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Transcript: Think Before Sneaking Up
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 tried to have fun with friends and family by sneaking up behind them and surprising them from the back, like with a quick touch or a loud “Boo!”? I just watched a kid do this to his best friend, just to play around, and his friend got really angry. Before they could have any fun, they needed to take time and calm down and fix the problem.
Most of the time, when people sneak up behind friends and family members and surprise them, they’re playing. They’re ready to laugh and probably wanting to share a laugh with the person they’re surprising. The problem, though, is that most people don’t feel happy and feel like laughing at the moment something surprises them from behind, they feel scared! And sure, some people like the feeling of being scared: maybe they like to go to scary movies, or they like to go into haunted houses, or maybe they love roller coasters and other wild amusement park rides. The difference is, though, that people enjoying scary movies or haunted houses or roller coasters don’t just accidentally end up in those places by surprise: those of us who like those experiences choose them, and part of the fun – if that kind of thing is fun for you – is being excited about the fact that you are about to be scared, or maybe be scared, and a big part of the fun is sharing that excitement side by side with friends and family we like and trust.
If you surprise someone from behind in a game you’ve both agreed to play, well, that’s kind of like enjoying a roller coaster or a haunted house together. Everyone knows they’re playing. And as long as you’re playing by rules you all agreed on – like, everyone knows where ‘base’ is, and that base is a safe place where you won’t get tagged or surprised – then you can play without causing real fear and without damaging the trust that you, your friends, and your family have with each other.
If you make the decision on your own, though, to sneak up behind someone who’s not aware of the game you’re playing, you’re likely to give the other person a really big jolt of real fear! Sure, in a matter of seconds, the person you surprised will probably figure out what’s really going on, but that big fear was still real, even if it was short, and there’s a good chance your relationship has lost a little bit of trust, if your friend or family member can’t trust that you won’t do that again. Sometimes we do damage trust in our relationships, and with time and communication, we can rebuild trust – but trust is such an important part of safe, strong relationships that damaging it just for a laugh really doesn’t make any sense.
Even if it’s fun for you, and even if your friends smile and laugh, surprising people from behind often leads to upset feelings and damages trust, making our relationships weaker instead of stronger. Remember that tackling, teasing, tagging, and roughhousing games are always more fun when everyone knows they’re playing. As strange as it sounds, the game is more fun for everyone when people are expecting to be surprised, when they know that the game has started, when they can choose not to play, and when they know the game is over. Thinking first and changing the plan before you surprise someone from behind, even if you think it will be fun, is a good way to prevent problems and build stronger friendships.
Visit kidpower.org for more people safety tips, and remember, in everything you do, stay safe, act wisely, and of course, believe in yourself!