When A Stranger Grabs Your Child

Imagine the following scene…

You’re standing on the corner of 225th Street and Broadway in the Bronx*.  It is 8am on a gorgeous autumn morning.  You just rode the Metro North down from Yonkers and are preparing to jump on the 1 to meet your sister for breakfast in midtown.  You’ve got your 7-month-old strapped to your chest and are preparing to climb the stairs to the platform.  Your 2.5 year old is at the bottom of the stairs — stairs he’s climbed before and no different then the stairs he just climbed up from train — beginning his ascent.  You’re about to sling the stroller over your shoulder for your own shlep up the stairs.

And then it happens.  A stranger grabs your older boy.

Sounds like a nightmare, doesn’t it?  And not because of the impending 180 block ride on a subway at 8am on Saturday.  Because a stranger just grabbed your child.  A.  Stranger.  Grabbed.  Your.  Child.

But it was no such thing.  The woman was a stranger insofar as she was not someone I had ever met and had no familiarity with beyond having noticed her approaching the stairs from the opposite direction.  But she was not a “stranger” in the way we seem to have used that term since the 1990s or so, when “stranger danger” changed the way we think about so many things.  She was not a threat.  Or, at least, every bit of evidence I had about her said the only threat she posed was undermining O’s autonomy and denying him the chance to beam with pride from atop the mountain of stairs he just climbed.

So why did this stranger grab my son?  To help.  Obviously.  And, yes, it was obvious.

Why?  A few reasons.

  • Upon picking Mayo up, she did not accelerate her pace or adjust her path.  She did not “make a break for it”.
  • She moved in the direction of an enclosed space with but one entrance/exit (the one we were occupying).  The only other means of “escape” — the train — had just left and there would not be another one for at least a few minutes.
  • She was never out of my arm’s reach and never attempted to be.

All of this said, “Well intentioned woman offering misplaced help.”  None of it said, “Baby snatcher!”

And yet… prudence would have dictated me somehow stopping her, taking my son back, eliminating any chance that I was wrong, that what I thought was obvious was not obvious, and that this woman had set out that day hoping to steal herself a wee little one, happened upon us, and had a daring escape planned from an elevated subway platform with a 2-year-old in hand.  Right?  I mean, even if that is over the top, she certainly could have harmed my son in myriad other ways, and the non-zero but still minuscule chance of this happening would have justified — if not required! — my intervention.

But I did not intervene.  Even though Mayo clearly communicated discomfort with what was happening, I did not**.  Because, to me, the harm of communicating to him that all strangers — anyone he doesn’t know — is a threat to be avoided, telling him that well-intentioned people offering sincere help should be met with skepticism and resisted, was a far worse harm.  So I did the opposite.  When I saw the fearful look on his face, I said, “She’s helping, Mayo.”  When he reached for my hand, I held it but did not pull him towards me.  “Look how much faster we’re going now.  We’ll get to see Auntie even sooner.  Daddy’s right here.  And this lady is helping us.  Let’s say, ‘Thank you.'”

Strangers are all around us.  Furthermore, our children rarely know which people we may know or not know beyond their purview.  Whenever we bring our children to a new doctor’s office or classroom or to lunch with a college roommate we haven’t seen since before they were born, we are introducing a stranger into their life.  Not a scary-threat-stranger.  But an, “I don’t know this person” stranger.  Do we want them to meet all these people — people who may love them or who may be charged with their care — with skepticism, fear, and resistance?  No.  At least, I sure as hell don’t.

That doesn’t mean I want them traipsing off into the first windowless van full of puppies made of candy.  I want them to exercise situational awareness, develop healthy “gut feelings”, and exercise sound judgement.  So that is what I attempted to model.  I maintained situational awareness (i.e., noticed that the woman was approaching the subway before we arrived on the scene, knowing the layout of that particular subway station, observed the train departing as we approached the steps), trusted my gut (i.e., nothing about the situation felt unsafe or beyond my control, I felt in control), and made a judgement call (i.e., don’t rip a screaming toddler from an innocent woman’s hands while screaming, “BABYNAPPER!!!)… one that was ultimately proven correct.

I don’t want my children to fear the world.  I want them to know that the vast majority of people they come across pose no threat to them.  I want them to embrace life and enjoy it.  So, in service of all that, I let a stranger grab my child.  And thanked her for doing it.

*Yes, yes, technically you are in Marble Hill which is technically part of Manhattan despite not being a part of the island but it’s the Bronx so let’s just stop being silly.

