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Transcript: Stranger Safety ~ What Rhymes with Ranger? (6:48)
Welcome to the People Safety Podcast from Kidpower, teaching advocacy, boundary setting, and other personal safety skills for building happier lives and stronger relationships! I’m Erika Leonard with another Kidpower People Safety Tip.
Have you ever wondered how many little rhyming sayings and songs you have stored in your brain? I can still remember songs from TV shows and commercials I heard as a kid. Teachers taught me rhymes to help me learn facts and rules, and even now I make up my own rhymes to remember things I think I might forget. It seems like rhyming words just seem to stick together, and something about the way they stick together with each other gives them extra power to stick together in our heads for a long time.
Sometimes, those sticky rhymes are funny. The kids in my life love to laugh the old sayings and songs from when I was a kid. Sometimes, those sticky, lasting rhymes are helpful: I count on rhymes to help me figure out the spelling of certain words or to figure out how many days there are in a specific month.
But sometimes, those rhyming words we remember make things harder instead of easier. If you’ve ever had someone use rhyming words to tease you about your name or about some other part of you, like your hair or your body, then you know what I mean! The famous Kidpower Trash Can skill helps people keep themselves safe from hurtful words. We can imagine catching hurtful words before they go inside to touch our feelings, and we can imagine throwing those words away into a trashcan and we can remind ourselves that we’re powerful or valuable.
When those hurtful words rhyme with each other, it’s like that extra stickiness they get from rhyming makes them harder to throw away than some other words might be. You can take charge of your safety by putting the words in the trash where they belong, but throwing away rhyming hurtful words is kind of like throwing away gum, or stickers, or old pieces of tape – it might take a little more time, and then you think you’ve got it all but there was more, or you have to work on getting off the little sticky bits left behind. You might have to be patient and persistent to keep yourself safe.
I can think of another rhyming pair of words that are super sticky together, and together they have the power to get in our way when we’re trying to make safe choices. One of those words is ‘stranger.’ A stranger – as you probably know – is just someone you don’t know well. A stranger can be a woman, a man, or a child. I am a stranger to almost all of you listening to my voice, and almost all of you are all strangers to me.
At Kidpower, we believe most people in the world are good. That means most strangers are also good people. And, if you ever need help, most people and most strangers will want to help you. And of course, we have stranger safety habits so that we can be safe in how we act with strangers, just like we have animal safety habits for being around animals we don’t know, like dogs or cats or wild animals.
For lots of people, though, if you say the word ‘animal,’ they’ll have really warm thoughts about animals they’ve loved or helped or had as pets, and they have these warm thoughts even though they know sometimes people can get hurt with animals. That’s why we have animal safety habits! But when you say the word ‘stranger,’ almost no one says they have warm or excited thoughts about all the new friends they’ll get to know in the years to come, friends who are still strangers and could be seen as precious gifts life is going to send our way. No, people often have pictures in their mind when they hear the word ‘stranger,’ but those pictures are more likely to be about things they worry strangers might do, or ways they think a stranger might look if a stranger wanted to cause trouble.
I suspect one reason those worried pictures stick in people’s minds is because the word stranger, unfortunately, rhymes with only a few other words, and one of those words happens to be ‘danger.’ And ironically, ‘danger’ is the exact opposite of safety. Look it up in the dictionary and you’ll see what I mean: in my dictionary, the word ‘safety’ has only one ‘antonym’, or opposite – and that’s ‘danger.’
The word ‘danger’ and the word ‘stranger’ are both important in making safety plans – it’s good to avoid danger, and stranger safety habits help prevent problems. It’s too bad that they rhyme, though, because we’ve been really quick to stick them together, and putting these rhyming words together gives them power they don’t deserve to have over how we think and how we feel. They can make it harder to learn and follow safety rules. They can make it harder to feel safe and confident doing things out in the world. When we allow these words to stick as a pair in our minds, at the very best they make things more confusing and less accurate. At the very worst, they make things seem scary when they don’t need to be.
We hope you will take charge of your well-being by pulling these two words apart in how you think and how you talk, especially around young people. Don’t throw the words away, because they’re really useful! Knowing what a stranger is will help you make safer choices as you learn and grow in this world that’s filled with strangers, and of course understanding what danger is will help you take charge to avoid problems. Just control the power these two words have so they don’t affect your thinking and your planning in a way that makes things harder and less safe instead of easier and more safe.
If that’s hard to do, because, after all, these two words have been rhyming for a while, well, maybe you could find them new rhyming friends, like ranger… or changer. Like, what would a “stranger ranger” be? I think of someone keeping forests – and all the people and animals in them – safe. And a Danger Changer? Well, that’s us – because in our lives, we have the power to change danger into safety lots of times by being aware, taking charge, and getting help.
We’d love to read your safety rhymes, so please send them to us! Visit kidpower.org for more people safety tips, and remember, in everything you do, stay safe, act wisely, and of course, believe in yourself!