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About The Bad People - Elizabeth Unexplained
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About The Bad People
Now that the weather is warm, Margaret’s ability to open the front door by herself presents certain issues. Over the past month or so I’ve gone through a couple of renditions of what I expect to be the first of many serious conversations. I have begun explaining about the bad people.

There are bad people in this world, bad people who sometimes steal little kids and hurt them. I worry about that and I don’t want that happening to my babies, so you must not go out into the front yard without me or Hongmei or Daddy. You need to stay where I can see you so that I can keep you safe.

When I delivered the talk again yesterday she seemed to be getting it. “I could get a bad boo-boo?” I agreed, that yes she could get a very bad boo-boo, and declined to muddy the issue by explaining that a boo-boo was the very least of my worries. I don’t want to scare her, or come off like I’m worrying over nothing. I just want to explain the truth to her in simple terms that a not-quite-four-year-old can understand, because while I like to believe that most people in the world are basically good or at least well-intentioned, there are some very bad people out there who if given the opportunity might very well snatch a wandering child off the street and do unspeakable things. I don’t want to waste too much energy worrying about it, but it is my job to keep my kids safe so it must always be in the back of my mind, and so help me if any bad people try to hurt my kids a bad boo-boo will be the very least of their worries.
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chenoameg From: chenoameg Date: May 15th, 2012 11:54 pm (UTC) (Link)

Bad People

I am taking a different approach, having read extensively about teaching children (and adults) how to stay safe. (I like "Gift of Fear" and "Protecting the Gift" by Gavin deBecker. Everything I have read tells me that stranger abductions are very very very rare; even if children are out and about unsupervised.)

- I want Smiles to be comfortable asking people for help, so I'm not particularly going the bad people discussion. Instead I'm focusing on her abilities to keep herself safe (Asking a mommy for help if she gets lost, staying put, yelling if she can't find me, telling people when something bad happens, etc.)

- Statistically cars are MUCH more dangerous to my child than human predators. So when I talk about the fact that it's dangerous to go outside alone and I am mentioning specific dangers I talk about cars. (We have just been talking about that today. "Little kids can't go out of the house alone because it's dangerous and they might get hurt.")

- We are also emphasizing that EVERYONE in the house tells someone when they leave.

Lucky for us Smiles can't open the exterior doors yet. (I know because she told me she tried both doors this morning when she was getting her breakfast and I was getting dressed.)

Yesterday Smiles asked me when she could walk to the park by herself. I told her she would have to be able to read and pass a safety quiz first.
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: May 16th, 2012 01:20 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Bad People

I know that cars are statistically more dangerous, and we talk about car safety all the time, but I'm not going to ignore the human predator danger just because it's rare. I'm also really not in the market for parenting books. I do have a long term strategy. I hope you are not suggesting that anything I said to Margaret is untruthful.
enugent From: enugent Date: May 16th, 2012 05:44 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Bad People

For what it's worth, the deBecker books are not in any sense parenting books.

I tend to me more in chenomeg's camp on preferring to emphasize car safety and asking for help, instead of fear of strangers, but I'm not going to tell you that you're doing it wrong. I do think that modeling the behavior of always telling someone when you are leaving is a great one, that I hadn't previously heard explicitly mentioned - thanks for that, Meg!

I do suspect that infertility patients may err a little more on the "stranger danger" side of things than the norm, just because they had to work so damn hard to get these kids in the first place.
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: May 16th, 2012 10:28 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Bad People

Meg had fertility issues too. Maybe it's an introvert/extrovert thing.

Meg has suggested that book to me before, using the "ask a Mommy for help" as an example of the advice in it. Maybe it's good advice for her and her family, but I think it's terrible advice for me and my family. I remember what it was like to be a relatively shy child Margaret's ages. Seriously, you want me to suggest to my 4 year old that if she is in a stressful situation that she go up to a completely unknown adult an initiate a conversation with them. Seriously? Not going to happen, not in a million years. I would never suggest that to her because then on top of everything else she'd have the added stress and anxiety of not being able to do what she was "supposed" to do.

I'm not teaching her to fear strangers. I know what kind of introverts my kids are. I don't need to teach them to fear strangers, that was there long before I ever mentioned bad people. I also never said the bad people were necessarily strangers, because they may not be. I'm actually kind of upset about Margaret's school and ballet class referring to all the other students in her class as her "friends" because just being in the same class as someone does not make them your friend, and I don't want for it to come as too much of a shock when she inevitably finds evidence to this effect.
enugent From: enugent Date: May 16th, 2012 10:45 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Bad People

I'm actually kind of upset about Margaret's school and ballet class referring to all the other students in her class as her "friends" because just being in the same class as someone does not make them your friend, and I don't want for it to come as too much of a shock when she inevitably finds evidence to this effect.

