Confronting Risk

Helicopter Parent vs Negligent Parent – Finding the Appropriate Middle Ground

We’ve all heard of “stranger danger” and all parents worry.  But there is a growing body of evidence that suggests we don’t help our kids by being over-productive.

Although the term stranger danger makes sense to adults, many children think strangers are going to be monster-like, ugly and obviously not nice. They won’t necessarily think of someone who is being nice as a “stranger”.

We also have to acknowledge that sometimes our kids need help. Sometimes, they may need to ask an adult they don’t know for help. If we teach our kids that all strangers are dangerous, we are describing a very scary world to them, a world where they have to afraid of everyone and everything. There are risks out there, but the vast majority of adults are safe and helpful. Making our children overly afraid won’t help them to develop the confidence they need to be successful.


Our goal is to teach our kids to…

  • recognize risky situations,
  • know how to get away if necessary, and
  • ask helpful strangers for assistance when they need it.

Here’s some great tips for parents from

Don’t say: Never talk to strangers.

Say: You should not approach just anyone. If you need help, look for a uniformed police officer, a store clerk with a nametag, or a parent with children.

Don’t say: Stay away from people you don’t know.

Say: It’s important for you to get my permission before going anywhere with anyone.

Don’t say: You can tell someone is bad just by looking at them.

Say: Pay attention to what people do. Tell me right away if anyone asks you to keep a secret, makes you feel uncomfortable, or tries to get you to go with them.

In addition to these conversations, walk and ride bikes in your neighborhood with your kids. Help introduce them to neighbors and their community. Also you can use role-playing scenarios to help your children practice their abduction prevention skills. The more children practice, the better prepared they will be to respond to an emergency.

What Else Parents Can Do?

(Tips from

In addition to teaching children how to recognize and handle dangerous situations and strangers, there are a few more things parents can do to help their children stay safe and avoid dangerous situations.

  • Know where your children are at all times.Make it a rule that your children must ask permission or check in with you before going anywhere. Give your children your work and cell phone numbers so they can reach you at all times.
  • Point out safe places.Show your children safe places to play, safe roads and paths to take, and safe places to go if there’s trouble.
  • Teach children to trust their instincts.Explain that if they ever feel scared or uncomfortable, they should get away as fast as they can and tell an adult. Tell them that sometimes adults they know may make them feel uncomfortable, and they should still get away as fast as possible and tell another adult what happened. Reassure children that you will help them when they need it.
  • Teach your children to be assertive.Make sure they know that it’s okay to say no to an adult and to run away from adults in dangerous situations.
  • Encourage your children to play with others.There’s safety in numbers!