As a mom, there is little I want more than to keep my children safe. If I could put them in a little bubble and make sure no one ever hurt them, physically or emotionally, I just might do that. But we live in a fallen world and the truth is, they might just get hurt.
Of course, as parents, we take responsibility for a lot of the safety. We always know who are kids are with. We have our car seats certified and checked. We learn how to buckle them properly. We always supervise near water. We chose parks that are fenced in. We put on bike helmets, every time. We hold hands while crossing the street. We put gates over stair cases. There’s a million little things we do every day to keep them safe. But there are some things we just don’t have control over, we can do our best, but the best thing may be to remember there’s only so much we can do and to teach our kids how to be safe.
In our house, we have a sign with our safety rules posted on our fridge. Our kids aren’t old enough to read yet, so it’s there for the adults. It’s there for Mom and Dad to read and remind the kids, to drill the information into them so they know what to do without a second thought. It’s also there for other adults who enter our house to see and read, so that any one who is around our kids knows what we are doing and how they can help.
1. Always Check First
“I must get mom or dad’s permission even if it’s with someone I know. If I can’t check, the answer is NO.”
We like to give hypothetical situations when reviewing the rules so I will usually use people my kids know. Obviously, this rule is because it’s just good to know where you’re kids are, but also to avoid them being kidnapped by a “nice stranger” who wants them to come look at something. I don’t want to tell my kids that and instill fear in them, so I just tell them it’s important that mommy and daddy always know where they are and who they are with. I use examples like “What if Uncle asked you to go look at something in his car?” because then they realize it’s not scary, it’s just a nice thing to ask mama first. It also teaches them that no matter who it is, even if it’s family or a best friend, they have to ask. I also threw my son a curve ball and said “What if he says he already asked me and I said it was ok?” and my son said “I would say ok!” Ahhh! So now I make sure to remind them that they should say “I still need to check.”
2. No Touching Without Asking
“I always ask before touching others and they should ask before touching me. It’s okay to say “No thank you”.
I really struggled with this one because I want my kids to know boundaries but we are a very physical family and we love hugging, tickling, kissing, etc. But not all kids like to be touched so I didn’t want them just running up to strange kids and hugging them. Secondly, my oldest is very affectionate and we have to constantly remind him to not kiss people on the lips or not crawl up on people’s laps. We remind them that only family gets kisses on the lips. For any other touching, you need to ask if it’s okay first. “Can I sit on your lap?” “Can I have a hug?” The other important part of this rule is that they can always say no. It’s hard to watch an extended family member pressure your toddler for a kiss… sometimes toddlers just don’t want to give kisses and I feel so bad that my child is being rude. But I firmly believe that we cannot teach kids that in order to be polite they have to comply with requests for kisses or hugs… or any other physical touch. So I tell my kids “Use your manners” and that means saying “No Thank You” not complying.
3. Privacy is Important
“No one sees or touches my private areas unless mom or dad say it’s okay. I knock on closed doors. I can ask for privacy.”
Unfortunately, at a young age there are a few exceptions to people seeing your private parts so it’s important that kids know that sometimes it is okay. We always remind them when we leave that the adult in charge is okay to help with potty breaks or diaper changes. We remind them to always knock if a door is closed and that they can ask someone to leave if they need privacy to go potty or change clothes.
4. We Don’t Keep Secrets
“No one should ask me to keep secrets. If someone does, I should tell mom and dad right away.”
When we realized the importance of this rule, it took a while to change some of our vocabulary. Secrets are fun! There are secret codes and secret birthday gifts and secrets whispered in the ear. So now we say “surprises”. The difference is a secret is meant to be kept, a surprise will be told eventually. It’s also hard because sometimes well meaning people will say “Here! Let’s go have a cookie before dinner… shhhh! Don’t tell your mom!” because that sounds harmless and so fun. But we want to foster a sense of trust with our kids so they know it’s okay to have fun, it’s okay to have a special treat sometimes but when those words “don’t tell your mom” are mentioned, we want alarm bells to go off! Again, we don’t want to scare our kids by telling them the “real” reason this is wrong, but we use examples like if you are with your friends and they steal some candy and they tell you “don’t tell anyone!” you should always do what’s right and tell an adult.
Clearly, these rules are to protect our children from sexual abuse… there are other benefits of these rules, but their main goal is to protect our children from people who want to harm them. These people may be strangers, but statistically, it would be someone our children know, and likely trust. That’s why we don’t teach “stranger danger” or anything like that. We don’t want them to be afraid or not trust people. We want to them to be smart, make good choices and trust US. We have other safety rules in our house - remind us if your buckles aren’t on tight, no getting in the water without an adult with you, stop and look both ways before crossing the street, hold the side of the cart or stroller in the parking lot, no sword fighting people without swords - you get the idea. But these safety rules are written and reviewed because they aren’t things that happen on a daily basis and we want them to be in their memory, to be a habit.
And of course, with all things, we cover our children with prayer and ask the Lord to protect them and keep them safe.
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