** An argument could be made that I should have intervened on his behalf, honoring his discomfort.  And this wouldn’t be an objectionable course of action.  However, there are many times where we rightfully ignore children’s protests.  We leave them at school, daycare, or with the babysitter when they insist on being with us.  We hold them against their will to deliver shots.  We syringe nasty tasting medicine into their mouths.

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86 thoughts on “When A Stranger Grabs Your Child

      • The thing about situational awareness is a lot of it is unconcious. At the time, you aren’t thinking about the myriad things that inform it, but in hindsight, you can usually recall all the little things. Where we get into trouble is when we let social admonishments over-ride it, no matter how well meaning they are.

        BTW The woman probably should have made more of an effort to overtly ensure you were ok with her help. Whether or not you should have communicated that to her is not something I can judge.

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        • Oh, yes. There were other people who’s paths we crossed during this same time who I almost surely noticed in the same way I noticed this woman but who did not imprint because their presence was fleeting and ultimately inconsequential. I do tend to notice if the train is departing because if it isn’t, it usually means I ought to hustle up the stairs to catch the next one. I didn’t make the, “I know she has no where to go,” connection until after the fact, but I knew this to be true and it likely facilitated under the surface.

          To your second paragraph, I agree that the woman was not beyond criticism. But as someone below noted, we both had the opportunity to walk away from that interaction feeling good about it and to harangue her “on principle” felt silly.

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  1. Um, no. Help must be *offered* to strangers, not imposed without consent, and especially not imposed upon their toddlers.

    That person needs to be publicly chewed out this time so that next time toddler they aren’t napping isn’t the child of an off-duty cop with a hair trigger and a concealed handgun.

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    • No, no, no. Kazzy handled this beautifully and correctly. The outcome of the episode bears him out. This zero-tolerance, punish-everyone mindset has made America a shitty enough place already without people like you insisting that well-meaning strangers must “be publicly chewed out” for trying to be helpful.

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    • The woman was, in my opinion, wrong not to ask first. Not all wrongs require chewing. And my reaction served as acceptance.

      Would you chew out a stranger who held a door open unprompted? Picked up a dropped item? There are undoubtedly some cultural/personal pieces here about personal space as well.

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        • Sigh. Are you paying attention? I explicitly addressed that different cultures have different norms around personal space and physical contact. To some people, lifting up a child who seems to need help is not something you’d ever need to get consent for because consent is assumed. Just as if someone were to trip and fall, you’d probably reach your arm out to catch them without first securing consent. These things aren’t objective, but relative and contextual. Issues arise when people with different norms come into contact with one another and there is no clear system for determining what norms will govern that interaction.

          But why am I explaining this to you? You don’t actually care about consent. You care about needling folks. Because you can’t/won’t/don’t contribute to conversations here but simply seek to undermine them.

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          • Yes context is important but this comment seems more like an inept attempt to keep from admitting your analogy was poor at best. Besides your starting to sound like zach.

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            • So are you going to engage with what people say or are you just going to keep trying to poke pinholes in arguments? If you have an argument, make it. Otherwise, piss off.

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              • Piss off? You do sound like zach and as about as intelligent. No, it is one thing to help someone else’s kid up stairs by holding their hand and totally another to just pick them up. I wouldn’t mind the former at all.

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                • For someone who claims to be a lawyer, you seem to have only a rudimentary grasp on the English language. “As about as”? I hope you proofread documents for your clients better than this.

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                  • How about this: if you really believe notme is trying to get yer goat, why not try to *not* allow that to happen? That is, not let notme get yer goat?

                    I mean, I’m reminded of Alferd Packer here: we only have a couple conservatives here at the OT and you guys are trying to eat one of em.

                    Hell, we collectively just ran CK off and he’s not even a capital C conservative fer crying out loud.

                    Edit: I should add that the above isn’t offered as advice so much as one option to perhaps pursue. And I also admit that doing so isn’t necessarily easy.

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                      • Kazzy, I know you don’t have a problem with conservatives. I was just throwing that in there so I could make an Alferd Packer reference. :)

                        I’d rather not talk about the CK thing. I hope he comes back tho.

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                    • Yes, I suppose that’s fair. Can I ask, though, what Notme has to do before he gets banned for his constant misbehavior? I still don’t understand why OT tolerates his presence at all. Seriously, he has me pining for the days of Koz.

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                    • Yeah, CK is an asshole too. He’s just better at hiding it under the veneer of politeness and long-windedness.

