Question for Dopers about your children?


I just read this:

“Toby’s always told him that ‘If you get lost, stay on the trail.’ So he stayed on the trail. We’ve also told him don’t talk to strangers … when an ATV or horse came by he got off the trail … when they left, he got back on the trail.”

from the story about the Boy Scout lost in Utah.

Aren’t you afraid you might have you similarly taught your children to be afraid of strangers? :eek:

I saw this on CNN this morning and I think I’m going to decide on a code-word for my 10 yr old son. Something that people can call out to assure him that they are responsible adults working to help me locate him, instead of strangers trying to abduct him.

Although I do realize that if he’s missing and I have to tell the rescuers our secret word, this means that some predators may gain access as well. I can’t think of any safer way to go about it.

I also don’t let my son hike in the wilderness unless I’m with him, so the chances of him getting lost in said wilderness are pretty low.

I was tempted to start a thread about this same thing.

The kid could have been found days ago but instead he ‘hid’ from searchers because he didn’t know if they were ‘scary people’. And the kid is 11 years old.

Is this a case of what happens when your child is overprotected? Teach them that the only people they can trust are their parents and people their parents deemed ‘okay’ to talk to.
Overprotect your kids and watch them get lost when they’re alone in the real world.

I had the same thought when I read the article. I would’ve thought, that boy was old enough to know the “don’t talk to strangers” rule, does not apply in all situations. His fear of strangers, was stronger than his self preservation.

My child is autistic, I’ve never told him not to talk to strangers. He’s more likely to need the help of a stranger, than be in a situation where a stranger is trying to harm him. I’m not sure if I would’ve done it differently, had he been normal.

But an 11 year old Boy Scout doing this boggles my mind. I thought they taught initiativeness.

So the kid thought this remote wilderness was full of a bunch mobile pedophiles that knew his name? Yeah, I’d say the parents just nailed the clothespin holding up the paranoia target.

Yep, I am.

It’s a hard line to walk, and a lot of it depends on where you live and what the most pressing danger to your children is likely to be. We live in a crowded city where there’s a reported kidnapping attempt at least twice a year. So we focus on (possibly apocryphal) tips like “don’t walk behind an open van door” and “don’t leave the playground with anyone you don’t know” and “if a person feels creepy, go ahead and be rude and walk away.”

On the other hand, sometimes a kid needs help when we’re not around. He’s been told to first look for someone in a uniform: police, crossing guard, firefighter, security. If he can’t find that, he’s been told to look for a woman with kids. Next, a man with kids. Failing that, anyone he doesn’t feel creeped out by. Is this a perfect system? No. Does it make him shun someone who might be perfectly safe? Yes. But it’s the best we’ve come up with, based on statistics of stranger child molesters and kidnappers.

We also stress the “creepy feeling” we get when we’re not in a safe situation. I want him to trust that feeling, so that even if it’s not a stranger, he has my prior permission to remove himself from danger. (This, of course, bowing to the data which shows most abusers are someone you know.) I will never, ever, insist that he give Aunt Mable a hug and a kiss goodbye. It’s his body, and if he feels creeped out, he does NOT have to share it.

malkavia, I love your safe word idea. I may start that as well.

When he was too small to know his phone number, whenever we were at a big, crowded event like Oktoberfest or Taste of Chicago, I’d get temporary tattoo sheets from Office Max and write my name and phone number on it and tattoo it to his arm. I told him if we got separated, he should find the nearest police officer and show her his arm.


I’ve taught my kids how to inflict grievuous bodily injury on any adult who tries to grab them. If they ever need to be rescued it might take quite a crew.

This was an 11 year old kid, right? Is he developmentally delayed in some way? Because, while I taught my kids to be cautious of strangers, they would have been savvy enough at 10 or 11 to know that that constraint didn’t apply to rescuers when they had been lost in woods for several days!

The parents have stated that he’s a couple years behind maturity-wise. To me that sounds like a euphamism for ‘a bit dimmer than normal’, but they’ve insisted he’s not slow, just shy, and I guess they’d know better than anyone.

After watching MST3K, my kids are presently into head butting as a greeting. That should take care of any pervs.

Hey, little boy would you like some…owwwwwww!

I think it’s a euphemism for “hasn’t had much in the way of real-life experiences.” It sounds a lot like the kid has been overprotected.

When you consider that the number of children who are abducted by someone other than a non-custodial parent is infinitessimal, and that this kid nearly starved to death, I would have to say the aprents got their priorities wrong.

