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Earliest Teachable Moment front cover

Kidpower Founder, Irene van der Zande, is also the author of the bestselling book 1, 2, 3 … The Toddler Years: A Practical Guide for Parents and Caregivers, which is used in early childhood programs internationally and has a foreword by early childhood development pioneer Magda Gerber.

We recently got the following message from a worried mother who has given us permission to share her story.

We took one of your classes about 6 months ago, and I found it very helpful. My son is now 4.5 years old, and today I had a horrible scare with him. Though we practice the “stay together” power, he decided that today was a rock climbing day at the park today. He scaled up a hill by the park and refused to come down. I am pregnant and could not reach him. He climbed up to a trail and took off running. I lost him for about 25min. Thankfully he was found by a nice man who saw me worried at the park. Six adults (including two officers) helped to look – but the trail system in the park split off. It was so scary! I hope the situation scared him so that he will remember to be safer, but I wanted to reach out to ask your advice. Is there anything you would recommend? 

I can deeply empathize with this mother. Long ago, my own son at age 4 shimmied up a flagpole out of my reach about 20 feet from the ground, let go with his hands and clutched the pole with his knees to show me how safe it was – above a cement slab below. He also once hid at a store inside of a clothing rack and ignored our calls for him – we were about to call the security until my husband saw his feet under the rack of coats.

Here are my recommendations for what to do to prevent this problem from happening again.

Pre-emptive coaching. BEFORE you go somewhere again, you get him to agree to follow the safety rules and stay together, check first before climbing or running or hiding – and to come back immediately when you ask him to. He agrees whole heartedly – or no trips until he is ready to promise and say back to you what the rules are.

Making a little book together about the safety problem and the solution. You could also make a Little Book with your son him about the experience and about what the rules are. Just fold a few sheets of paper together with one idea per page and a simple drawing. Here is a sample plot:

1. ____________ (your son’s name) loves to go to the park and run and climb.

2. One day, ____________ wanted to climb and did not want to come back when his mom asked him to.

3. ______ ran away and got lost.

4. A nice man helped him to find his mom. she was very upset.

5. His mom and the police told him that what he did was not safe.

6. _________ felt sad about being in trouble and making everyone upset.

7. ____________ and his mom agreed to follow the safety rules and stay together at the park.

8. _____ agreed to Check First before he changes his plan and before he runs or climbs rocks.

9. Now, _______________ stays together with his mom. Both of them have fun at the park and are happy.”

A title might be: Staying Safe at the Park. This mother can re-read this book with her son before they go out. They can also rehearse our Stay Together, Check First, and Wait Safety Signals.

Our book Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers provides a great deal more safety information for parents and other educators of young children.

Our Kidpower Safety Signals provide a clear and simple way to communicate over 20 core “People Safety” skills and ideas.
Stay Together - Check First - Wait - Kidpower Safety Signals

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Published: April 20, 2016   |   Last Updated: April 20, 2016

Kidpower Founder and Executive Irene van der Zande is a master at teaching safety through stories and practices and at inspiring others to do the same. Her child protection and personal safety expertise has been featured by USA Today, CNN, Today Moms, the LA Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Publications include: cartoon-illustrated Kidpower Safety Comics and Kidpower Teaching Books curriculum; Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe; the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults; Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers; The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People, and the Amazon Best Seller Doing Right by Our Kids: Protecting Child Safety at All Levels.