                      OT is at its best when it involves posters and commentators learning from each other’s perspectives. NotMe and CK are both primarily interested in scoring points against the other team, and that degrades the quality of conversation.

                      Mind you, It’s not exclusive to the site’s conservatives, and it’s something all of us engage in occasionally including me. But we should all strive to be better individually and as a community, and that includes calling out those of us engaging in such behavior.

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                        • When was CK “hounded out”? Clearly i missed something although i try to maintain a steely surreptitious gaze on all threads i don’t jump into.

                          Was whatever happened worse then calling people commies or making hitler allusions? Shouldn’t there be some sort of breaking news feature or site to let us know about changes or fights?
                          ( TMZ are you listening?)

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                          • Allow me to change “hounded out” to “chose to self-segregate himself into a safe space where he wasn’t so painfully reminded of his status as member of the outgroup”.

                            This makes it his fault that he had such a thin freaking skin instead of the fault of those who were merely trying to get him to change his mind on things that we knew he was wrong about.

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                            • umm okay. I guess i lose sight of how easy and gentle the toobz and this place are to liberals. Nobody tries to change are minds or tell us we are wrong. Gosh knows i’ve never been challenged here or interacted with people who knew precisely how wrong i was and how right they were.

                              I do think there is far to much invective and poo slinging on the web in general. And many threads are just a parade of stereotypes and other cognitive biases with a side order of logical errors, but i hadn’t noticed anything that wildly odd related to CK. He certainly puts a lot of effort, and pixels, into his contributions.

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                          • “Run off” is the wrong term, I admit. “Treated shabbily to the point where he sees less of a reward for interacting despite doing a great deal to help our community by doing the shit janitorial work” is more accurate.

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                              • Without getting into issues of the excluded middle, I’d say that if there is anyone with views out there who ought to be treated more gently than the average consumer, it would be the janitor.

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                                • I agree that CK deserves the utmost respect, but his style is abrasive, often aggressive, occasionally directly insulting. I’m sure he’s used to getting it as good as he gets, and I imagine if he weren’t interested in heated discussions, he wouldn’t get into them as often as he does.

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                                • Yes, but the fact that someone has volunteered to do the janitorial work doesn’t mean you should let them pour gasoline all over your house, and the fact that CK was usually careful enough to wait for someone else to light the match doesn’t make him any less guilty of arson.

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                  • That is one reason why we have paralegals. Its better to have a different person read your work and catch typos. Im better when im not one handing it on my mobile while watching tv. Is this the best comment you can come up with?

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          • Kazzy:
            But why am I explaining this to you?You don’t actually care about consent.You care about needling folks.Because you can’t/won’t/don’t contribute to conversations here but simply seek to undermine them.

            Good to see I’m not the only one who notices it.

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            • Just completely ignoring someone is a strategy that can be abused, but if you really feel that someone is never saying anything worth reading, it is fairly easy to do.

              It’s especially easy to do when that person is not only not involved in actual conversations, but clearly has no interest in being involved in them.

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              • Or only post recipes or kitten pictures or something like that in response to obvious troll is obvious. That’s what they do on slacktivist – it doesn’t work as troll repellent per se, but it doesn’t give him solid food to thrive on and keeps blood pressures down all around.

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              • I will be the first to admit I’m not great at ignoring people who really get under my skin. It’s one of my bigger flaws (of which there are a great many). When I was a kid, my brother did that whole “I’m not touching you” thing where you dance your finger a centimeter from the other person’s face, and I responded by breaking his finger. Again, not the most mature response, but I have certain lines that once crossed make me…less than reasonable. But you’re right, I should be the bigger man and strive to just ignore Notme. I will try harder, I swear.

                Although an “Ignore” function on this site would really help me there. Just sayin’.

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  2. I mean, I agree with you that “Stranger Danger” is overblown, but this seems like going too far back in the other direction. You don’t have to freak out, given that you know she’s trying to help, not kidnapping your child. But you can still politely and calmly ask her to put your child down, if that help is unwelcome.

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  3. Equality, trust, and cooperation. What’should not to like?

    The only things that could go wrong are things that involve trust not being warranted.

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  4. Since the Littlest Bath was 2.5 when we got her, she had a lot of stuff built-in. Among those things was a great deal of comfort with all sorts of adults. She has a clear bias for trusting and liking old ladies, a group whose membership staffed the orphanage in which she grew up. If we’re going for a walk, she’ll sometimes stop one and give her an unbidden hug.

