Sunday, August 26, 2007

Are We REALLY Teaching Our Kids To Be Afraid Of Men?!

Did anybody but me come across a very disturbing article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ Online 8-23-07) last Thursday that was talking about how the media, child advocates, government agencies, businesses like airlines, etc. are all scarring parents and kids into thinking any man is a potential sexual abuser? Now I'm not one to get shocked easily but I nearly spit out my pomegranate smoothie when I read it.

Some of these "professionals" are even telling parents that men should never be allowed to baby-sit! (I babysat a friend's 8 year-old daughter not long ago... I taught her how to play poker while we watched Terminator 2 -- very important life skills!!)

Now me, being an EXTREMELY protective father of a daughter (remember Tony Danza in "She's Out Of Control" ..) I would never subscribe to that kind of stupid thinking that all men are child predators. And I don't want to raise a daughter who's afraid of half the population - that's pretty stupid! Instead I’m training her on how to use her instinct. And I'm also teaching her that pedophiles and sickos come in male OR female and of any race, age, sexual preference, whatever and what she should be really looking out for is CREEPY people. And that if anybody (male OR female) does anything to her to run, scream, hit whatever and tell ANY adult immediately (period.)

If I were to write a book, this would be chapter 7 entitled “Can you spot a CREEPY person?”

What about all of you; have you given this any thought? What do you think and how do you teach your kids about predators...?

41 comments:

The Father of Five said...

So... Let me get this straight... Cigars would be a BAD choice at my seven year old daughter's upcoming birthday party?? Who'da guessed....

Unbelievable. I work for a police department, and although predators are out there, I worry more about my daughters growing up and hooking up with an abusive boyfriend. Hopefully a postive roll model of a father (blushing - that's me!) will prevent that from happening - otherwise I'll be the list of suspects when the abusive boyfriend "disappears"....

The Father of Five said...

Also, as they get older - it becomes important for girls to have positive male roll models in their lives (besides their fathers - Just as boys need positive roll modles (besides their mothers).

It's part of growing up as a well rounded person.

But, never forget - there's nothing wrong with being careful....

painted maypole said...

i have to say that I usually don't talk to my daughter at all about predators - I've read articles about how what we are basically doing is scaring our children with the whole stranger danger thing, but not really making them any safer. At almost 5 years old and in a private school, she is rarely without my or another trusted adult's supervision. I have told her simple things like stay by me to be safe, don't go with someone you don't know, etc. I've also told her that if anyone ever hurts her to tell me, and she won't be in trouble. I only mention these things really rarely. But filling her with fear that there are lots of people out there looking to hurt her? She's just too young for that, I think. Protecting her is my job. Playing with lead covered toys and getting covered in dirt at the playground is her job. oh. Scratch that lead covered toys thing... I suppose I should be protecting her from those.

Whit said...

So basically the new breed of child stars are okay, but the ones we grew up watching are creepy?

That sounds about right.

Blog Antagonist said...

I don't have girls, but male children are not safe from sexual predators either.

My children are older, which means that they spend more time out of my sight and in the care of other adults. So it's definitely a concern for us.

We have talked about it at length with our children. We have tried to empower them without making them afraid of their own shadow. We have told them that it's very important to trust their instincts and that if it feels wrong to them, then it is wrong, and they should tell someone immediately.

You never know if your kids really listen, but this past school year, my twelve year old had an experience that was definitely sexual harassment. He did all the right things, and he told an adult immediately. He was frank when describing the incidents, even though it embarassed him to talk about it.

I was super proud of him and I was relieved to know that sometimes, they do listen.

I highly reccomend Gavin DeBeckers "Protecting the Gift".

https://www.gavindebecker.com/books-ptg.cfm

Blog Antagonist said...

Oh and also, I think Zac Efron belongs squarely in the creepy category. Why are legions of teenaged girls in love with this kid?

Jenifer said...

This is a tough subject. I haven't really thought of it much since I live out in the sticks and I know almost everyone in town. But I should. I shouldn't become complacent because I don't sense an immediate threat.

I think we need to teach our kids to always be cautious. Not afraid per se, just cautious. Give them the skills they need to determine when something is "not right" and the skills to not voluntarily put themselves in that position in the first place.

Bananas said...

