You have the right to tell an emergency lie and break a promise to be safe!

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April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. As part of our global efforts to help protect kids from abuse, bullying, and other harmful behavior, each day this month, we will share a time-tested skill from our Kidpower® 30-Skill-Challenge Coaching Handbook.

Skill #20: Telling An “Emergency Lie” to Be Safe. We teach children to be honest and keep their promises. Unfortunately, sometimes kids are threatened with harm unless they “promise not to tell” that someone has broken their safety rules. Teach young people that they can break an “unsafe promise” and tell an “emergency lie” IF they are doing it to be safe and are going to get help as soon as they can. Here’s how to explain and practice this skill in a way that empowers rather than scares.

This full practice is a part of the Kidpower® 30-Skill-Challenge Coaching Handbook.

We want young people to be honest and keep their promises. However, if someone is acting unsafely or gets upset, it can be safest to promise not to tell.

After promising, the next step is to tell a trusted adult to get help.

Say, “Remember how we practiced saying, ‘Stop or I’ll tell’ if someone breaks the Safety Rules. Let’s do it again: make a fence with your hands. Say, ‘Stop or I’ll tell.’ Good!”

“But, what if someone tried to make you promise not to tell? Suppose I said (use a grumpy voice), ‘You better not tell. Something bad will happen if you do. Promise me you won’t tell!”

“It is important to tell the truth and keep your promises. But, it is OK to make a Safety lie and break a promise if you need to do this to be safe AND you tell an adult you trust as soon as you can. If someone is making you promise not to tell, this is a time when you might need to lie and break a promise in order to be safe.

Coach: “Pretend I said, ‘You better not tell!’

Make your fence. Say, ‘I won’t tell if you stop.’ Good!”

“Now, what are you going to do as soon as you can?” Coach child to say, “TELL!”

Say, “Great! Let’s try another. Pretend I said (with a whiny voice), ‘Please don’t tell. I could get in trouble.’

That could be hard, but you have an answer. Make your fence. Say, ‘I will not tell if you stop.’ Good! … and, when you are away from this difficult person I’m pretending to be, what are you going to do?

That’s right, tell!”

Now, you can review people who the child can tell about a Safety Problem.

For a FREE explanation on the simple methods you can use to teach children to use each of these skills, download the Kidpower® 30-Skill-Challenge Coaching Handbook on our website –this ebook will be FREE of charge in English, Spanish, and Arabic in honor of April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Please share this skill with others. Let’s work together to teach young people to take charge of their safety, increase self-confidence, and develop healthy, positive relationships! 

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Published: April 20, 2019   |   Last Updated: April 20, 2019

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.