Monday, April 29, 2013

Train Your Young Kids for Security

This isn't so much about guns as it is about security of young children in or around the first grade or younger category.

If I had a nickle for every time my son called me a mean mommy I'd have somewhere around a dollar or two. I am strict. I demand obedience. When I don't get it, I discipline. I don't negotiate with my children when it comes to matters of keeping them safe.

Some think I'm too strict. They think I don't give enough leniency to my children. I don't let them be kids.

I do let my children be children. They can go outside and play and make noise and throw toys and be the children they want to be... in certain venues.

When it comes to places I have not and cannot secure, however, I become mommy-bodyguard. And when a bodyguard takes on a client that client has certain rules he needs to follow in order to be secured. Even the president gets ordered around by Secret Service when it comes to security and so my children (son, 4 years old; daughter, 1 year old) have sets of orders they are expected to follow as well.

1. They should be quiet.
Not in the "children should be seen and not heard" sense but in the "no screaming and making unnecessary noise" sense. I love talking to my son and chattering with him when we are out and about but if he's screaming and making unnecessary noise he is a huge distraction from everything else going on. The same is said for my daughter. She's still quite young to understand being quiet but we're working on her. My son does very well.

If he wants to take a toy with him places it is a toy that doesn't make noise. When he talks, I expect him to use a conversational voice unless it is a true emergency. And then he is expected to scream bloody murder.

2. The busier the environment the closer they stay to me.
Again, my daughter is still young. She's walking now and enjoying her freedom but when out and about she still is mostly confined to a carrier, a cart or stroller. When not crowded I will let her walk around but only if she's holding her brother's hand. She doesn't always like her big brother holding on to her but I prefer it that way. Then they are together and I'm not having to split my attention in several directions.

And as it gets busier I will take my daughter and my son is told to stay with me. If he's having a hard time with distractions that will mean holding on to the shopping cart, my shirt or bag. Disobeying is met with discipline. I cannot risk the lives of my children because they couldn't obey me when I told them what to do.

3. They should leave if I tell them to leave. 
After reading the article Are Your Instincts Putting Your Child In Danger by Greg Ellifritz I realized that the instinct to collect your children to yourself may not be the best one. If in a confrontation you may be the one that is drawing violence that you do not want your children caught up in. At very least you may need mobility to move and act without your children hanging on to you or under your feet.

I know the idea of sending your child away when there is danger is completely opposite of everything a parent feels and I struggled to accept that concept as valid. But there is a logic to it that cannot be denied and it's imperative that your judgement in the matter be clear.

Are you being targeted or your child? Are there multiple attackers that could collect the child and use him or her as a human shield depending on which direction you send your child?

Something that has been talked about before is the difference between running from danger and running towards safety. A young child might not be able to distinguish the difference and so you may have to be very specific in your instructions to him or her.

If you have older children this might not be so scary. You can sit down with a fifteen year-old and explain what you expect of him or her and even trust him to look out for himself to a point. Telling a young teen to run out the back of the store and to lock himself in the car is not an unreasonable request nor should it be too difficult for him to accomplish. A four-year-old, however, or those with developmental delays can be a different story.

Young or delayed children may be confused by commands or too frightened to act on them. What we have practiced with our children is creating short distances. If you are in a store and pushing a cart or stroller, push the cart away from you and tell him to go to the cart or stroller. Pick a place in a store that the child knows and loves like the toy department or, in the case of our local grocery store, the bakery with the Thomas the Train cakes on display. While I would be loath to send my young child out of my sight it's better than him getting caught between me and a bad guy, especially if guns might be coming out.

This can become even harder for those of us with little ones still in arms and though I've consulted with Ellifrtiz on this topic we both drew a blank without more trial and error and I've come to the conclusion that some things don't have good solutions. You wouldn't want to drop your baby to fight as dropping a child can be just as damaging to him or her as any incoming violence. If you carry your baby in some sort of carrier you will likely not have time to remove him or her. If in a physical altercation your child will be in the middle of it.

