Kids and karate are a blast. They love discovering the power of their mind and bodies. Teaching them to be street smart and cunning, however, takes more work, mainly from parents.
Here are some basic tips to help you get started on teaching younger kids about personal safety and self defense:
1) Rate their level
Get inside their heads and rate their understanding of personal safety, trust, awareness, actions bad guys might take, and their own sense of self. One young girl was molested in a superstore’s bathroom and went silent because she was taught to be quiet in public. Discuss self defense – just call it “safety” if you want — with your children and see where they are mentally and emotionally. For younger kids ask questions like:
- What do “safe” and “unsafe” mean?
- Who is safe for you to talk with?
- What does “be confident and strong” mean to you?
- What is “trust” and how do you know who to trust?
- If you thought you were in danger, what would you do?
2) Rational delivery
As they grow up, kids learn
- not to play with matches,
- to look both ways when crossing the street
- to buckle up in the car
- don’t eat the gum from under tables
- wash their hands before eating
Usually, these lessons come with a fairly matter-of-fact tone of voice. There’s no reason to dwell on the horror of not doing these things. (My older brothers had that role.) Healthy fear is a good thing; worry and anxiety are not. Self defense is best taught as a common, everyday awareness and skill.
Basic rules for safety or self defense can become as much a part of the family culture as “Don’t play with matches.” Here are a few:
- Have a safety password. This is an easy-to-remember word or phrase like “popcorn” everyone in the family secretly knows. A child should never leave with a person claiming to be “someone who knows your parents” but who doesn’t know the password, unless approved of by a teacher or coach.
- Teach children that adults don’t ask kids, especially little kids, for help, directions, or the time. Tell them to run from them and report it.
- Let children know that if they are being chased or followed:
- Start yelling “Fire! Fire! Fire!”
- Run toward more people and more light
- Get attention from store clerks
- Find help from moms with children, security people, or police officers
- Once they get attention, stop yelling “Fire” and ask for help
4) Role playing
Put together different scenarios you, friends, and your children can act out. Keep it simple, but serious enough so it doesn’t become a comedy or laughing fest for the child:
Bad Stranger: Oh, please, can you help me? I’ve lost my poor, little puppy. Here’s a photo; let me show you. (Tries to get close enough to grab or intimidate)
Child: (Running away) Fire! Fire! Fire! (Deep, loud, and obnoxiously repetitive)
Second Adult: What is it kid?
Child: Call 9-1-1! Stranger attack! (Points in direction of attacker)
It’s tough for younger kids, ages 4-5, to ignore the attention of a stranger wanting them to save the day and find the lost puppy or rabbit. It’s also hard for them to not want a shiny gift or candy. It’s even harder to run from a person who threatens them or their family. Helping kids think through their own safety, giving them plans of action in case of danger, and covering the material frequently, but not frantically, will help them develop stronger self defense skills.
PARENTS OF TEENAGERS:
My free ebook Think Like A Black Belt: Take Charge of Your Own Safety is written for parents to help their kids develop street smarts. Over 100 discussion questions help both parents and teens expand their awareness and inner strength in self defense thinking.
Thank you for visiting and learning about self defense.
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