10 Kidpower Safety Tips for Parents of Young Children

Long before they can talk or move on their own, babies are getting lessons from their adults about what it means to be safe and to be important. Our job as adults is to provide nurturing, love, guidance, and protection. As toddlers and preschoolers start to develop more mobility, understanding, and language, our job is also to start teaching them how to be safe in their world and with other people. When it comes to safety, the earliest teachable moment is the best teachable moment as long as this is done in a way that builds understanding and skills rather than creating anxiety or fear. The following safety tips are from Kidpower’s newest book, Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers.

Making safety fun1. Put Safety First. Kidpower’s Underlying Principle is that, “The safety and healthy self-esteem of a child are more important than anyone’s embarrassment, inconvenience or offense.” Putting safety first seems obvious, but can be hard to uphold in daily life. Don’t let reluctance to inconvenience someone or to be inconvenienced, worry about embarrassing someone or about being embarrassed, fear of offending someone or of feeling uncomfortable, stop you from protecting the emotional and physical safety and well-being of your child.

2. Stay calm and upbeat. Children learn better and feel safer when their adults sound hopeful. Worrying and talking about the bad things that might happen can make everyone anxious without making anyone safer. Instead, focus on all the positive ways you can protect your child from harm most of the time.

3. Stay in charge. Young children do not always have the understanding, skills, or life experience to recognize potential danger – whether from an animal, a cliff, a piece of glass, an electric outlet, a car, or a person who might be unsafe. They are too small and too precious to have their safety left to chance. Make sure you always know who is with your children, where they are going, and what they are doing.

4. Pay attention to your own intuition. If you are even a little bit uncomfortable about a person or a situation involving your child, take action rather than hoping that the problem will go away by itself. No matter what the relationship, your job is to speak up, stick around, intervene, and keep watching until your concerns are addressed.

5. Set a good example. Model staying respectful even if you are frustrated, using your words to solve conflicts, moving away from trouble, advocating for your child and yourself, waiting your turn when you want something, interrupting to get help if you have a safety problem, and being careful.

6. Give your kids practice in taking charge. When playing tickling or roughhousing games, teach children that their “No” means “No” and their “Stop” means “Stop.” For example, when playing a chasing game such as “I’m going to get you!” – sometimes have children stop you by turning, making a stop sign with their hand, and yelling, “STOP!” You can give children practice in throwing hurting words away instead of taking them into their bodies. By stopping, you are teaching children to use their personal power. You can teach preschoolers to imagine that someone is acting scary and coach them to run yelling “I NEED HELP!” to their adult and have that person tell the child, “I will help you!” Give children practice in moving away from anything or anyone they don’t know well and checking first with their adult.

7. Accept children’s right to be upset or have unhappy feelings when you need to set limits. For example, in stopping a child from running off, you might say in a compassionate and firm way, “I see you are angry that I am holding your hand. You want to be able to run without being stopped. Staying together here is not a choice. Holding hands helps keep you safe.”

8. Empower children with choices when you can. Allowing children to choose between the red cup or the blue cup, walking by themselves or being carried, doing something right away or in five minutes, helps children develop decision-making skills and confidence in their personal power.

9. Remember that affection should always be a child’s choice. Let children choose hugging or kissing, even with Grandma. Teach children how to move away from unwanted touch or teasing and say, “Stop. I don’t like that.” Tell adults or other children to respect the child’s wishes by listening and stopping. Remember that forced affection is not love.

10. Listen to Children! Even if their fears seem insignificant to you, listen with compassion and calmness, without lecturing or getting upset. Be a supportive adult for them to come to.

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ETM-front-cover-193x300Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International is a global nonprofit leader in child protection, positive communication, and personal safety skills for all ages and abilities. Since 1989, Kidpower has protected over 2.5 million children, teens, and adults, including those with special needs, from bullying, abuse, abduction, and other violence through workshops and educational resources. Instead of using fear to teach about violence prevention, Kidpower makes it FUN to learn to be safe. Visit www.kidpower.org to learn about our extensive free online library, affordable books, and workshops. Kidpower’s new book, Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers, is also available on Amazon.

Irene van der Zande is also author of another great book for parents of young children, 1,2,3…The Toddler Years: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers, which includes a forward by child development expert, Magda Gerber. The book can be found on Amazon.

About the Author

Irene van der Zande is the Founder and Executive Director of Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International, a global nonprofit leader dedicated to child protection advocacy and teaching people of all ages and abilities life skills for safety and success. Families, schools, and organizations worldwide use Kidpower's effective and empowering curriculum to prepare children and teens, along with their adults, with skills and strategies to prevent and solve problems with people and to stay safe from most bullying, abuse, kidnapping and other violence. Irene is the author of many publications including The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People; cartoon-illustrated Safety Comics and Teaching Books; the Relationship Safety Handbook for Teens and Adults; and Solve Bullying With Kidpower. Since 1989, Kidpower has served nearly 5 million people through its workshops, partnerships, and educational resources. https://www.kidpower.org

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