    I know at some point this isn’t going to fly, but I haven’t tried to do anything directly to discourage it. I figure at some point she’ll hug someone who isn’t thrilled about it, and she’ll figure it out. To a large extent, all this is tied to culture. Her behavior wouldn’t stand out in China, but it definitely does in the individualistic US.

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    • The culture thing is definitely a piece. The area we were in is largely working class Black and Hispanic. My anecdotal experience tells me the “It takes a village” approach is stronger here than in other segments of American society. And the woman herself was older (50s I’d guess)) so there is a generational component as well.

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  5. I’m curious.

    How do you feel about people lecturing children who they are not responsible for?

    What if an adult lectured one of your children for misbehavior and you felt the adult was either reacting disproportionate to the act and/or it was clear that the adult was not okay with an action you were okay with your child doing?

    Should we let adults lecture kids anyway or would you confront said adult?

    My general observation is that in places like Japan where kids can go out on their own, adults seem to have a full right and kind of responsibility to do so. I’m not sure that I am okay with this. My friends who grew up in Asian countries like Singapore and India have told me that any adult who is not a parent, grandparent, teacher, etc. is called Aunty and Uncle by default. For example, I am supposed to call my girlfriend’s parents “Aunty” and “Uncle” when I meet them even though I am a 35-year adult. I’m not sure if I am going to be able to do this with a straight face.

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    • Not really picking on you personally here Saul, but this comment sorta tripped my passion into action.

      Should we let adults lecture kids anyway or would you confront said adult?

      Is there really a correct answer to this question? Is there a “correct” answer to the question “What’s the right way for Tod to respond in the situation described above?”? My wife just showed me a bunch of pictures from her Facebook WallBoardInstaPin thingy of a newborn sleeping with a puppy, and the original poster of those photos got a lot of grief for allowing a dog (a DOG!) to snuggle with an infant like that. Germs and all, of course.

      Personally, I think there’s a confusion in these types of questions, namely (well amongst other things!) that lots of people believe these questions are no different than, say, a structural engineering question, or a math problem, or etc. There’s just an objective reality and the question admits of an objectively correct answer. Yet, I’m convinced there is no right answer, myself. And the absence of an objectively correct answer isn’t really the problem here: it’s that folks who think there’s a right answer keep imposing that view, and the accompanying judgment, on those who, from their pov, keep doin it wrong!

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      • I think dichotomizing the issue the way does is a mistake, but I don’t think there’s necessarily no right answer, or at least I think we can get to something sort of like a right answer.

        I’d probably split the question into:

        1) Should a miscellaneous adult lecture a child they are not in some way responsible for raising? (my answer: no unless exceptional case)

        2) What is the correct response to an adult who is responsible for the child to the situation above? (my answer: certainly not harangue the other adult and produce a scene, but otherwise I’m not sure)

        But then I’m very opposed to causing scenes.

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    • I think it depends on the situation and agree with Stillwater that there’s probably no right answer, or at least no easily generalizable answer.

      I was at a wedding a few months ago. The wedding was at a house, and the homeowners had a dog. Some of the kids at the wedding were badly harrassing the dog and chasing it when the dog tried to get away. I was very much afraid that if the kids kept at it, the dog might bite them. And the parents seemed to be doing nothing.

      My own view is usually that I have so little standing to lecture/admonish others’ kids that I shouldn’t reprimand others’ kids. And I didn’t reprimand these kids. In retrospect I should have and would have been in my rights to do so. The situation in my opinion called for it, both to protect the dog from the kids and to protect the kids from the dog. (The dog, to her credit, didn’t bite.)

      That situation is not the same as the general one you describe for Japan, and I have no idea how they do it in Japan and I have even less of an idea of how they should do it.

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      • I’d go even further, GC, and say that it doesn’t depend on the situation so much as the person. If you’re the type of person who thinks lecturing kids appropriately is appropriate, then do so and deal with whatever consequences come down the pike. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t want their kids lectured (even when it’s appropriate!) then confront the lecturer and deal with whatever consequences arise. There are no “rules” for this type of thing, seems to me. And certainly no “a priori” knowable rules that apply fully generally given identifiable sufficient conditions or based on generalizations of scientific studies etc blahblahblah.

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        • We probably agree, then. But I do think I should’ve intervened.

          (And for the record, I have no children, which is one reason why I’m VERY reticent to lecture others’ kids. I have no idea what it’s like to be a parent and don’t want to presume I know better. I still make judgments, but I keep them to myself.)

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          • But I do think I should’ve intervened.

