Alert! Alert!

Posted 05.09.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Earlier this month reports were circulating around town that a male in an orange car had attempted to pick up several school children. Although the police said they couldn't trace the reports, the sightings or the man, there was plenty of advice dished out to parents, most of it coming down to: "Be afraid, be careful, be very afraid, be very careful," and the all-time worst, "don't trust anybody!"

We all love kids, especially our own. We love grandkids. That is not the issue. Just about everyone will do what they can to prevent harm to any child. We do not have to prove we love kids by supporting every call for hysteria, nor do we have to embrace fear as our guiding emotion.

Widespread appeals to fear and near-hysteria ("A killer is loose in our community!") works against a happy, mature future for our kids. Fear-driven child rearing means our kids don't play outside much and become incapable to speaking to adults they do not know. It means our kids grow up feeling they are targets and are surrounded by perverts and murderers.

Crime statistics tell an opposite story: Crime in general is down, violence, down, kidnappings and assaults, all down. Broadcasting warnings and "amber alerts" about unsubstantiated kidnappings is reacting to what is not happening.

Yes, there will remain the occasional criminal at large. Making everyone fearful and jumpy, suspicious of others, especially of folks who look different from "us," and encouraging a siege mentality in our community does no one any good.

Rather than urging kids to run anytime a car slows down, wouldn't it be wiser to teach our kids how to deal with the world around us, a world they will soon enough be acting within? Wouldn't it be wiser to teach them a little discrimination, to be able to walk or cycle around their neighbourhood or to the dep for milk.

Kids actually need time with "strangers" (clerks, police, mailmen) -- these adventures give them self-confidence. Kids will learn to react with emotional intelligence by means of wholesome experiences.

A vibrant community is the best way to raise kids -- teaching kids by example to greet every passer-by with eye contact and a greeting. Kids, too, can do this. It helps them gauge who is safe and who not. They learn by experience about "personal space" by having respectful contact with strangers.

Some parents go crazy with such suggestions. Growing up in a fenced-in yard won't help a child in that decisive moment when they may need their intuitive senses.

Social workers report that it is family members or friends of parents who often abuse children. Community activists point out that when no one walks or when neighbours keep their walls built high, everyone becomes a stranger. Our community needs fewer strangers. That way the creepy strangers are quickly exposed and our children stay safe.


Copyright © 2013 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/05.13