Have you been watching "High School the Musical" and other assorted Disney channel hits? Because I'm thinking it must be so and that puts YOU solidly in the "Creepy" box, my friend.
Just kidding. Actually these rock. You should make them up into flash cards.

creative-type dad said...

The Father of Five -- that is a good point - abusive boyfriends. I'm not even looking forward to those years ahead of me...

painted maypole -- sounds reasonable to me. I think most of what we teach them has to be age appropriate without scaring them.

Whit -- Pretty much, yes. Most of the child-stars from out days are all on my creepy list.

Blog Antagonist -- I'll have to check that out. As for Zac maybe it its his water reflection that puts him in the creepy category, I was debating that (did you see HSM2?)

Jenifer -- that's probably one of the benefits of growing up in the sticks is that (hopefully) people look out for each others kids. At least thats the thought.

Bananas -- Yeah, them I could sell them and make millions! (sigh)

Em said...

I never really thought about this, but I see their point. We do make men seem scary. And that seems nuts.

As for a babysitter that teaches poker, my daughter would taken his wallet...so bring it on! LOL

mama speak said...

Isn't more sexual abuse by someone that child already knows? A neighbor, family member, etc...?

Jennifer, people are not always what they seem, just cause you know them doesn't mean it's safe.

I think Blog Antaganist has the best answer "if it feels wrong tell someone, it probably is"

Tuesday Girl said...

I am just now thinking about how to keep my children safe without scaring them.
It is a hard call and while they are rarely out of our sight, I know that will change and I want them to trust their instincts.

Whirlwind said...

Jenifer - that small town isn't that safe. I know of a few....who err fit the bill.

I never really thought about scaring them away from people. Their swim instructor for the last 2 years has been a male teenager and I have to say - he would be my first choice for a baby sitter if we ever needed one! He's great with the kids (plus he's certified!).

I'm more afraid of when they want to have "play dates" at their friends houses when they are a bit older since all their close friends are males!

I do teach them to be cautious of their surroundings. When we were at a kids concert and Einey came over with another little girl (who at that point I didn't recognize- turns out they went to school together the other girl was just a grade ahead) and asked if she could "over there" to see the girls new baby, I said no. When I asked later if she knew the little girl, she said "I think so". Yeah she can be a space cadet!

L.A. Daddy said...

I'm a pretty darn good babysitter, too. That kind of stuff pisses me off.

Whatever happened to "Don't talk to strangers"? Not "male strangers" either.

Oy.

creative-type dad said...

em -- Next time I watch one of those poker tournaments, I'll look out for her...

mama speak -- that's a really good point. And frankly, it scares me.

Whirlwind -- That is interesting scenario, when a girl does have a bunch of male friends. Especially with kids I don't know...

Redneck Mommy said...

That is just hog wash...Corey Feldman is not creepy.

LOL.

Totally kidding. His ugly mug is staring at me from the screen and my neck hairs are standing on end.

I can't believe there is a marketing campaign out there to teach children that all men are potential predators.

That is absurd, ridiculous, insulting and highly questionable.

What a bunch of dumb asses. I feel bad for all of you men folk.

Tsk, tsk.

Kay, I have to go now cuz I think I just saw Micheal wink at me. You should warn people when you post pics like these, Tony.

Ben & Bennie said...

I want to tell so much but I need to save it for one of my own blog posts. So I have my own reservations about commenting about this post. It depends upon who you choose and that is difficult.

InterstellarLass said...

One of the things we were taught was to never trust a stranger just because they looked nice, so I can't agree with your nice vs. creepy assessment. How do you tell the creepy teacher from the not creepy teacher? The creepy priest from the not creepy priest? But, teaching where inappropriate touching is and what to do is extremely important. I've told my kids that if anyone ever tries to do anything to them that they feel uncomfortable with, they should say stop, and if that doesn't work, scream. And then bite, kick, hit, whatever it takes to get away, and then run. I'd rather them look like crazy kids running down the street than in a box in some creep's yard.

wayabetty said...

Did you have THE bucket with you while you were babysitting? Very important life lesson.

I'm surprised you didn't have a picture of the Col. as being "OK" type.

carrie said...

I think that is sad to lump all men into a category like that - or the "potential" for that. Women are just as scary.