            Well, there’s lots of ways to intervene. You coulda gone ballistic on the kids and beat the dog into submission. You coulda had a polite conversation with the kids about safety and rough-housing. You coulda had a conversation with the parents about, well, safety and roughhousing. Whatever, ya know? That’s a different issue than what you *should* have done.

            Once upon a time I used to work with a guy who owned a pit-bull as a guard dog, bred and trained to be, effectively, a killer. THe only person in the household that really big dog listened to was Mike, and the dog was a loose enough cannon that anyone who wasn’t Mike was in danger. (I learned this thru practical experience.) I asked him if he thought it was safe to have such a dog in the house with his daughter (who was 13 at the time) and wife, knowing that the dog wouldn’t listen to either of them and may in fact turn on them. He assured me there was nothing to fear. Sure nuff, the dog ended up biting both the daughter and the wife in separate incidents and Mike only begrudgingly got rid of the dog without ever admitting that his decisions actually put those people at risk.

            *Should* I have done more? (Not *could*, see?) I mean, sure this incident could be used as a Cautionary Tale revealing Important Lessons regarding Appropriate Conduct in Similar Situations and all that. Personally, I think the moral of the story is that Mike was an idiot. But he and I disagree about that!

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      • What I struggle with is not so much lecturing — of me or my children — but of people who stare, mouths agape, as I let Mayo engage in age appropriate risk taking. I am not a helicopter parent and I refuse to hover. I give him space to do his thing, test his limits, and learn what he is capable of. And yet so many people (including this woman, to a certain extent) feel the need to step in and “save him”. No. Fuck you. I know *exactly* what I’m doing. Just because it makes you uncomfortable or isn’t how you’d parent your child gives you no right to step in.

        I’m not talking about him running through traffic — obvious dangers that, yes, everyone should feel empowered to intervene with. I’m talking about people who see him going down a slide without anyone holding his hand and who go to spot him. Seriously. Fuck off.

        I think part of this is the assumption that, “If only he knew better…” As if Mayo moving freely around a playground is not an active decision but rather a passive indecision on my part. Quite the contrary. I do know better and am actively deciding to take a less active role in his play and exploration so that he can learn certain things on his own.

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        • Do you think, Kazzy, that this stranger intervened in your case because you’re a man and that she would’ve acted differently if you were Zazzy and not Kazzy? I realize you probably don’t really know the answer, but I’m interested in your gut impression of what was going on.

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          • I often wonder about that. In this case, I don’t know. She didn’t seem particularly thoughtful about it so I’m not sure that level of analysis. I do think gender so often factors into how we perceive parents, but not necessarily in a consistent matter. I think we tend to project our own biases.

            I get my share of, “Wow! What a great dad!” for doing nothing out of the ordinary. Which is annoying.

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        • I sometimes wonder if there is a regional difference in the whole hover-y parent thing too. I see it here on the West Coast for sure, but it doesn’t seem to be as intense.

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          • I think there is a big regional difference. Here in Ak this doesn’t seem to be much of thing although we are an obvious and literal outlier. Habits have changed to be sure with many people being more suspicious of strangers and letting children play unsupervised to be sure, but not to the level of the worst stories.

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  6. Granted that the vast majority of people aren’t kidnappers. But since there’s such a strong norm against doing stuff like this, the set of people who will physically pick up strangers’ kids without any kind of invitation is very highly self-selected. And still, among that set of people, the vast majority are not kidnappers. But at that point, the odds might be getting into “probably not a great chance to take” territory, given the awfulness of the worst-case scenario.

    For all the reasons you gave, the danger in this particular case was negligible. But given that young children don’t have all the information or analytical ability needed to make that kind of call, maybe it’s not the best idea to teach your children to be calm and not make a fuss when a stranger picks them up off the street?

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  7. Kazzy acted appropriately, as did the woman, and I think the discussion here exemplifies precisely the corrosive destructive effect of the climate of fear and paranoia I mentioned in other threads.

    The woman acted boldly, trusting that Kazzy wasn’t an armed nut with a hair trigger defensive posture. Kazzy held his fear in check long enough to see her actions for what they were.

    And each left the encounter with a greater sense of well-being, confidence, and trust in their world than before.

    Fear really is the mind killer, or soul killer.

    In the idealized past, when children played unattended outside, there were just as many pedophiles and serial killers as today.
    And all the Zero Tolerance Child Safe programs haven’t lessened their numbers. The big fear of a Stranger Abduction is, and always has been, freakishly unusual, on par with killer bee attacks.

