Daddy Danger

I haven't yet had the "Stranger Danger" conversation with Isabella. I know it's overdue, but I don't want to cause any unnecessary fears when (knock on wood), she's been a pretty easy kid to deal with (no separation anxiety, monster in the closet, mascot/character, etc. fears).

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.

Should they?

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?

16 Responses to “Daddy Danger”

  1. # Blogger Mom24

    It's hard, and very, very tricky. I like the book The Berentsain Bears Learn About Strangers. It was a good starting point for all my kids.

    Sad to say, I do have second thoughts about leaving kids alone with men. Statistically a man is much more likely to molest children than a woman. That's not to say all men, but facts do bear out.

    I would not let my daughter or son spend the night with someone with a mom not there. I would second guess a playdate. Coaching situations don't worry me as much because there's lots of adults and other kids around. I would not allow private lessons though. Scout masters, SS teachers, pastors, teachers, babysitters, I would not want my child to be alone with any of them if they're male, and most men I know would not have a problem with that, it protects them as well.

    I have sons, but I would not hire a male teenage babysitter unless I knew them very, very well.

    It's not a pretty world we live in, I choose to err on the side of caution. I was molested as a child, even with all of these rules, I can't keep my kids from being molested, but I can reduce the chances.

    BTW, these rules of mine apply to my girls as well as my boys. It's even trickier in some ways with boys, Jacob's 10 and I still wouldn't let him go in most public restrooms alone. Let's face it, there's no toe tapping in a women's restroom.  

  2. # Blogger Melissa

    I agree a lot with what Mom24 says, especially that it's hard and very, very tricky. At my oldest daughter's birthday pool party, one of the girls' fathers approached my husband and said, "Look at all of them getting their little boobies." Really?! This father had not been on my radar before then, but you can bet he is now and I won't let my daughter go over to her friend's house now unless the mom is home.

    Like Mom24, I also choose to err on the side of caution and when my children are involved, I don't really care who my rules might offend.  

  3. # Blogger Kristi

    Stacey and Melissa,
    Thanks for sharing. I agree that this is a very, very tricky situation. But for me, when I think of Isabella's two best friends, whose dads I know well, I would not hesitate to allow her to play at their houses if their moms weren't there. I trust them. They are my friends, and not just the fathers of my daughter's friends.

    Of course, Isabella is a lot younger than your kids. She does not have as wide of a social circle, she doesn't arrange her own playdates, and she doesn't have sleepovers. When her circle widens, and if I do not know her friends' parents as well as I know her friends' parents now, my rules will, of course change.

    Thanks for the BB book tip, Stacey. Isabella loves the BB, so this will be one I'll check out of the library.  

  4. # Blogger Rachel

    I am rather astounded by both the article and the comments. I would certainly leave my daughter alone with a male who we knew. She has in fact already had male babysitters including her grandfather (which makes me thrilled. The very last thing I want is to raise a daughter who expects men to work and women to raise children. I wish my husband could work less and parent more and I hope she'll find that in the future). I am far, far more concerned about irresponsible parents of either gender who aren't really supervising their children and fear of choking hazards, outlets, cleaning products, climbing on furniture, etc. than the much less likely risk of them being deliberately hurt.  

  5. # Anonymous Ness at Drovers Run

    I've never heard of someone making that particular rule for a child before. Back when I was a camp counselor we had a rule that you (as the counselor) were never allowed to be alone with just one child. The rule was actually there to protect YOU the counselor, so that you could never be accused of something untoward, because the child's opinion would always be believed first. Anyway, I totally disagree with this mothers logic - and yes, it sends a bad-bad message about men. I'm far more wary of mothers who don't buckle their kids up (very common over here) when they drive, or who think it's okay to have a cell phone conversation in the car while their child stands between the two front seats, you can bet your hiney that my kids will never go to play at someones house who does that - if there is a potential car trip involved.

