Jodie Norton, a mother of four, remembered how her mouth was just hanging open when her 10-year-old son, CJ, told her that earlier in the day, three strangers approached him and his brother and asked them repeatedly to leave with them, in a sneaky way.
What transpired had Norton feeling “simultaneously sick and grateful.”
“[T]hey were approached by an adult female and two punk males who asked them if they’d ‘help them out by going into the bathroom where her boyfriend was hiding from the doctor and see if they could convince him to come out and get treated.’ Even after CJ replied, ‘No, thank you’ they kept at them,” Norton wrote in a post on her blog Time Well Spent.
But CJ remembered a family “stay safe” lesson Norton had previously shared with her children. He said:
“Mom, I knew they were tricky people because they were asking us for help. Adults don’t ask kids for help.”
Earlier that day, Norton was taking a shower in the morning when she felt an intense pain, like she had just been shot.
“[I]t was an unbearable pain that had me doubled over, light-headed, and nauseous,” Norton wrote.
She drove herself and her four kids to the ER, and then “in a moment of what I deem foggy-thinking ‘pain brain’,” she left CJ (her oldest), and her 8-year-old on the the bench right outside the ER door. She had called a neighbor to come pick up her kids, but instead of a five minute drive as they assumed, it turned into a 40-minute wait.
During that 40-minute wait, her two boys were approached by the strangers. Eventually the neighbor arrived, and saw another man come out of the ER and leave with the three strangers.
Norton said her shock and anger turned into gratitude as CJ said he knew not to heed the strangers’ request because he knew they were “tricky people.”
The “tricky people” concept, as Norton explains, is a better term than “stranger danger.”
This concept was created by Pattie Fitzgerald of Safely Ever After, a series of non-fearful safety programs for parents and children. Fitzgerald is a former sheriff and a leading child safety expert.
Fitzgerald said on NPR: “Stop telling your kids not to talk to strangers.”
“They might need to talk to a stranger one day. Instead, teach them which sorts of strangers are safe.”
Norton taught her kids one of these crucial guidelines: “If a safe adult needs help, they’ll ask another adult. Not a kid.”
Another one of Fitzgerald’s tips is to practice “safety strategies” with your children. What would they do if they were lost in a store? What would they say if someone asked them for directions?
Norton urged other moms to read Fitzgerald’s advice and wrote that she would definitely be teaching her children additional safety rules.
“This experience has made me grateful that we had gone over this in the past, but even more so, it’s made me determined to continue going over these stay safe rules. Regularly,” she wrote.
She cites additional advice summed up on Checklist Mommy: For instance, it’s unlikely your child will be molested by a weirdo in a park, but people with malicious intent toward children are deliberate about trying to lure them out when their parents’ or guardians’ attention is elsewhere.
“When it’s all said and done, the phrase ‘knowledge is power’ undoubtedly applies to our kids keeping themselves safe.”
Norton advised: “We know we won’t always be physically present to protect our kids from everything–I’m sure you lose sleep over this like I do. But, we can empower them and give them confidence by teaching them what they can do in these kind of situations.”
She compiled additional tips for families here.