Yeah, I found this to be so ubiquitous for preschool kids that it wasn't even worth fighting about. If it's any consolation, the usage appears to have faded out around first grade or so. Maybe they just have to get old enough that the teachers can trust them to understand "peers" or some other word less loaded with connotations. (Or maybe I was just lucky in my choice of environments for Dorothy after preschool.)

I personally hate the "ask a Mommy for help" advice not because of introversion/extraversion, but because of sexism. There are Mommies that give me (and presumably my kids, although I haven't asked) an extremely skeevy vibe, and single men who I know to be not only utterly trustworthy, but less occupied with their own offspring and more able to help. Our rule is that if you can't see Mommy, you stay where you are so that you don't get more lost while she looks for you. If you want to ask someone for help, you first look around to see if you can see anyone that you know. If not, you look for someone wearing a uniform (e.g., a store employee). If you don't see them, either, you can talk to anyone that you see that looks OK to you, but you never ever go anywhere with them or get into a car, and you stay in places where Mommy will be able to find you easily when she comes looking.

Do you actually remember being Margaret's age? I'm envious - I think I have one isolated memory from preschool, but most of my memories don't start until third or fourth grade, and even those are sort of vague. I've often thought that it might be easier to be a parent if I could remember what it was like to be a child around the ages of my children.
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: May 16th, 2012 10:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

Early Childhood Memories

I do have a freakishly good memory of my childhood. I don't know anyone else who remembers as far back as I do.

I remember my second birthday, and a few things that I think came before. I remember being three pretty well, and our old apartment in Queens which we left when I was three and 4 months, and the absolutely horrid woman who babysat me while we were living in Queens. I remember a whole bunch of other stuff from age 3, a lot of it centered around my mom being pregnant with my sister and the birth, which happened when I was 3 years 8 months. So yes, considering Margaret is about to turn 4 I remember a fair bit of what it was like to be her age and it does help me understand where she is coming from, though obviously she is not exactly the same as I was.
psychohist From: psychohist Date: May 17th, 2012 05:20 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Bad People

I used to think I remembered nothing before age 4, but as Margaret has grown through various stages, I've realized I must remember things from earlier. I remember having difficulty counting to ten because "seven" had too many syllables to remember easily, for example, a problem Margaret around two. I remember swinging from my parents' arms, which Margaret is now too big for, and being told by my father that I could alternate feet going up stairs, which Margaret is starting to do.

I also remember being charged by a duck or a goose at the edge of a rice paddy, and riding with my mom in a rickshaw, which must have been in Taiwan or Hong Kong at age 1 or 2.

And, I remember enough of my attitudes to be sure that if I had been told, "don't go outside because the cars are dangerous", I would have ignored it with the thought, "cars are only dangerous if you go into the street, and I can go outside without going into the street."
jaedian From: jaedian Date: May 17th, 2012 11:17 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Bad People

I have memories from when I was 4. I had surgery and i think the more unusual or stressful the events are, the more likely you remember them. I seem to remembering surprising my parents by recalling some detail about the house we lived in only until I was 2.5 years old. But I don't remember a lot from before say 1st grade.
jaedian From: jaedian Date: May 17th, 2012 11:28 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Bad People

I have the reverse, my kids are all extroverts. Like Smiles. They talk to everyone. Alex a little less so. So they would have no issue asking for help. By the time I found them, I am sure the person would know half our life history! But they are also more likely to just wander off I think. Sara was in the parking lot of our Dr once, having just wandered out with the family of the girl she had been playing with, before I noticed. (this was not an attempted abduction!)

I have focused more on the don't leave with people aspect. The definition of stranger is harder to make when they are small, since anyone friendly may not be a "stranger" to them. I doubt I could get my guys to not talk to people ;-}

I do feel like I am more relaxed living here. I know all our neighbors (especially now that they older ones are in school) And in fact, they will tell me if there is a problem, the neighbors or the other kids. But I think I might be more nervous in Somerville, I know I didn't know many of our neighbors there.
psychohist From: psychohist Date: May 17th, 2012 05:07 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Bad People

We may live closer to a worse part of town than you and Meg.

A quick Google search says there are 800,000 children reported missing in the U.S. each year, most of which are resolved within hours. Only 115 of these 800,000 are "stereotypical abductions, defined as those in which a child is detained overnight, transported atleast 50 miles, held for ransom or intended to be kept permanently or killed."