And no, when we talk about strangers and predators, we never say it will be either a man or a woman. We just tell the boys if anyone tries to grab you, etc. etc. I think boys are more vulerable than we think and society, at times, overlooks them and just assumes way too much.

I imagine I'll feel the same when it's time to educate my daughter about this too.

Thanks for making me think!!!

Stay at home dad said...

It's very sad, I agree. Kinda sums up a Lot of being a stay at home dad though, unfortunately.

I'm not making a big thing of it (although the police have been into my daughter's (3 1/2) nursery to talk to them about this stuff. I do think it's all rather exaggerated. There are not as many of these people about as you'd think from media tales. And that Virginia ad is disgusting, IMO!

radioactive girl said...

The world is really scary sometimes. I don't teach my kids to be afraid of men though. They would miss out on lots of great people if we excluded and entire gender.

SusieJ said...

I did see the article, and I wrote about it here, hire male babysitters. The Virginia campaign, I think, pushes men to think about staying away from children, out of fear.

creative-type dad said...

SusieJ -- I completely agree with you. It's very sad.

Stay at home dad -- That ad is extremely offensive to any man. I did write a letter to the Virginia Department of Health. I hope more people speak up too and fire that agency.

wayabetty -- I almost did add Mr. Sanders. I just had a theme going and didn't want to break the chain.

InterstellarLass -- I agree with you. But to me that's teaching a kid to live in fear and be highly suspicious of anybody. I think teaching a kid common sense and limits of what's appropriate and what's not is much more useful.
And as for creepy people remark, yes, I do think some people give off a "vibe" that make kids (and adults) VERY uncomfortable. Body language on a person sends a lot of messages as to what kind of person they are and is, to me, the first line of defensive.

Lisa said...

We've sort of talked about this stuff. Especially after we went to Universal Studios a few months ago and we thought he was lost in a play area. We basically talked about how most grown ups are "good" but some aren't so nice and can do things to hurt kids. And that talking to strangers is not allowed unless he's with one of us.

We've also had a talk about how no one can touch his privates except him. And that if someone does, to tell us. So that's been the extent of it... For now. But yes, its not fair that kids should be taught to be scared of ALL men.

Jackie said...

This society is totally creeped out by men watching their kids. I worked at a day care years back and we hired a high school boy to come in after school as a "teacher's assistant" and you would not believe how many conserned parents talked with the director of the day care about him. I just think it's sad. Particularly in this kid's case because the kids adored him, he loved the kids (and not in a creepy way) but the director ended up letting him go because of all the "conserned parents." It's just a shame.

Darren said...

I didn't see the WSJ article, but I have seen a couple posts about that ad. I'm all for taking precautions when it comes to children--even unfortuantely if it relies on stereotypes. But you're absolutely right that instinct is important too. I also wonder if more recent data would show that women abduct or abuse children just as often as men do?

The Real Mother Hen said...

Sense of humor is a good indicator Tony :) and if he/she has the same sense of humor as you, then he/she will be fine :)

beta mom said...

Okay, I don't want to stereotype, but I would never leave my child alone with anyone who references a Tony Danza movie.

Jenster said...

That's pretty sad. I can think of several men - besides my husband - I would trust with my kids' lives.

We tried to teach the kids to be cautious of any stranger - man or woman. And that if anybody they didn't know ever touched them they had permission to scream, yell, punch, kick, bite -- even cuss if they had to. Yeah. That was what they always zoomed in. "You mean I can call them stupid???"

creative-type dad said...

Jackie -- That's just depressing. It's amazing how that thinking has bleed into the public.

Darren -- That is a good point, I'll have to look into that.

beta mom -- I guess it's one step up from referencing a "cory" movie, huh?

Ben & Bennie said...

You have some shiny stuff waiting for you over at our place. C'mon over and pick it up. The house is already a mess.

aimee / greeblemonkey said...

I don't have time right now to read all the comments (sorry) but have you ever read the book Protecting The Gift by Gavin DeBecker? Excellent book. And while I do not agree with making our children afraid of men, or going overboard crazy-like - it *is* true that most sexual predators are heterosexual male, and people that children know to boot.

One of the suggestions that DeBecker gives is to tell a child to "find a mommy" if they ever go missing in a store, and ask the mommy for help. Basically this puts the power in the child's hands to ask for help from someone who is least likely to sexual assault them and most likely to help them. And you can give this advice without making men out to be the "bad guys."