My personal recommendation for people with babies in arms would be to increase your personal space and heighten your suspicion of those who get inside that space. I'd also recommend carrying a non-lethal tool such as pepper spray that is particularly easy to access. Clipped right to the baby carrier is a good start. In hand when possible is even better. This allows you at least to have a non-lethal option of some distance that will allow for some sort of defense that doesn't require physically tangling with someone with your baby in the middle or going to lethal options like guns.

I carry a combination kubaton/pepper spray canister on my keys which I keep in hand whenever I'm carrying my daughter. Even though I have a gun on my hip I already have a defensive tool in my hand. Even if approached with lethal force I can immediately pepper spray and buy myself a moment to get out my gun (if it's still needed) and/or get out of there.

And when it comes to guns, work, work, work your one-hand drills. 

4. They should get into car seats quickly and through the same door.
We all know parking lots are common attack points. And mothers loading kids into cars are pretty prime targets, especially if she has more than one and has to move around the car getting all of her kids into it. All the doors are typically unlocked and some open. You don't have to look hard to see stories or videos of criminals plopping themselves down in the passenger seats of unlocked cars while the owner pumped gas, loaded groceries or sat there surfing on a cell phone.

I prefer to have one location in which my children enter our vehicle so that I can funnel the access to the vehicle. When we approach our vehicle I unlock it with the key fob. Once all doors are unlocked I open the door through which my children will enter and then I immediately lock all of the doors. That way, should I have to slam the door I know my children will be safely locked in and no one can enter the vehicle through another door or even the door my kids just entered. I then clip my keys to person, mainly because I don't want to put them down on the backseat while strapping my kids in their seats and end up locking them in the car and myself out of it (been there, done that). 

When the kids are in the car I check around me before diving in to snap buckles. With only one child or a larger vehicle you can get in the car and shut the door while fastening straps as well, for those with multiple children or smaller cars that might be more difficult.

As my children age and are able to master sequences like getting into the car, locking the door and putting on a seatbelt this might change, but as they are young and still need a lot of help I prefer to keep access to the car as limited as possible. It also keeps me from having to worry about my kid running off into a busy parking lot while waiting for me to buckle in his little sister.

5. Talk to Strangers

You heard me!

I teach my children to talk to strangers. Because if I'm on the floor, tangled up with some bad guy, I want my child to be comfortable approaching someone for help and identifying himself (more on that later).

Police officers are strangers. EMTs are strangers. Firefighters are strangers. Nurses are strangers. Doctors are strangers. And these are all people that I hope my child would be comfortable talking to if in need. So the key here is not to teach him not to talk to strangers but to talk to the least risky ones and what conversation is appropriate and inappropriate.

High-risk stranger: solo guy taking pictures of kids at the play ground.
Low-risk stranger: Mom pushing two kids in a shopping cart.

Appropriate conversation: Where's your Mom? Let's go find her!
Inappropriate conversation: Want to help me find my puppy? 

While down in Tennessee these last two weeks I had opportunity to go out to a lot of kid-friendly places like the zoo and different stores and eateries. The level of distraction and lack of control of some parents absolutely astounds me, not from a parenting stand-point (that's their own business) but from a security stand-point. If those parents needed to suddenly act in defense I can see little less than disaster ensuing.

Thankfully, having to defend yourself around your children is pretty rare. But that's what we're good at preparing for, isn't it?

Stay Tuned for Part 2: Other Things To Consider In Child Security


  1. I love this! I'm going to link to it if that's okay.

    I agree with everything you said, but as I was reading it, you know what I realized? That your first few points could be lessons in how to have well-behaved children and the bonus is that their safety is assured.

  2. Good stuff... a couple of additional thoughts... my daughter was taught from around two-years on to always be to our left as we are right handed, as in gun, knife, impact device, etc... and if you tell them to leave, make sure they know where they are to go ahead of time... whether it's and intruder at home... a danger in the local Wally World... they need to know where to go so they aren't going towards more danger... we used to play games with our daughter when she was little like "where's a good place to hide", "who looks safe and who looks scary", "where are the pinch points (between cars, etc.), dead-ends, or dark places"...

    You can train your kids up easily without scaring them...

    Dann in Ohio