    And yet the cost which so far has yet to be acknowledged, is staggering.

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    • Thanks for stealing my thunder. From a fairly early age my children have always had a great deal of independence. Not quite as young as Kazzy’s but younger than most of their peers. Have all of their decisions been wise ones? Of course not, but they’ve been been in real harm’s way, and they are the wiser for having experienced the consequences.

      Now they’re both nearing the ends of their college years, and I and my wife will be reaping the rewards of having independent minded children who can handle what life throws at them.

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      • This is affirming and inspiring, .

        When I think about this general approach to parenting, I wonder what the downsides are. The most obvious is the increased risk. Though, as you say, much of this can be properly mitigated. I don’t think either of us espouse just letting kids do whatever the hell they want, safety be damned.

        But it is obviously not a perfect strategy. To those parents or caregivers who do not promote independence in this way, what might their children have that mine may not? I think about interconnectedness, but I don’t think having strong interpersonal relationships and connections is mutually exclusive to this approach. Though it may require additional effort and therefore many children with this sort of upbringing may not end up with that balance.

        As I think about myself — not necessarily raised intentionally to be independent but nonetheless arriving there — I do sometimes struggle knowing if/how/when to let people help me and this can cause problems. But I don’t know if that, too, is inherent to this approach. But I’m curious if you — or others — can point to downsides (again, beyond the obvious “risk”).

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        • First, my comment should read “never been in real harm’s way”.

          To address your question re: downsides, I’d have to say absolutely none. We live in a very large metropolitan area with its fair share of random violence and general nitwittery. My kids have always been aware of this stuff. We take a daily newspaper in our house, and they usually read at least part of it.

          What one has to remember is that, even in the worst parts of town, the number of people wishing you harm is vanishingly small. To be the victim of a crime of any sort is generally a random event. That doesn’t mean you get to court danger by walking through an iffy part of town with your iPhone in your hand, but it does mean that you’re almost always going to be able to go about your business without being bothered.

          America has become a fearful place in the last couple of decades. Anyone waiting in a security line at an airport can tell you that. I refuse to succumb to the fearmongering, and I like to think I’ve instilled that notion in my children, as well.

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    • In the idealized past, when children played unattended outside, there were just as many pedophiles and serial killers as today.

      The absurd thing is that there’s probably fewer than the idealized past, and yet the fear continues to rise. One point on which I do agree with FDR is that the biggest thing we have to fear is fear itself.

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      • Based entirely upon a guess, if we’re talking about “folks who represent a safety threat to my child” (independent of what type of safety threat they are):

        In an absolute sense there are possibly more, your local sub-community depending.

        In a relative sense there are probably fewer. (My gut would tell me far, far fewer, because crime and violence is generally way down over the last thirty years.)

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        • I think a big part of the problem is that we lump all “threats” in as if they are equivalent.

          An example…

          There is a park I frequent with the boys in a rather upscale town just north of where we live (median income $83K per Wikipedia, for what it’s worth). Every time I’ve been there, we’ve encountered a gentleman who doesn’t seem quite with it. I don’t know if he is homeless or a drunk or mentally ill or on drugs but there is pretty clearly something off. And this is a pretty busy park adjacent to a very fancy restaurant right on the waterfront and patrons typically come out to the field for pics. And yet, there this man is… every time we’ve been there.

          Is this man a threat? I’ll say I’m uncomfortable around him. He is a little too aggressively social… which is saying a lot coming from me. He will interject into any conversation or interaction within ear shot. And at least once waded into some fairly racist waters with his comments. Like I said… something isn’t quite right with this guy. So, yea, I’d say he is a heightened threat relative to all the other people in the park.

          And yet his presence in the park… in this particular park as I’ve described… tells me that he probably isn’t all that much a threat. If he was likely to cause harm, he probably would have done so already or would have given strong indication as such and would likely be no longer welcome in the park. He is tolerated because, as much as he seems to struggle with societal rules, he is able to stay within the ones that allow him to frequent a park populated primarily by wealthy families and their children.

          But problems arise when that man is put into the same category as the Jeffrey Dahmers of the world because they are all above a 2 on the threat scale. And too often, we function as if threats occur in a binary instead of along a spectrum.

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        • And even given James K’s comment about less violent crime in recent years, I just pulled up some numbers on child abductions and about 12% of all missing children cases result from a family member abducting the child, while less than 1% result from “stranger” abduction. I’d imagine the numbers are even worse regarding sexual abuse. So “stranger danger” should probably take a back seat to family danger.

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