Fat Middle-Aged Wannabe

This is an occasional blog exploring spiritual matters.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Don't talk to strangers - NOT

I found this lovely quote on CNN today, concerning the 11-year-old cub scout who was lost in the woods of Utah for 4 days: "...Brennan was taught ... not to talk to strangers, so "when an ATV or horse came by [searching for him] he got off the trail ... when they left, he got back on the trail."

When I was a kid, I was taught that people are good. If you are lost, go up to the nearest adult and tell them you are lost. If you need help, ask an adult. It really didn't matter which adult - it was simply assumed by my parents that most people were good, and that we were all part and parcel of a larger society with which we interacted.

That view seems so out of vogue these days. As the father of two daughters, I am accutely away of how over-protective most parents have become of their children. When I was a child I was walking to and from school on my own for sure by third grade, and probably earlier. When as parents we (my wife and I) began letting our daughters find their own way home from school in fourth grade (about 6 blocks through a residential neighborhood) virtually all of the other parents with whom we interacted thought we were crazy. "What if somebody snatches them?" they would ask. Well, here's the deal. I would rather run the risk of my daughter being snatched than raise a daughter who is inherently fearful of her fellow human beings. Life is full of risk. My daughters are far more likely to die in an auto accident with me driving than to be murdered by a kidnapper, but I'm not going to stop driving them around, either. And while most people recognize the problem with not driving because of the risk, few seem to recognize the problem with teaching there children that "strangers" are fundamentally bad. Well, here's an obvious drawback: it just might get your kid killed, as it very nearly did with Brennen. More fundamentally (for me) Christ taught us to love others. That's hard to do when you are busy teaching your children to fear them.


At 5:43 AM, Blogger Songbird said...

I am much more protective of my daughter than I was of the boys. She never walks *to* school alone. It's about as far away as you describe, also through a neighborhood. I just figure that by the time someone figured out she wasn't there and called home to ask us, she could be across the state line! Walking home is different. If she's not here 15 minutes after school ends, we're on alert! (Nice for her when it's a pretty day and she decides it would be fun to play.)
When she heard how the boy had hidden from the men on horses and ATVs, she expressed disbelief. Some situations are outside the rules!
Do you suppose those guys were calling his name?

At 11:09 PM, Blogger GiniLiz said...

Don't know how I stumbled across your blog, but I wanted to let you know that many parenting books nowadays are encouraging adults NOT to warn their children about "stranger danger" but instead to teach children how to recognize "helpful grownups." If this kid had been taught that "helpful grownups" would come looking for him if he was lost, he'd know to approach the first one he saw. One book I read even suggested helping kids practice this skill by having them be the ones that ask for help in a store or find somebody to ask for directions in an amusement park.


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