    ON another note, I *totally* dreamt last night that I came to visit you! Then there was a tornado warning (yeah I know...in upstate NY!) and we could see a column forming (clearly I've been reading some midwest bloggers blogs too) so I decided to fly to Seattle to suprise my childhood bff with a visit. Totally bizarre dream!  

  6. # Blogger Pregnantly Plump

    Oh this brings back bad memories. My mom traveled a lot when I was younger. We saw her every other weekend. This meant that it was just my dad and me a lot of the time. One of my friends could never come to my house because it would just be me and my dad. It hurt my feelings and infuriated my parents. My dad was a well-respected teacher and coach. Obviously that friendship didn't last -- how could it?
    I have no idea what I will do when Little Elvis and Baby Plum are old enough for playdates. I plan on meeting the parents and making decisions afterwards.  

  7. # Blogger Melissa

    Kristi - I feel I should clarify my comment so that my position is not misconstrued. I've certainly let my kids have play dates when it was just dad at home. We've had male counselors, swim coaches, teachers, ministers - and I never had a problem with any of them. Of course, they were never left alone with any kid because of the rules (not mine) put in place to protect them. More than anything, I go with my gut. There have been plenty of times when I've said no to play dates because I feel either parent, or the situation itself, doesn't meet my unspoken "code". Maybe they smoke inside their house (my kids have bad allergies). Maybe they have a pit bull (could be nice, but why take the chance?). Maybe safety isn't what I think it should be. There are many reasons why I might not trust a parent *I don't know well* and, sadly, gender is sometimes a factor.  

  8. # Blogger Mom24

    I too want to clarify. I would never tell my children such a blanket rule. I use my judgement when playdate situations come up and many times they have no idea why I say yes/no. There's all kinds of reasons.

    Also, my kids have had playdates when there was just a dad at home, but it's got to be someone I really, really know well before that happens.

    My kids have been blessed with many positive relationships with other adults, both male and female and I'm thankful for that. Still, I would be lying if I didn't acknowledge that when it comes to males, I am more cautious.

    Unfortunately, it's not like you know ahead of time who's going to turn out to be someone who would hurt your kids. Also, statistically, it's not all that rare for an adult to take advantage of a child.  

  9. # Blogger shokufeh

    I'm pretty blown away by that rule. It suggests to me that the writer is generalizing on her own past experiences. I think we get into sticky areas when we teach our kids to think in black and white. Yes, it's easier to make a blanket rule in the short term, but it doesn't serve them in the long run. Even her rule #4 causes some questions for me - people in authority take advantage of others as well. To me, the important thing is to build my son's confidence in trusting his instincts. So if he gets an icky vibe off a store manager or police officer, I'd prefer him to seek help from a guy with whom he feels comfortable.
    An idea I came across some time ago to help kids in doing this was to give them practice in approaching people - when you're out at the store, ask your child to ask someone for the time and let them determine who that someone should be. Exercises like this help them build skills in approaching strangers, but doing it in a safe way, and help them discern who they feel comfortable approaching. Because even the blanket rule of strangers putting them in danger doesn't make for a very friendly world.  

  10. # Blogger Veronica

    The thing that I want to point out is that A LOT -- maybe even the majority? -- of molestation is incest. In other words, it's those Daddys and uncles and cousins and grandfathers (along with other women family members) that are doing the sexual molestation.

    In my own experience -- from the women who have been molested -- the majority of them were molested by a family member. In one case, a grandfather, who babysat them. In another, an uncle, who was also taking care of the kids. In another, an older brother. In another, a cousin.

    I think the message isn't about fearing men, but rather being able to go to mom or dad and tell them if anything strange is happening in that home -- whether it's drugs, drinking, inappropriate touching, whatever -- by ANYONE (including family members).

    I think it's critical for children to feel that their parents will protect them, that they will not be punished for saying something bad about someone else, and that the kids actually be heard if they don't want to be in someone's place.

