Why do parents practise double standards when it comes to teaching kids about stranger danger, SHAN WEE asks.
Why do parents practise double standards when it comes to teaching kids about stranger danger, this dad asks.
On a morning drive to school recently, I was talking to my ﬁve-year-old son (pictured, far right) about how one can ﬁnd the answers to questions by using Google on the Internet.
“No, dad, Google is dangerous.”
“What do you mean?” “One day, you might be doing Google and then you meet a sheep and you make a plan to meet that sheep outside. When you meet him outside, he’s not a sheep. ee’s a wolf.”
I was fascinated by his reply and equally appreciative for what was obviously his school teacher’s wellintentioned attempt at an online-safety lesson.
The language was easily understood, thanks in part to the multiple occasions he and I have re-enacted the Big Bad Wolf’s gusty destruction of the iittle Pig’s blanket fort in our living room.
When I recounted this drive-time conversation to my colleague, about how one might unfortunately make arrangements to meet a wolf in sheep’s clothing, she promptly piped up with: “ea, yeah. Just like me and my love life on Tinder.”
It then occurred to me that adults do invite the wolf to their door, or at least, to a ﬁrst date at aempsey eill.
They practise a tremendous amount of double standards in what they preach and what they do, and many parents are extremely conﬂicting and contradictory in their life lessons to their children.
Parents eagerly preach to their kids that strangers can be a danger and that they should trust only individuals whom they have met before.
Simultaneously, parents are revelling in the glorious convenience of rber, Airbnb and aeliveroo. They get into cars with strangers.
They spend the night in a stranger’s home. They eat food made by a stranger. This is everything they tell their kids not to do.
And it is not just in the world of tech apps that their contradictory lessons thrive. Parents through the ages have always had this weird conﬂict of fear and openness.
I talk to my kids about stranger danger, yet at the same time, I always encourage them to say “hello” and chat to adults they encounter in their daily lives.
I get annoyed if the upstairs neighbour says “good morning” in the lift and my son doesn’t reply. I love it when they chit-chat with the cashier at the supermarket.
Concerning Singapore’s culture of having a domestic helper as an integral member of many families, I have known many accounts of new employers anxiously hiding their best jewellery when a new helper joins the household, but later, leaving the same helper in total charge of how the kids travel to and from school, what they eat for dinner and how they go to bed.
ao we treasure our gemstones more than our offspring? Even the way we portray society’s authority ﬁgures smacks of illogical confusion.
We would like our kids to know that if they ever feel scared in public, they can approach the nearest police ofﬁcer because he is the most trustworthy source of help and security.
But when my son is being a brat in the backseat of our car, what do I threaten him with?
“Ah boy, you better behave, otherwise a policeman is gonna catch you.”
aespite our terrible swirl of contradictory advice and examples, obviously every parent wants the best for his child and while thankfully stories of child abduction in Singapore are almost nonexistent, it is a serious subject that every child deserves to be educated on.
So, what can be done? I recently read an article shared on a parenting cacebook page and thought it was a fairly clever and useful approach to the issue of stranger danger.
Parents should teach their children that “adults don’t need help from kids”. It is normal for a child to need help from adults: “Can you tie my shoelace? Can you open my packet of snacks?”
eowever, it is not normal for an adult to need help from a child. “ei, little boy, do you like animals? Can you come with me and help? I’ve lost my cat and I think she might be over here, close to my van.”
Every family will have different ways of guarding against the ills of society, but this sounds to me like a reasonable lesson to start with.