It’s finally summer! The warm weather coupled with vacation from school means loads of time spent outside for kids all across the country. More time outside means more exposure to potentially dangerous individuals, so this annual transition offers the perfect opportunity to refresh your child’s self-defense knowledge by reviewing these four very important summer safety lessons.
I teach these lessons to kids as young as 3. Modify topics and contexts depending on the age, maturity, and sensitivity level of your child.
1) Teach Your Kids What to Do if Approached
I bet you already teach your kids that they shouldn’t talk to strangers. But how often are you reminding them? How would you like your child to respond if approached by an adult stranger? Do you want them to run away? Do you want them to ignore the stranger? Do you want them to say loudly, “I don’t talk to strangers!” and find a trusted adult? One thing is for sure, role playing different scenarios with your child is a must, and simply telling them without hands-on practice is not enough. Think your child knows this lesson inside and out? Watch this video on a recent social experiment to see how kids did when tested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGIDHrYKJ2s
2) Teach Your Kids How to Ask for Help and Whom to Ask
Who can your kids go to for help if you’re not with them? Other adults they know (neighbors, teachers), moms with kids, dads with kids, grandparents with kids, somebody in a uniform (police officer, fireman, doctor, postal worker), or an employee at a restaurant or store. It’s really important that you teach kids that when they need help, being polite is a non-issue. They can yell, scream, interrupt, and even push an adult in order to get their attention quickly, and once they have it, explain why they are scared and point out the person they are scared of or trying to get away from.
3) Teach Your Kids What to Yell if They Need Help
Very often parents teach their children to yell if they need help or if they are in danger, but don’t specify the actual words they should yell. Whether at home, at the park, at school, or a playground, hearing kids yell doesn’t usually raise red flags for adults. We tend to assume kids are either screaming in play or throwing a tantrum. But imagine hearing a child yelling, “Help!” “Stranger!” “He’s not my Dad!” You’d immediately take action, wouldn’t you? Teach children specifically to yell action words if they need help. “He’s not my Dad!” “She’s not my Mom!” “Help!” “No!” “Stranger!” “911!” and “Fire” are all good options. Hands-on practice of this skill will make it more likely they’ll successfully yell these words when adrenalized, so have them practice at home (yelling into a pillow if you’re worried about alerting the neighbors).
4) Teach Your Kids To Fight Back if They Must
The most common concern that I hear parents express regarding this lesson is that they worry their child will begin fighting with their siblings or other kids. Fighting and fighting back are completely different however. I’ve been teaching kids to fight back for over a decade and I’ve never had a single student of mine begin fighting. Explain the difference between the two and be very clear about when they’re allowed to fight back and against whom. But this lesson is truly an essential one. We tell our kids on a consistent basis that punching, kicking, biting, scratching, etc. are unacceptable, so most often they believe that they shouldn’t do these things under ANY circumstances. Children who physically struggle and fight back against predators are much more likely to get away however, so be sure to teach kids the emergency circumstances under which striking is not only acceptable but necessary.
Jarrett Arthur is the founder of M.A.M.A. (Mothers Against Malicious Acts), the first self-defense system of its kind designed exclusively for moms, as well as all women responsible for the well-being of children. As one of the highest ranking female Krav Maga Black Belt Instructors in the U.S., Jarrett has been featured as a self-defense and safety expert on many national platforms including Ellen, Good Morning America, Access Hollywood, Forbes. com, Glamour. com, Parents .com, Babble, Yahoo!, Shape, Fitness, The NY Times, Real Simple Magazine, and more.