Krav Maga and self defence expert Patrick Cumisky outlines a number of approaches to help you keep your children safe and give you peace of mind.
How to keep you children safe
Keeping children safe while allowing them grow to confident, independent adults may well be the single most important role of a parent. As a parent you should train yourself to trust your intuition. Situations or people that don’t feel right should be taken seriously and fully investigated or avoided, even if you don’t know why.
As children grow older they will seek more independence and new experiences, this is natural. They will resist your instructions and perhaps be unhappy with some of your instructions and behaviours, but that is part of the job of being a parent. You have more life experience and are more aware of the risks, as well as the evolutionary programming, to be obsessed with your children safety, that’s your job. Your children don’t have to like it, they just have to be safe.
1. Trust Your Intuition
One of most important elements in keeping children safe is for the parent to trust their intuition. Young children have a limited ability to protect themselves, which means nature has imbued parents with a heightened sense of awareness around our children’s safety.
Our brain operates on two levels of thinking, ‘System 1’ and ‘System 2’. System 1 is conscious thinking, which focuses on big problems or the task at hand. This is backed up by ‘System 2’ thinking which operates in the background monitoring our environment, and thus is the type of thinking that often spots anomalies, behaviours which are out of place or situations that just don’t ‘feel right’. This shows up as a feeling of unease, intuition or gut feeling.
If you feel something is wrong with your child or about the behaviour of someone around your child, take every step to find out more. Beware of disregarding this feeling: minimisation and excuse-making are the enemies of intuition. If you remain in any way in doubt, change something. If it’s a babysitter, change them, if it’s your child visiting another home, stop. Your child’s safety is too important for you to wait for proof that something is wrong. Remember, final proof may be harm to your child.
2. Understand and Recognise Predator Behaviour
Research has shown that predators who seek to abuse or harm children demonstrate a common set of behaviours. These behaviours include:
Beware if someone you have never met is too friendly too fast, inappropriately friendly, or ‘oversharing’ – too much detail can be an attempt to bypass your guard and build misplaced trust. This type of behaviour can be difficult to deal with as we are placed in situations where it feels awkward or even rude if we do not engage and that is exactly what the predator wants to achieve. Again, you must trust your intuition. If someone is behaving too familiar, too fast, you should discontinue the conversation and create distance. If your attempt to disentangle yourself from an ‘over-familiar’ conversation is met by attempts at persuasion, rudeness or aggression this should only confirm your gut feeling.
A classic predatory strategy is ‘forced teaming’, where the predator will attempt to manufacture a common problem or challenge where none really exists. This can be as simple as offering to help carry shopping or share a lift . The predator’s goal is to engage in a joint activity, creating a false sense of trust and to build rapport. The key to dealing with this is to recognise it for the manipulation it is and firmly decline to take part.
It’s important to teach your child that one of the most important indicators of potential aggression is ignoring the word ‘no’. This is the last word a predator wants to hear as they attempt to manipulate the situation to their own end. Someone who fails to respect a ‘no’ is ignoring the ‘no’ because it does not serve them. This may lead to promises, attempts at negotiation or even anger.
The most important thing to understand is that when someone ignores a ‘no’ they are attempting to control and this should make one firmer in their resolve to leave the situation. If they think they are in the presence of someone capable of predatory behaviour, it is important that once they question the situation: moving to safety, should be top priority. This behaviour shows that they are fully aware of what is happening and may, in itself, deter the predator who may fear exposure and possible capture.
3. Privacy and Control
Privacy and control are required to harm a child. You should absolutely assure yourself that anyone who has this type of access to your children will not harm them. Get to know everyone who has access to your children, be it neighbours, schools or activity leaders. Fully check all references and claimed credentials. Don’t assume someone else has!
Communicate in detail with anyone who has responsibility for your child’s safety. Make sure they understand your expectations in how your child is cared for, ensure you understand and are satisfied with the vetting procedures and communication procedures in the event of an incident. Putting your willingness to communicate and help in ensuring your child’s safety as well your expectations of the carer in writing, is a powerful way to get your message across and ensure it you are taken seriously.
4. Train your children to be safe and listen to them
Teach your child the behaviours of predators. Make sure they know it’s okay to defy an adult if they feel the situation is wrong. Train them to go to a woman if lost, the simple fact is a woman is much more likely to stop everything and take care for the child and less likely to harm them. Listen to your children and monitor their behaviour. Make sure to pay attention to any unusual behaviour around specific individuals, places or events. Talk to them about always telling you if they feel something is strange or wrong and that they should tell you immediately. Train your child to shout ‘this is not my mam/dad’ if they are being carried away, otherwise onlookers may assume it’s just a child throwing a tantrum.
As children grow older they will seek more independence and new experiences, this is natural. They will resist your instructions and perhaps be unhappy with some of your instructions and behaviours, but that is part of the job of being a parent You have more life experience and are more aware of the risks, as well as the evolutionary programming, to be obsessed with your children safety, that’s your job. Your children don’t have to like it, they just have to be safe.
Patrick’s 7 top tips on what parents should tell their kids
1. Always trust your instincts. If a situation feels wrong, leave and get to a safer place or person.
2. If you feel a person is being too friendly or pushy, clearly say no to what ever they are asking and leave!
3. Never go somewhere private with someone you don’t know or trust.
4. Adults very rarely need to ask children for help. If they do – this is often an attempt to manipulate.
5. Strangers should never ask children to keep secrets or threaten them. If you are ever told to keep a secret or threatened, tell a parent or trusted adult immediately.
6. If someone tries to take you somewhere, resist, shout and make sure passers-by know you do not know the person involved.
7. If you are in danger and you can escape, always escape, even if others can’t escape with you. Your job is to get help as quickly as possible: By escaping and getting help you expose the attacker to being caught and may well cause them to run.
Find out more about Patrick at www.kravmagaireland.com
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