“Most people are good people. And we want our girls to be outgoing and have conversations with people,” Whalen says.
Making hundreds of decisions about your children and how you raise them is part of being a parent. We keep some of those decisions to ourselves because they can be contentious. Except for parents like Marcie Whalen, a.k.a. The Unconventional Mom, who doesn't hesitate to express her occasionally controversial thoughts online. Whalen discusses why she's educating her girls about "strange behaviors" rather than "stranger danger", reported TODAY.
“Most people are good people. And we want our girls to be outgoing and have conversations with people,” Whalen says, in part. “And so instead of talking about strangers, we talk about strange behavior.” For instance, whether the adult is a friend or family, Whalen's kids are aware that asking them to keep a secret from their parents is odd behavior. According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, (NCMEC), fewer than 1% of child kidnappers are non-family. “My girls understand what to look for, whether it’s in somebody they know really well or somebody they don’t know at all,” Whalen continues. “It’s categorized as strange behavior and therefore the red flags go up.” Whalen's statement is shared by Callahan Walsh, executive director of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
“At the National Center, we don’t teach stranger danger, either. We know that child safety is much more nuanced than just a rhyming phrase,” Callahan told TODAY Parents. “There are inherent flaws with that strategy.” He further explained that one of the main issues is that when a child is asked, “What does a stranger look like?” They almost always describe someone who is “ugly” "mean" or "monster-like." A trustworthy stranger, such as a mother with children, a security officer, or a store clerk, will frequently come to the aid of an abducted child. “You want to have conversations with your kids about trusted strangers because those trusted strangers can help rescue them,” Callahan said.
Whalen refers to "strange behaviors," but within NCMEC, they are known as luring strategies. One of the most typical lures, according to Callahan, is when an adult asks a small child for driving directions. “We’ve seen that time and time again where someone will ask a child for directions and then grab them,” Callahan said.
“Same goes with, ‘Hey, I’ve got candy in my car,’ and ‘Help me look for a lost puppy.'” Callahan stated that 80% of children are able to escape by kicking, screaming, and making a scene. While chatting with TODAY, Callahan, who co-hosts Investigation Discovery's In Pursuit, shared four rules that could save a child’s life:
Rule No. 1 is to check first with a parent or guardian before going anywhere with another adult.
Rule No. 2 is to use the buddy system. “Don’t go anywhere alone,” Callahan said. “There is power in numbers.”
Rule No. 3 is to tell people no. “Many children are raised with the idea that they need to respect their elders,” Callahan said. “But if they feel sad, scared, confused, or uncomfortable, they should know they have a right to say no.”
Rule No. 4 is to tell a trusted adult. “If someone does make you feel sad, scared, confused, or uncomfortable, make sure to tell a trusted adult,” Callahan said.
Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images | shapecharge