Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Day 288 - Strangers

Today's first time parenting tip - Teach your child to be smart about strangers

Everyone loves to make faces and talk to a new baby. My wife and I have had complete strangers (mostly well meaning grandma types) come up to us and fuss and try to hold our ten month old son.

This is mostly fine (as long as we get him back) but this raises an issue for later on. Does this teach our son that it's OK to go to strangers?

The blanket statement used to be "Don't talk to strangers." But it's not that simple. What if it's a family member they've never me or don't remember? What if there is an emergency and they need to be picked up by an unfamiliar face at daycare? What if there is a new daycare.

You can raise smart kids who know a helpful stranger from a harmful one. In general, you should teach your children to be wary of strangers by not talking to them and shouting for help if one does something they don't like.

To teach them what strangers are OK, use a simple hand sign. When you are with them, and they don't know if it's all right to talk to someone who is approaching them (like long-lost Aunt Sally), teach your children that you'll make a hand sign, like scratching the top of your head and then tugging your ear if the stranger is OK.

Likewise, tell them that anyone who tries to talk to them when you aren't there will give them the same sign, sort of like a secret code. That way they'll know you sent the person. And of course, its always OK to talk to policemen and firemen.

By doing this, you can use an unobtrusive, not embarrassing method to give the thumbs up for your child to talk. And both you and your child will feel safe when you can't be with each other.

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