First of all, the kid in question did not behave like a normal kid - at any age. A younger, more immature kid would be all that much more likely to forget his parent’s admonitions and approach a stranger when they were cold and hungry. A typical 11 year old would have some idea about “Officer Friendly” and the fact that there are good strangers like policemen, firemen, and the like. They’d know they were being searched for and that good strangers were calling for them.

I don’t think you can pin this one on his parents, the kid’s neurons aren’t lined up the way they should be for some reason. Having said that, I cried when I saw that he got home safe and sound. It is every parent’s nightmare.
With my own kids, I’ve made a reasoned effort NOT to make them afraid of strangers. The level of free-floating paranoia about this stuff in America is unreal, and I did my bit to bring down the level a notch. The fact is that crime of all types is way down in this country and that kids are safer today than they were back in the times when nobody locked their doors. Abduction by anybody other than non-custodial parents is a very very rare event.

It was my job to keep them safe till they were old enough to know how to act, then it was my job to instruct them on how to behave to minimize dangers when on their own. In safe situations - such as in places such as a doctor’s office waiting room, restaurant, airplane, etc. I encouraged my kids to talk to other people if it was appropriate.

When my kids were about 6 I told them what to do if they got lost in a store: 1)Find a person who worked there or 2) Find a policeman or 3) Find another mother and tell them that you were lost. Number 3 is based on the idea that a woman with young children of her own is the safest stranger out there.

Heck yeah! She’s already got one, she ain’t abducting another one!

I wonder if there has ever been a child abduction committed by a woman with a kid of her own actually with her. Can’t be statistically likely, for sure.


This kid got lost (hey, in Scouts they follow the buddy rule, don’t they? WTH?) and avoided strangers for how long?

I can’t really blame the kid too much --maybe he panicked. I would have thought that hunger or thirst would have driven him to take “risks”, but apparently not.

I am left questioning his intelligence level (and if that is a true concern, than NO way should he have been left alone) but I am scratching my head at the parents.

This is what we get when we teach kids to be afraid of the world, IMO. I never taught my kids “never talk to strangers”-if they are lost, they will HAVE to talk to strangers to get found.

I am glad he is OK. I am not sure why the hordes of paparazzi and hand wringing pundits etc. What has happened in this country? Do we dramatize and glamorize every news story?

Next question: would this story have as long a legs as it does, IF the child were a minority? I doubt it.

When David Gonzalez vanished in Big Bear area last summer he got a similar amount of airplay, IIRC. Sadly, he wasn’t found and the search was suspended after a week or so. His bones were just discovered last month.
These kinds of stories have a very limited lifespan–about as limited as that of a little kid lost in the woods. I’m all for hyping them up when there’s still a chance of finding the kid alive.

I’ve heard that fire fighters tell similar stories–young child sets a fire, then hides and won’t come out because they’re afraid of the fire fighter who is trying to rescue him/her.

We have a 10yo son who has minor social problems. When we’re in situations where we might get separated, I write my cell phone number on his arm in permanent ink, or put it on a piece of paper that goes in his pocket. If we get separated, he’s supposed to look for an employee, or someone in a uniform, or a mom with kids. He has no fear of people at all, so the list is more a list of the people who are more likely to help him than ignore him.

We generally just do our best to keep him in sight, and to make sure that adults that are caring for him understand that he’s likely to wander. He’s gotten better as he’s gotten older, but I wouldn’t necessarily trust him to be able to find his way back to a campsite if he got separated from us.

Our 14yo daughter is much more shy, but I would certainly trust her to know when it would be appropriate to ask for help from a stranger vs. trying to save herself. She’s also much more likely to just stay where she got separated from us than to wander around trying to find us.

I was reading an article in a magazine recently that gives the advice to teach children to stand still if they get lost/separated from adults, and let the adult come find them. That makes a lot of sense to me, and I will probably start insisting on that rule more in the future.

Kiminy -that is what my parents taught me. I should stay in one place, and let them find me there.

I don’t recall getting lost as a kid. Maybe once in a department store, but I wasn’t the kind of kid to wander, I guess.

Exactly - it’s the ‘hug a tree’ thing. If you’re lost in the woods, hug a tree, we’ll find you. Similarly, in a mall, stay put. ‘Hug’ a shoe rack, a bench, whatever.

Have you thought of having something like a military dog tag for him to wear at all times. These are readily available & affordable on the net.

Just a thought.