn perfectly well suffering the natural consequences of refusing a greeting or farewell. When my daughter refused to hug my grandmother, I explained to my daughter that she hurt MeMe’s feelings and why. The next time MeMe asked she gave her a hug. (My grandmother has dementia and scares my child which is why hugs are not willingly forthcoming). Problem solved without my daughter needing to be forced into touching anyone against her will. And before you say “well Grandma’s feelings were hurt,” that happened anyway. It is not like me forcing my child to hug grandma when she asked the first time somehow erased the hurt feelings from the immediate refusal.

  51. Robin February 15, 2015 at 10:03 am #

    There was, in fact, a case where an autistic boy was lost for days in the wilderness, because he hid from the strangers (search party) who were looking for him. I specifically told our young children about this, and why the boy was mistaken.

  52. mystic_eye February 15, 2015 at 12:05 pm #

    It’s not that the autistic child who doesn’t respond to searchers is “wrong”, they’re usually unable to respond, it’s like blaming a deaf kid for not responding to someone calling for them – except that a deaf child will at least be capable of actively searching for help which some autistic children will be unable to do.

  53. CrazyCatLady February 15, 2015 at 12:11 pm #

    Robin, yep, I heard that story too. And told my kids (in the slight chance they would have that misconception, very unlikely as they talk to everyone) that if they are lost, the reason that someone calling their name knows their names IS BECAUSE I TOLD THEM SO THAT THEY COULD BE FOUND! They agreed that that was logical.

    I had a conversation with a friend who didn’t want her child doing Mine Craft or some similar game, because he would be talking to strangers online. I had to remind her that she had talked to several strangers that very day. “No!” she protested! But it was true….she went to the store and chatted with the clerk, went to the post office and talked to the mail lady….and several other places. She ended up agreeing, and we talked about safety rules her son should have when online….no giving out personal information, reporting people who are not following the online rules, no contacting people met there via other means like email or phone. He is now several years older, is an administrator of a group and has expanded his people skills greatly. And never once had a pervert show up at his door.

  54. Warren February 15, 2015 at 2:40 pm #

    We pushed to have our kids confident in talking to strangers as soon as we could.
    Having them tell the server at the restaurant what they wanted.
    We would give them the money, but they had to handle going thru checkout with their own items.
    I would send them over to help elderly people with whatever.
    Holding doors and actually talking to the people that went through.

    Now they are all confident, polite capable adults and young adults.

  55. Sarah J February 15, 2015 at 5:33 pm #

    Donna: Well-said. I say kids should be allowed to choose whether or not to get hugs and kisses, but whatever they go with, there could be social consequences that they’d have to deal with.

  56. Jesz February 16, 2015 at 5:04 pm #

    My oldest daughter taught my younger daughters that they could talk to strangers, but that if anything ever happened, to start screaming something along the lines of “I have herpes!” She told them if they froze and couldn’t remember the name of a disease, to just make something up like “I have flambe disease.”
    No one ever tried to take them but we had hilarious practice sessions, and they never worried about running up and down the block with all the other uncontrolled children.

  57. Rachel February 17, 2015 at 2:54 pm #

    Our children have known since they were very small that if they were lost, or needed help and couldn’t find someone they knew, to look for a mom with kids. Go ask her for help, or to phone us (when they were really little we put our phone # on a sticker on their backs) and a mom with kids is someone who will help.
    Yes, I suppose there is a one in a gazillion chance she might decide my child is ever so much better than the ones she’s already got, but I’ll take that chance.
    In general, now that they’re older, we tell them that they can go up to adults to talk to them if they need to. That’s fine. Adults who seek them out specifically to talk to them when we aren’t around, though, are probably creepy and that’s when you apply the three Rs.
    Common sense, folks, and a reasonable awareness of actual threat.
    Let’s give it a try!

  58. Amanda Matthews February 18, 2015 at 6:02 pm #

    “I read a comment once from a mom who said her child is not allowed to talk to any strangers without her standing right by his side. I’m guessing she went to school with him on the first day then?”

    No, he just realized right then that his mom was ridiculous.

    I remember as a kid being unsure of which advice from my mom to actually listen to, because she was ridiculous.

  59. Beth February 20, 2015 at 7:53 am #

    I have never taught my children not to talk to strangers, because it’s something we do all the time – and we have all probably at some point or another benefited from a stranger’s kindness. Totally agree that the right approach is to teach a child never to GO ANYWHERE with someone without permission, with a few specific exceptions of trusted family/friends just in case of a true emergency. I have taught my children that while most people are kind and do not want to hurt children, there are some “tricky” people and there are certain ways they try to gain trust and physical closeness (e.g., asking for help or directions, offering something enticing, etc.) I’ve tried to help them understand that normal adults don’t do these things without a parent’s okay, that adults should ask other grownups for help, and that there are boundaries people respect when they are truly kind and helpful people. Anyone trying to persuade you to do something secretive or scary is not a kind or helpful person.

    It just so happens that my two older children (especially my oldest) are naturally wary and “shy”. I used to get annoyed when they were little and people would say hello to them at the store, etc., and when they didn’t respond the person would say something like, “Oh, Mommy’s taught you not to talk to strangers.” No, lady, he’s three and he doesn’t want to talk to you. And in fact I’m trying to teach him the opposite – that it’s okay to greet people and actually rather rude not to. But I also wasn’t into forcing my kids to do something they felt uncomfortable with. We had no pictures with Santa for several years, after my oldest was an infant. He hated it, and if my child isn’t comfortable sitting on a stranger’s lap I’m really okay with that.

    Now that they are getting older and are able to reason through things, I’m working more on the social graces and overcoming that irrational reluctance to simply say “hello”. This past Christmas they stood with Santa for a picture. Progress! 🙂