“Children are good learners. They first learn to act what they hear and see.”
— Lailah Gifty Akita
I originally wrote this for Contingent Group and our monthly VIP Reports. I think this is a critical topic that needs to be discussed more than it currently is. Please read, and implement as you see fit into your family.
The world is an unforgiving place and we as adults understand that better than the children we are raising. We want to tell them things but at the same time, we want to protect their little ears and eyes from the evil nature of the world. Are we protecting them, or are we hindering them by sending them out into the world without the proper knowledge and wisdom? I cannot sit here and tell you what you should or should not tell your children but I will ask you to think about what information is going to hinder and what is going to start building their own SA when taking in and processing the world. You as the parent have that power. You as the parent have that responsibility.
Before we can teach anything, we, the teachers, need to ensure that we are doing the right thing and that we know what we are talking about. This does not mean we need all the answers but we should have a good understanding of what we are trying to pass down to the younger generation. If you only know a little then teach what you know and during this time learn more so you can eventually pass more wisdom down. SA is one of those things that if we knew what to look for, or just paid attention, or got our face out of the phone that we would prevent, stop, and deter so many evil things from happening. This is a fact! Many individuals become victims simply from not paying attention or didn’t see a very obvious sign that something bad was going to happen.
Where do we, as parents, start? This may have different answers but I will give you my belief and what I do with my children. First, I do not act as we live in this happy go lucky, dance in fields with flowers attitude. I inform them of the harsh realities of this world and some individuals in it. I keep it age-appropriate but when I tell them things or teach them things I can see their brain processing and that is what I want. As my family goes through our lives and something happens that I notice, I have an on-the-spot “teaching moment” about what I saw or what just happened. For example- if we are driving and I see someone texting and driving, or walking across the street not paying attention, I point it out to my children and explain what could happen if you do those sorts of things. I will discuss getting struck by a car, or to the extreme of getting kidnapped. I do this anytime something comes up no matter where we are, as long as I can discuss the issue. Eventually, they have become the ones that point out certain things and then you can discuss what they witnessed. SA is one of those things that is ongoing and has its levels of vigilance depending on where we are and what we are doing. Your children will naturally see and feel these levels, it is called gut instinct and is a great tool for them to realize and understand the severity of a certain situation.
You will find that doing the on-the-spot teaching moments that your children will start developing heightened SA and this will also benefit you. Remember, we are developing assets! Another tactic I have, and do use, is scare tactics. When my two girls were old enough to understand I sat them down and explained kidnapping and what that could look like and what they could experience. I did not mention getting raped and how horrific that could be being I was keeping it age-appropriate. But, I did do something that worked miracles and showed them a clip from a movie. That movie was Man of Fire with Denzel Washington. If you have not seen that movie it is a must-watch, but it has a scene where a little girl gets kidnapped and it is a great sliver of film to watch. It gets the point across and it gets it across well. At the time this was a great example of kidnapping and how easy it is to pick up a kid and put them in a car and go. Now, there are movies like Taken that paint a surreal picture as well as many other films. Many of us are very visual, so watching stuff like this can help get the point across. This may be against what some of you will do but, like I said, are we helping or hindering our children? You as the parent have that power over what to show and do for your children. One thing that I will ask for you to keep in mind is that, do you want your children to see, hear and learn things from media, other kids, or some random person? Or would it be best to do a planned, well-thought-out conversation to get the point across and have a well-orchestrated teaching moment? You get to decide.
The teaching moments for our children NEVER END! Kids will get older and one day they are in grade school which has a set of issues and then they get to high school which is another set of issues. After that, yep, you guessed it, another set of issues for college or going out in the real world. We have gone before them and have way more experiences, both good and bad that we must pass down and equip that brain of theirs so they do not make mistakes that we know can happen or that we have experienced.
This may seem like a lot but it isn’t. One thing that must be established and this may be a hard one is opening the lines of communication between you and your children. Let them know that it is OK for them to bring up something bad that happened at school so you can discuss and grow wiser together. You get to learn about their world and what goes on and they get the wisdom from your experiences. It is a win-win and can grow your relationship stronger.
In the side column, there are a few areas that you can start some “teaching moments.” Again, every family is different and some may have already done this and some may have children too young. You should know what you can and should do.
REMEMBER- you are responsible for their growth in SA and other life lessons that schools do not teach. It is a heavy responsibility but one that can save their lives. DO NOT SLACK!