Keep your kids safe by teaching them about dangerous "tricky people"
If your children are already aware of "stranger danger", there's now a new safety concept called "Tricky People" which helps kids identify who is a potential predator and keeps them safe from harm
When Jodie Norton was in the emergency room due to a ruptured ovarian cyst, her two children (8 and 10 years old), were sitting alone on a bench outside of the hospital waiting for their neighbour to pick them up and help send them to school.
But they were then approached by three strangers who persistently asked them to go to the hospital bathroom and help convince their other friend to see a doctor.
Fortunately, Norton’s sons sensed something was amiss and refused to help these strangers because it felt like they were trying to trick them.
When their neighbour’s car pulled up and the two boys rushed in, they saw the three strangers jump into another car, followed by a fourth stranger from the bathroom, before they quickly drove off!
If these children had not learned about the “tricky people” concept from a book by Pattie Fitzgerald, it could have been a parent’s worst nightmare come true.
So what exactly is the difference between the old “stranger danger” idea and the new and effective “tricky people” concept that your kids should be learning about to keep them safe from harm?
The problem with “stranger danger”
Most kids have been taught not to take sweets from strangers, not to talk to any strangers, and not to follow a stranger anywhere on their own. But this old idea of “stranger danger” may not work as well as you think.
If you tell a child to be wary of “bad people” who might cause them harm, they will probably imagine an unsafe stranger to be a masked villain, or a hairy monster with sharp teeth, or maybe even a tall mysterious stranger with a scary voice.
Pattie Fitzgerald, founder of Safely Ever After, Inc., an educational company that strives to prevent childhood sexual abuse, explains:
“Most of the time, kids are learning ‘stranger danger,’ which is cute and it rhymes, but isn’t really effective. ‘Tricky people’ is certainly more effective because most strangers are not dangerous… kids think a stranger is going to be somebody who is kind of scary looking or scary sounding, but statistically, if someone wants to harm a child they are not going to appear scary, they’re going to be charming, have an enticing offer, and seem friendly.”
So even if someone was well-dressed and approached kids gently with a big warm smile, they could still be an unsafe stranger who is up to no good.
Another reason why “stranger danger” might not work well, is that when your child does need help from someone (for example if they are lost in the shopping mall), it will be hard for them to approach anybody because they have been taught that all strangers cannot be trusted.
Easy ways to identify “tricky people”
Simply replace the word “stranger” with “tricky person” and that might help your child figure out who is considered an unsafe adult.
Like the name suggests, a “tricky person” is someone who will try to trick kids into doing something wrong or even dangerous.
The Tricky People concept helps kids easily identify who exactly is a potential threat and you can teach your little ones to understand more about “tricky people”:
- A “tricky person” can be someone you don’t know or even someone you do know and they might even be well-dressed and seem nice
- Only a “tricky person” would ask a kid to break any safety rules
- A safe adult would never force a kid to do something that will make them feel bad
- A “tricky person” might try to do something that hurts a kid’s body
- A safe adult would not ask a kid for help
- “Tricky people” are adults who might tell kids to keep secrets from their parents
- Trust your gut instinct if it’s telling you something is wrong!
Go to the next page to read about possible “tricky people” scenarios
Possible “tricky people” scenarios
Unsafe strangers will try to take advantage of your child especially when there isn’t another responsible adult around.
Here are a few examples of possible encounters with an unsafe stranger or a “tricky person” you should warn your kids about:
1. A well-dressed person asking your child at the playground to help her search for her lost puppy (safe adults should not be asking little kids for help! They should ask another adult for help instead)
2. Someone is following your child home from the bus stop all the way home
3. A grown up touches your child in an inappropriate manner or touches his private parts
4. A lady who lives in your block or estate who you have never spoken to or interacted with before invites your child in for snacks or to play (especially without first informing mum or dad)
5. While walking back home from school, a car stops by the side of the road and a stranger asks your child for directions, or to get in the car and show him the way, or he offers your child a ride home
6. A grown-up (it could even be a relative, a teacher or a neighbour) gives your child a present but tells him to keep it as a secret, even from you!
Let your little one know that in such situations it is important that he listens to his gut instinct and ignore this unsafe adult’s requests.
The best thing to do is avoid this stranger, go seek for help from a trusted adult (such as a mother with a child, or a police officer) or tell mum and dad immediately.
More safety tips for you and your child
Once you have taught your child about this effective “tricky people” concept, there are a few more additional prevention tips that you can also practice to ensure your child’s safety:
Make it a point to spend enough family time together, because children who are starving for attention can easily be taken advantage of and fall prey to “tricky people”.
If you have a strong bond with your child, it is also less likely that he will keep any secrets from you.
Let your child know that he has to ask you or your partner for permission first before going anywhere (for example, going to the neighbourhood playground with some friends) and to always give you an update about any changes.
Do not leave your young child alone and unsupervised, even if it’s only for a short while.
Does your child know what to do in the event of an emergency?
Go through different safety steps with your little one so that they’ll know what to do if they got lost in a shopping mall, alighted at the wrong bus stop, are approached by an unsafe stranger, etc.
You can even re-enact these scenarios with your child and talk them through exactly what to do, step by step.
Although it’s encouraged to have good manners and be polite to others, you should also teach your child that it’s also perfectly alright to say no and to remove themselves from any situation that makes them feel uncomfortable or if they think they are in a potential danger.
Be it with another kid or an adult, your child should trust his gut instincts if he feels something isn’t right and be assertive when turning that person down — or better when in doubt, just run away and seek for help!
Have you taught your kids how to watch out for “tricky people”? What other safety measures do you take to ensure that your children are safe from potentially dangerous strangers? Tell us by leaving a comment below