Talking to Kids About "STRANGERS"

Updated on July 30, 2009
R.V. asks from Wilmington, DE
9 answers

I was wondering if some of you, beautiful and great moms out there can recommend me books about STRANGERS. My daughter is almost four years old and I am starting to be worried about this subject. She is sometimes VERY MUCH friendly and I had to STOP the situation in the past.

I want something good and strong enough to give her the message without confusing her. I just want to make clear the difference between being friendly or not wanting to hurt other people feelings and BEING TOO FRIENDLY AND ACCEPTING EVERYTHING THAT SOMEONE THAT IS NOT FAMILIAR WITH HER CAN OFFER HER TO MAKE HER DO SOMETHING DANGEROUS OR UNNAPROPIATED.

Thanks in advance!


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answers from Pittsburgh on

i love the Berenstein Bears Strangers book. It does a nice job of explaining that most strangers are nice people, but there are some bad people in the world and you just can't tell by looking at them. I've read that book to each of my children and it seems to really make them think and ask questions about it later.

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answers from Williamsport on

I'm so glad you asked this, and am planning to get a lot of the things recommended here. My daughter is 3 and 1/2, she's never been out of my sight other than a few brief stays with relatives. I was wondering this same thing as she is VERY friendly and trusting of everyone. She loves hugging etc.

One decision I made was that I was going to start having her not hug people other than relatives and supervised close friends. Whenever she looks a little shy or reluctant to hug (almost never!), I say, "That's OK, you don't have to hug" and tell the person what I'm teaching her-everyone understands.

Also, we were out recently in a big store, and she kept running just a little too far away, not really, but you know how it is with the racks. She's very well behaved and stays "near me" but not near enough and I couldn't get her to stop running when I was hugely pregnant and couldn't dash after her to enforce commands. I finally just told her calmly, "Look, there are a lot of people here, and some are not nice. You have to stay close to me, it's dangerous."

I hated to instill fear in her, but I figured, hey, she HAS to stay with me, so the stronger the message the better. I realize I could have said "Some people MAY not be nice" but I felt she is too young for differentiation games, no one can judge a book by it's cover, so assuming there are a couple of bad apples wherever you go never hurts. She stuck right with me the whole time and didn't seem upset, and I figured I can elaborate in talks as she gets older, since this will always be a real issue. I'll relieve fear later, but so far she seems to just "get it", and unfortunately, the world isn't kind, so fear as a constant reminder to be careful is necessary.

Basically, I don't think you should ever leave it up to your young child to try to know the difference between appropriate and inappropriate etc. It's not up to them. Hideous people are very sly and seem nice. I would set universal rules, like no hugging strangers or taking things from them and firm ways to smile (or maybe not smile) and say "NO thank you." Anyone who would have a problem with a child acting this way, is probably trouble, and not my concern anyway. I don't force myself on kids as far as hugging and being too friendly and no one should. Again, nice people you approve of can be approved by you under supervision. I've told all my male friends already I'm teaching her not to hug men, and they've been really nice about greeting her more like a young lady now that she's not such a cuddly baby, and they really respect the concept.

We were in a cafe and I was chatting with a man about art, and he was really nice and wanted to hug my daughter when we were leaving, and I said, "Oh, that's so nice, but I'm actually teaching her not to hug men" and he said, "Oh, I understand! Good thinking!" This way she saw me being nice but assertive, and him being gracious and us saying "No" so she can see how nice people act going forward when she says no.
Thanks for asking this-I'm looking forward to all your tips!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I have seen advertised the Stranger Danger DVD: but have not purchased it. It looks like it's informative in a non-scary way. Hopefully, someone else here can give a specific opinion about it.

Although I try not to buckle to fear of stranger danger, I do believe that we, as parents, have a right and an obligation to inform our kids in an age-appropriate way, that not everyone in the world is nice and some people are even dangerous. That's the (sad) reality of life. can "watch your child", but tell that to the thousands of parents whose children have already come into harms way. It only takes a second.

That said, I've basically just discussed this topic with my son. I have also made sure that he knows his address, his phone number, my & my husbands first names and how & when & why to call 911 in an emergency. I have also told him that if he is somewhere and is lost to look for someone who works there and to ask them for help. I have also told him that he could also try to find another "mommy" and tell her he needs help. I tell him daddies are safe but mommies are safer. My son is older than your daughter but I have also discussed with him certain situations and examples of ways a "dangerous" person may try to trick him into getting into a car, etc.
I know it's a sad reality, but we've got o teach them about the bad in the world sometime. Good luck.



answers from Pittsburgh on

There is a Berenstain Bears book about strangers which I've used in my classrooms at all different ages. It compares apples to strangers by talking about how you can't tell the difference between good apples and not-so-good (wormy) apples just by looking at the outside. Maybe by reading it and doing some similar hands-on examples, it would begin to help. Using that as a starting place, continue with your example and discussions after you get home from shopping trips where you encourage her to look at the people she sees and try to identify people who are good apples/not-so-good apples and how it's so hard to tell the difference without REALLY knowing someone. As a former ultra-friendly kid who talked to everyone, it might have helped me to have started analyzing people for myself in this way. Hope your/her experiences go well, whatever you decide to do to teach her!



answers from Lancaster on

Hi R.,

We love the safe side stranger safety video. You can get them at My MOPS group sold them and I would highly recommend it. My 6 yr old and 3 yr old have both watched it and we practice how to act in certain situations and when we are out who our "safe side adult" is. You might also want to check with your local police dept and see if they do the kid id cards. They are cards with info on your kids, a picture, and fingerprints that go into a national database in case, God forbid, something should happen. I hope this helps.

Good Luck,


answers from Allentown on

Hi R.,

I feel that if you keep an eye on her. There shouldn't be any problem.

I do talk to children when I am out shopping. I never told my children not to talk to strangers. None of them got kidnapped.

Our society is so fear stricken. I would caution you about that. If you are watching her, you can tell if something is not quite right.

I appreciate your asking for advice. You be the judge.

Good luck. D.



answers from Philadelphia on

There is a Winnie the Pooh book about Safety Rules that mainly addresses the topic of strangers. This book helped me to broach the subject with my 3 year old. Then we ask him questions every now and then and answer his questions when they come up.
Before I was a parent I wondered how I would handle this and other topics on safety or development. As my son grows older, I see that teaching him ourselves is critical, but it always helps to have an aide like a book or a video to get the ball rolling!
Good Luck.



answers from Pittsburgh on

The books and videos suggested sound very good, but there is nothing more influential on a child than the parent. I talk to my kids, my oldest is only four, and I tell him about there not being nice people in the world, etc. When he started to get funny about cleaning private parts in the bath, I decided he was aware that those are private, and we could start talking about who was allowed to touch him, and to tell mommy and daddy if anyone touches him in a way that he does not like. They understand a great deal more than we think from a young age. You don't have to scare them, I always reassure him that mommy and daddy would never let anything happen to him, but that we can't be there all the time. Use the books and the videos to start talking to your children, and keep reinforcing it from time to time.

She might be too young yet to understand the differences between dangerous and inappropriate, so maybe make it simpler -- don't accept anything from someone you don't know unless mommy or daddy oks it.



answers from Pittsburgh on

Denise P is right, there is a great video. I have it and my kids love to watch it. It is a little goofy and reminds me of a Saturday Night Live skit, you will see what I mean when you watch it! But because it is a little off the wall, it holds their attention and the ideas stick with them. I highly recommend it!

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