Teach Your Children Well

Melinda Reynolds Tripp Author of What Should You Do?

Teach Safety Skills Not Fear


Children need to be taught awareness skills.  We call this situational safety. They need to be taught how to use their intuition and common sense.  Having a plan to keep them safe will take our children much farther than any fear based skill set. All children need the skills to assess a situation, and if unsafe, prepared to decide a course of action.  What someone says and does is the key to eliminating the stigma of any one group.

            Most children are capable of following a parent’s and teacher’s guidelines for what to do, where to play, and how to behave in situations as they come up. Some situations are potentially threatening, like getting lost.  If you teach a child how to find a trusted adult they are empowered to find their way to a designated person such as the cashier without bringing any targeted attention to themselves.

Children do not need to be afraid of persons they do not know.  They do need to be aware of the behavior of others. It is what people say and do and how the children respond, that will make the difference.

             Children will have to deal with the behavior of others all of their lives.   They, like all of us, will need to make safe decisions throughout their entire lives, so start their safety education early. Remember-Stranger-Danger, is just a convenient rhyme, most people are good and have good behavior and will help you if you are yelling for help.

 Make a habit of pointing out both good behavior, and good people, who are everywhere!

            Bad behavior is an easy concept for children, they have learned about their own bad behavior early on.  You will probably discuss the bad behavior of others beginning with your child’s early clashes with siblings and then on the playground.  Then as they grow, these continuing discussions will include tricks adults with bad behavior might use, bullying, being tempted by drugs and alcohol, unsecured- texting, internet safety, and “sexting,” because of the threat from pedophiles and the rise in human trafficking.

            Children are capable of saying No to a bad situation, Going, to a trusted adult and Telling, saving themselves and others. This may be a verbal “NO!” or a physical breakaway.  Simply give them the tools, then refresh, remind, and reassure them as they grow.  In my guide for parents and teachers I give a straight-forward plan for ages 5-13.

            No matter what the age, begin safety training by teaching your child to describe. The use of descriptors is underrated.  Every child needs to be able to describe, situations, harnessing their inherent intuition.  How would a good situation feel? An example of this might be, safe at home.  Call that a green light situation.  Then discuss when they should be on alert, a yellow light situation and when you want them running to find a safe person.  We would call that a red light situation.  Next discuss what people look like.  Talk about family members discussing skin color, height, size, age, and features.  This is a fun family activity and could come in handy if they need to describe an adult with bad behavior or a lost parent.  As you travel about with your child have them describe the areas, use descriptors like next to the park, under the bridge, across from the grocery store.  Talk about vehicles, for example, “The Blue Truck has a license plate with the letters BCF.”

            As parents and teachers we need to continue to come back to the class/ family safety plan using a revolving curriculum guide, such as What Should You Do? And local current events to help bring the information home, and cement the knowledge.  The plan for keeping children safe should follow and grow with them.   

            They may very well never need these tactics to save themselves, a friend or a family-member,  but they will go through life empowered, capable of being a super safety hero, should the need arise. Children empowered by their safe adults feel smart, creative, capable, and just “Too Much Trouble” to take!


Melinda Reynolds Tripp


What Should You Do? Helping Children Protect Themselves in the Twenty-First Century

Tate Publishing (2010)  

‘Too Much Trouble’   A Children’s Safety Song, by Melinda Reynolds Tripp



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