My child has manners but not when it comes to his SAFETY!

When we were young our parents sent us off to school and camp with statements such as: “Be a good listener.” “Mind your manners.” “Do what your counselor tells you to do.” “A tough teacher is a good teacher.” I can’t even imagine saying blanket statements like this to my 10 year old today. In fact, almost the opposite is said at our house. We want him to be polite but NEVER at the expense of his safety and just because an adult, like a teacher or counselor, tells him to do something, if it makes him uncomfortable or confused… guess what? He doesn’t have to do it! He has the right to say “NO” and he knows it. Blind obedience versus knowing when and how to be assertive is on my mind as my son tells me this experience he had at camp:

My son is at a new camp. The first two days when changing for swim they changed in a huge bathroom that had stalls. My son (as did the other boys) went into their individual stalls and changed. The third day they were brought to a smaller bathroom (no clue why) and there were no stalls. My son said to the counselor, “I want to change in the stall.” The counselor said “We are in a rush just change here, hurry up.” My son responded, “I don’t want anyone to see me and I don’t want to see anyone else’s privates.” (Now remember he is growing up with one of the founders of KidSafe Foundation and could probably teach the lessons himself at this point.) The counselor raised his voice and told him he had to change. He refused. The counselor got the Director of the camp, who amazingly told my son, “I absolutely respect your right to privacy and you don’t ever have to change in that bathroom again – you can always go to the big bathroom.” Crisis solved. (Well almost – as this was not handled well by the group counselor.)

I can’t even explain to you how proud my husband and I were of him. Thankfully this was just a very minor thing – Just a counselor wanting his camper to hurry up and get dressed for swimming…no big deal right? But what if the counselor or teacher asked a child to do something inappropriate, sexual and unsafe? I want my child, your child, and every child to know they have the right to be SAFE. They have the right to speak up and be assertive if they are uncomfortable…and just because the person telling you to do something is an adult, especially the adult that is in charge at that time, it does not mean a child has to be blindly obedient.

After sharing my story with a few friends (many of their children have been through the KidSafe program), they shared similar stories…especially around the issues of changing for swim and privacy. My friend described that after a few days at camp she finally realized her son’s bathing suit was coming home dry. When she asked him if he was swimming he said that he and a bunch of other boys are not swimming because they didn’t have anywhere to change with privacy. When she called the camp – she understood that the boys were given an option by the counselor – change out with everyone – or don’t swim. They chose to not swim. After speaking to the director – who was embarrassed that the situation was not handled well by his staff, my friend used the experience as a teachable moment. She was so proud that he had spoken up and was assertive – but taught him that the next step is to come to a trusted adult and explain what happened. He has a right to swim and a right to privacy. Wow – it was amazing to have this anecdotal feedback that our lessons stick… the children get it! Some of the parents were surprised by their children’s assertiveness…I was thrilled!

I have to admit that dropping my son off at a camp where neither he nor I knew a soul was difficult for me. I left with a heavy heart, a little anxious….even though I did all the due diligence I needed to feel comfortable with the camp we choose, you still can’t help but wonder…will my child be safe? Parents ask us most often, “When can my child have more independence?” I respond with a question back to them: “What have you taught your child about their personal safety that you feel they will make the safest and smartest choices when faced with new challenges?”

I realized that we have raised our 10 year old to be polite…but assertive. To listen to an adult…but think first how it makes him feel…to speak up if something is uncomfortable.. but to hold his ground if he doesn’t feel safe and to report what happens to a trusted adult. I was proud and realized something important. It is not just what you tell your child, it’s how you ask questions of your child to get them to tell you about their day away from you.

Ask: Open ended questions – Don’t just ask: How was your day? The answer will be: fine.

Ask: Tell me 3 high lights of your day? And 3 low lights. Ask them for the play by play of their day.  Once they get talking you can enjoy the info as well as see how they cope during the day and what areas they might need some practice in.

So as your kids go off to summer activities…and then back to school rethink what you may be teaching them…Does your child know they have the right to say “NO” to anyone that makes them feel uncomfortable? Even an adult? Have you talked with your child about this? Do you just assume your child knows he has these rights? Or have you actually had this discussion? Do you assume your child knows he/she can come to you about anything? Or have you actually had this conversation.  If you have not – it is never too late. Start the conversation and keep it going! (if you want to read about how to do due diligence the KidSafe way – read our blog “How do I know my Child’s Camp is SAFE.”)

Testimonials

"Thank you for giving us the opportunity to be included in the KidSafe program. I highly recommend this program to other schools. We hope that we will be given the same opportunity for our Kindergarten and 2nd grade students to be a part of this wonderful program during the 2016-2017 school year."

Mrs. Keelyn Meselsohn 2nd Grade Teacher/Team Leader Tradewinds Elementary School

"The Safe and Smart Series Book My Body Is Special and Belongs To Me is kept in my middle school clinic and has been a tool that has opened many conversations for me between students that have experienced a difficult situation and were unable to talk about it. Through the illustrations and nonjudgmental verbiage the author has allowed kids permission to share their feelings about invasion of their personal space. Thank you so much."

Nurse Connie, PBC School Nurse 6.8.2016

"I'm so grateful that KidSafe has partnered with my daughter's school.  I learned so much in the parent training--how to recognize potential sexual predator behavior; how to quiz my child about what they would do in different scenarios; and how to explain safe and unsafe touch.  In addition, knowing that my daughter is receiving weekly trainings on these topics gives me great peace of mind.  I have confidence that I can reinforce what she is learning in school in order to prevent her from ever being a victim of such a heinous crime.  Thank you KidSafe for your dedication to protecting our communities' most vulnerable citizens."

Christina Kranick

“It was a normal Saturday and I was at the rink with my 7 and 8 year old. My son asked me if he could use the Men’s Restroom by himself.  Without hesitation, my daughter said,  Absolutely not! I was in KidSafe today and you cannot go to the restroom alone.  It is very important that Mommy is with you.. with us.   I was so proud of my little girl!  We are so blessed to have Debbie Miller at our school teaching our children the importance of safety. Many thanks to you all!  Your program and instruction is absolutely amazing.  Keep up the great work!"  

Tara Henley Admissions Assistant, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and School, Ft. Lauderdale

I am a parent of two Pine Crest children and I attended your program on Monday night. I just wanted to thank you so very much for the very informative seminar. As hard as it was to hear all of those things, it was very needed. We were thrilled that you were able to come and share that very important information with us and our children. So again...thank you.

Elisa Aronberg

Today’s training was awesome! It was very informative. Sally was a very good resource, she motivated us a lot! We want to pass on this information to parents, teachers and students! Thank you for offering workshops like this. These are tools we use to continue serving our children and families.

Participant from Children’s Services Council of Broward Seminar

To Top