Anyway, it's a really excellent book.

Ruth Dynamite said...

I'd let you babysit my kids - especially if we all went to Fiji and my husband and I took off on one of those cool helicopter tours or tiny planes. You'd be like, "Hey kids! Who wants to watch the dance-along version to HSM2?" and then when we got back you'd all perform the "I Can't Dance" sequence for us.

creative-type dad said...

aimee / greeblemonkey -- "looking for a mommy" already puts suspicion on every male around! What are the chances? Like a 100 of thousand to 1?

I would instead tell my daughter to look for any mommy or daddy, then a store worker. If they were in danger then scream or run to ANY adult.
I don't assumer everybody is a predator like that book obvious suggests.



Ruth Dynamite -- I swear, it's like we share the same brain.
except we would sing "work this out" instead because we can use pots and pans as intruments

aimee / greeblemonkey said...

OK, I see your point about looking for a mommy or daddy... However, I think his whole deal is that in the split second of looking for a person to help you, why not statistically eliminate the higher chance of sexual assault? But again, as I see your point about telling them to look for a mommy OR a daddy, another really big point I think he was trying to make was to empower our kids to chose the person who they would go to, instead of letting someone who may have been lurking and approach the child in their moment of panic. He suggests asking kids who they would pick and talking about why.. and I think that was some really good advice... just talking about they whole deal, kwim? In a *non* "DON'T TALK TO ANYONE, THEY MIGHT KILL YOU" frenetic overly crazed way.

Occidental Girl said...

I try to be reasonable about this, because there's no use scaring kids. And talking about these things with kids requires a level of deciding what is age-appropriate.

For my six year old daughter, we talk about staying with mommy or daddy and not to talk to strangers.

We also talk about how no one can touch you where your swimsuit covers.

I encourage her to talk to me, because I won't get mad and she won't get into trouble.

We're pretty vigilant about who she spends time with, whether it's our babysitter or a friend. I like to check out people's homes (reasonably) before she goes over.

She's only six. There will be more unknowns as she grows. What else can you do? I think precaution is the best idea. I will do as much as I am comfortable doing with without being a helicopter parent.

kittenpie said...

I'm at the point where I've helped her identify okay people to go to if she needs help or gets lost, and have talked to her about how her body is private and it is just for her and only really the doctor and parents might need to take a look to see if she is all healthy, maybe teachers might need to help clean up an especially messy pooh if she asks for help, but otherwise, no one should touch or look there. Right now, she is never out of sight of us or her teachers, but I think of this as a conversation you have to keep having in stages, with a little more info each time. Soon we will move onto telling us if anyone does touch or look.

junebee said...

And don't even get into the dad taking the kid into the restroom thing. Sheesh.

Yeah, I had to correct myself when there was a teenage boy working at the "Y" child care center. I reminded myself that boys can be good babysitters and that the "Y" has a stringent hiring process (I know this because both my cousin's kids worked there).

creative-type dad said...

junebee -- I didn't even think about the restroom thing..
I've seen a few dads take their little toddler girls into the stalls but never thought twice about it.

Ryan said...

I'll admit that out of principle I won't have male babysitters watch my kids. This is not to judge males/men at all (I happen to be a man), but really to do what is best for my kids in my opinion, which is to take into account the statistics of men being more likely to offend in comparison to women (that's my understanding anyway).

First of all, I will say that I would absolutely not choose a babysitter who we did not know and hire a babysitter blindly, as if off of Craigslist or some random teen in the neighborhood. But with all of this, I feel more comfortable with female babysitters because of the stats and that there are so many perv dudes out there who express their sexuality in inappropriate ways.

Would I let a man friend watch my kids? Absolutely, so long as he was a safe person. But when a teen boy in my n-hood asks me to hire him for babysitting, I politely decline out of principle because I think that this gives a greater liklihood of helping to protect my kids.

I hate that these conversations need to happen and that we even have to talk abou this kind of stuff with our kids. It shouldn't be, but it is that way.

By the way, everyone checks the Megans Law website right? Or is that just in CA? I check it once a month or so in order to know what is going on in the neighborhood? (well, who has been caught anyway)