We'll need to have this conversation soon, which is why I found this article interesting. It outlines six strategies parents can use to educate their children about stranger awareness without scaring them.
It was posted on Facebook by the dad of one of Isabella's two best buddies. #6 offended him.
The writer, who is female, does not allow her daughter in any situation alone with a man who is not her father. No playdates at friends' houses unless mom is around, no camps unless female counselors are there, no swimming lessons with male instructors.
Here's what the writer says:
"Make it easier on your children to be safe by eliminating as many exceptions as you can ahead of time. For example, we don't want our daughter to be fearful of men or have to assess the risk potential of every man she encounters, so we have a simple rule: She is not allowed in any situation alone with a man or men (except Daddy.)... When she asks why she can't play at So and So's house, we say that So and So's mother won't be home and it's not appropriate for her to be there with only the Dad home. It's a simple rule that increases her personal safety without frightening her."
I'm offended by this as well.
To follow this train of thought is to infer that all men are potential child molesters. It's fear tactics like this one that make some believe that all gays and Catholic priests abuse little boys, that all Muslims are terrorists, that all black men are going to rob you.
And I find it ironic that the writer says she doesn't want her daughter to be afraid of men, but then sends her daughter the message than being in the company of men who are not her dad is dangerous and inappropriate.
We're not at the drop-off playdate stage yet, but in another year or so when we are, I would have absolutely no problem sending Isabella over to her friend's house to play if just her friend's dad was there, assuming that I am on good terms with the friend's parents (I would want to know the parents fairly well whether mom or dad-or both-would be present). There were male swimming instructors at my gym where Isabella took lessons this year. She happened to have all female instructors for her lessons, but I would not have cared if her teacher was male. And her camps at the science museum this summer were staffed by male and female counselors.
She's also about to start tennis lessons at my gym, where the tennis instructor, and director of children's tennis, is male.
None of these circumstances have raised a red flag for me.
This writer is using faulty logic. Who's to say mom isn't an alcoholic and is drinking while the kids are playing, or that Big Sister or Big Brother isn't sitting in the next room smoking pot?
Are male family members on the writer's persona non grata list? Is her daughter unable to go for ice cream with Uncle Steve?
Is she allowed to play soccer if her coach is male?
And what about single fathers, those with joint or full custody of their kids, and gay dads? Does the writer not allow her daughter to have playdates with friends in this type of family situation?
Would her rules be the same if she had a son instead of a daughter?
I haven't been at this parenting gig long, and Lord knows I've made plenty of mistakes along the way, but wouldn't it be better to teach stranger awareness that does not target just one gender?
What's your stranger danger teaching method? And what do you think of the writer's policy to ban playdates, lessons, and camps where men other than dad are present?