However, of the 800,000, there are 204,000 nonfamily abductions, in which 46% of the children are sexually abused and 31% physically abused. To me, that's not an insignificant number, even if they aren't kept overnight or moved 50 miles.

Statistics at http://www.ygoy.com/2009/07/08/child-abduction-statistics/ among other sites.

Edit: by comparison, there are about 400 deaths and 20,000 injuries among child pedestrians per year.


Edited at 2012-05-17 06:13 am (UTC)
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: May 17th, 2012 12:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Bad People

I like looking at the original numbers. It looks like they're coming from (and being misquoted in different ways by different sites) NISMART (from the DOJ). See the PDFs linked here for actual numbers. Non-family abduction (using the 800K reported missing number) seems to be about 12K, not 200K, and nearly all of the reported missing kids are either "runaway/throwaway" or "benign explanation".

Oddly, the PDF you linked to about pedestrian deaths quotes "more than 33,571" kids going to the emergency room for pedestrian-related injuries in 2005; I couldn't find the 20,000 number.

I'm not saying what to worry about and what to not worry about, and have no kids to train one way or the other. But 25% of abductions being by non-family sounded wrong to me, so I wanted to check.
psychohist From: psychohist Date: May 17th, 2012 03:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Bad People

The 20,000 number was backed out based on the fatality number, fatality rate, and injury rate. The 33,571 number is for total pedestrian injuries among children, which includes things not related to automobiles; only 70% of the pedestrian deaths involved automobiles, so I think my 20,000 and the 33,571 number are consistent.

If the 2002 PDF says 12k nonfamily abductions, what number is your linked site referring to when it says "58,000 children were abducted by nonfamily members"? I'll look at this further.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: May 17th, 2012 03:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Bad People

The table the 58,000 comes from confuses me, because there's this whole set of data about "non-missing children", which I think means they were never officially reported missing, but whoever was in charge of them thought they were gone? I've been focusing on the numbers that are part of the 800,000 number which is "children declared missing". Plus there seems to be an issue with a lot of kids being reported many times, so the numbers sum to more than 100%; when you're getting multiple times going missing in a year, that seems to be likely due to things like custody battles or running away, rather than being kidnapped by multiple strangers in a year. "Kidnapped but not declared missing" just mystifies me as a category.
psychohist From: psychohist Date: May 17th, 2012 04:22 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Bad People

I think table 1 from the PDF focusing on nonfamily abductions - http://www.missingkids.com/en_US/documents/nismart2_nonfamily.pdf - is pretty clear. "All nonfamily abduction victims" is 58,200 - the 200k number quoted by my original source appears to be a mistaken labeling of the family abduction number, or possibly from some other source.

Your 12k number appears to be the 12,100 reported to the police before they were found. Another 33,000 were noticed to be missing before they were found but not reported to the police - "Whereabouts unknown to caretaker, caretaker was alarmed and tried to locate child." The remaining 13,100 or so are the ones who were found before anyone realized they were missing - this could happen, for example, if the child escaped and returned to the parents before being noticed missing, or if a rape victim was afterwards released before being noticed missing.

At any rate, the 58,200 appears to be the correct total for nonfamily abductions. Given about half were sexually assaulted and a third were physically assaulted, this to me looks like a comparable risk to vehicular injury to pedestrian children, which is a much higher ratio than I'd previously realized.
From: aaminoff Date: May 29th, 2012 12:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Bad People

> 25% of abductions being by non-family

It is my understanding that abductions of children in the context of custody battle cases is very common. Depending on the circumstances such may not be counted in some statistics.
mijven From: mijven Date: May 16th, 2012 01:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Bad People

Just in case either of you are interested, I borrowed a lot of themes from the Safe Side Superchick - because I'm more about distinguishing between when you listen to certain adults. Coaches on the field? Yes. Coaches when they're just parents of your classmates? No.
countertorque From: countertorque Date: May 19th, 2012 04:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
We put one if those chain locks high up on the door. Not a replacement for training, of course, but it helped me sleep at night.
jaedian From: jaedian Date: May 17th, 2012 11:09 am (UTC) (Link)
Most recently, I had to caution my littlest about not going outside without someone because of coyotes. My neighbor saw a largish one walking right by my house and I do know they are seen around here. Perhaps not as helpful in Somerville. I do worry a lot more about cars, since that is a danger even when I am there - if they dash into the street.

There is a registered sex offender who lives on the other side of our school (not too close to us) - the moms that live right there watch him very closely. You can look that stuff up, but I suspect with Somerville being more densely populated it may not be reassuring.
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