    I like what my sister is doing with my nephew -- she doesn't force him to go with someone if he doesn't want to do it, she doesn't force him to kiss or hug anyone he doesn't want to hug or kiss.

    She's trying to teach him that his feelings are valid and if he doesn't want to it, it's okay. We don't force adults to kiss or hug each other, so why should kids?

    She's doing this because the mother of my nephew's cousin was abusing her own child. Not sexually, but physically. They later found out her new boyfriend was also doing it. They broke that poor little girl's leg. She wasn't old enough to have the words to say what had been happening earlier, but she made it clear -- by screaming and crying -- that she didn't want to stay at her mother's house or in the presence of her new boyfriend. But no one listened until her leg was broken when she "fell off" the couch.  

  11. # Blogger Simply-Mel

    I wont leave my kids with people I dont know VERY WELL. Be they male or female.

    Fact is, I know most of the moms - for obvious reasons. Clearly I would not allow my kids to play there if the mom wasnt there because I DO NOT KNOW THE DAD.

    Besides,this may be a generalisation, BUT I find men to be a little *distracted* when they are looking after kids. I am more worried about my kids drowning, falling off a roof or starting a fire (while the dad is on a skype call in the kitchen or something!).

    My daughters best friend as the situation where the mom works and the dad is an author and the primary care-taker. I allow her to play there. I trust him. I know him. They are our personal friends who have been in our house and lives for almost 10yrs.

    I think each case should be judged when necessary.

    AS for school sports, male coaches, teachers etc....I have no problem with this as my kid is never utterly alone with these people. I certainly would not send them on a camp with only male staffers. nuh-uh.  

  12. # Anonymous Anonymous

    It makes me very angry when people generalize about the tendency of men to be abusers. Really Angry. I am not sure why. I can offer many reasons but I can't pinpoint THE reason. I have specifically selected day cares where there are male teachers. I have a male babysitter, who is a rockstar by the way. The kids love him and he wears them out in a way the girls don't. My kids have a wide circle of friends, luckily I know most of the parents quite well, but I don't trust the mom more than the dad even when I don't. My best friend is a gay man who, with his partner, has just adopted a baby boy. It breaks my heart to think there are people out there who will not allow their children to go on playdates at their house just because they are male. How is this not seen as gender discrimination?

    I was molested as a child by a female babysitter, but I haven't banned all female sitters. It seems like the writers policy is just going make her children wary of all men who aren't Daddy... that doesn't seem very healthy either....  

  13. # Anonymous Anonymous

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  14. # Anonymous Aubrey

    My husband is a stay at home dad and our daughter is 2 1/2. We have a group of friends with kids of similar age. We often babysit one another's children. Once the stay at home moms got to know my husband they became comfortable asking him for babysitting favors. But initially, there was more of a hesitation because he is a dad not a mom. Even tho, honestly, he spends more daylight hours with our daughter than I do.

    From my perspective, I would not hesitate to leave my child with any of my daughter's playmates' dads. I know these men, they are my friend's husbands, and I trust them.

    I wouldn't leave my child with anyone regardless of gender that I didn't have a trusting relationship with.

    I would have no concerns about men (or women) working for reputable companies performing routine services (coaches/instructors/teachers).  

  15. # Blogger Rebecca

    My husband would be quite offended too! In fact, he gets very offended when people think he can't take care of his own kids while I'm away on business.

    As long as I know and trust the adult who is handling the playdate then I would have no problem if it was a man or a woman.  

  16. # Anonymous Anonymous

    We are a ways out from drop-off play dates too, and my child is a boy, so I know my perspective might be different, but I find that attitude VERY offensive. It seems to me the author is instilling a fear of all men (except Daddy) in her daughter, which is really unfortunate. If I were uncomfortable with either of a friend's parents I think that child would have to come to our house to play. Trusting your Daddy but no other Dads (she actually tells her daughter it's not appropriate to play when someone else's Dad is there) sends such a mixed message.  

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