Beyond Stranger Danger: 6 Off the Wall Tips That Can Save Your Kid’s Life

Stranger danger doesn’t cut it.


Sometimes it’s not strangers – and kids don’t always know they are in danger.


The likelihood of this happening to a child is thankfully rare. But, I am not into gambling – especially when it comes to my children.


In less than 30 minutes – you can give your children enough information to save their life.

 Stranger danger isn't cutting it. Learn these great tips to keep your kids safe!

But first, some basic facts to stew over.


Stranger abductions are rare. Your children are much more likely to be abused by someone they know.


That’s why teaching stranger danger simply doesn’t cut it. Tell your children that no one should hurt them or touch their private parts – even people they know.


Your children are much more likely to be sexually abused than abducted and more often than not – by someone you have deemed safe.

Teach your child to notice the warning signs of sexual abuse.

Learn how to spot when someone is grooming your child for abuse.


Take this quick video lesson by click below:

Preventing sexual abuse

 Now that I got that off my chest – let’s get back to those off the wall tips.


First let’s start off with you.




When strangers know your child’s name – your child is much more likely to trust them.


Don’t make it easy for a stranger by plastering your children’s names all over their bodies.


Every morning as I drive my kids to school, I see these two very young girls walking to school on their own. From down the street I can make out both of their glittery names on their backpacks.




Make up a family code word. Try not to use a common word – but don’t pick something that is so bizarre it is hard to use naturally. You can use the code word in the following ways:


If you send someone to pick up your child – they should know the code word. As I talked about earlier, our kids are more likely to be sexually abused by someone they know. If the person doesn’t know the code word – your childre shouldn’t go with them. No matter what.


Have a code word that you and your kids can use when they feel unsafe.


If your children are at a friend’s house and something is making them feel unsafe, they can call you and use the code word.


If you are in public and there is a safety threat – you can use the word to warn your children to exit quickly or get down.


Typically child predators are people you know. People you trust. Learn the signs of child grooming and protect your kids.


Okay – let’s move on to the kids.


First the obvious. Tell your child that anyone your child doesn’t know – is a stranger. Ask them what they think a stranger looks like and then correct any misperceptions. Children often think a person is only unsafe if they have a rough appearance. Telling kids simply to not talk to strangers doesn’t help.


It is more important to highlight that no matter what a stranger says, they should never leave or get into a car with them. Role play these ideas with your kids. Use various scenarios to test your kids.


Teach your kids to trust their gut instincts. Teach yourself how to assess the safety around you and develop your own effective gut instinct. The absolute best book on this subject is Protecting the Gift – every parent should read this!


Now for the less obvious suggestions…




Tell your children that if they are being followed or chased start running in the opposite direction of the car. This can buy them some time as the car turns around.

Tell your kids if a car is following them, walking in the opposite direction of the car.




Desperate times call for desperate measures. Tell your children that if they are lost or are feeling unsafe – find a mom with kids. Often a police officer or a friendly shop clerk are not at your children’s disposal.


Helping them delineate who might be safe beforehand can save critical seconds when they are in danger.


I know just because you have kids doesn’t mean you are necessarily safe. But in a time crunch beggars can’t be choosers.





How many times have you seen kids struggling in an adult’s arms and walked past them? Kids have tantrums all the time and we are immune to them.


Teach your children to scream out things that would alarm others.


Some good ones might be:

Who are you? Help!

Leave me alone! I don’t know you!

Where’s my mom and dad? Help!




Tell your children that if a stranger tries to take them – all manners are out the window. Tell them that they are allowed to hit, scream and make a scene.


Give them some suggestions. If they are in a store, tell them to knock things off the shelf. Knocking things over will get the attention of more people who will then take a closer look at what is going on.


 You might think all this talk about doom and gloom is unnecessary. You might think that the chances are so small it isn’t even worth talking about.


You are right. The chances are small. And perhaps it isn’t worth talking about.


But, what I can teach my kids in 30 minutes – might make the difference between life and death. And for that – it’s worth it.


Kids are resilient. Click here to read how kids trust their gut and protect themselves.


Click here to learn how teachers are pitching in to keep kids safe.


Concerned about your child wandering away from school? It happens more than we would like to think! Click here to read how to prevent wandering and prepare the school.


Have safety tips of your own? I would love to hear them! Share in the comments below.


Do you have friends and family who can benefit from knowing how to keep their kids safe? Pass it on and share.

Read about what signs  to look for that might indicate child sexual abuse:

Any child can be a victim of child sexual abuse. Know what to look for and be informed.


For a great book check out What Should You Do? It talks about  ways to discuss stranger-danger to kids. Each chapter is designed for a specific age group with great, age appropriate examples. 

Great tips that you may have never thought about! Read the full article at


Do you know an anxious teen? Give them the only self-help book teens are likely to read:

Finally a teen anxiety book that teens will want to read!

Child predators are not strangers in dark alleys. They are your friends, your relatives, the coach on your kid's team. The best way to protect your kids is to not be in denial. Learn their tactics and keep your kids safe.


Teach your kids how to be safe online!

Any child of any age is a potential victim to an online predator. Does your child play Minecraft, have an Xbox Live account or is on Instagram, Kik or Snapchat? Click here to learn how to protect your kids.



Visit Anxious Toddlers’s profile on Pinterest.

154 responses to “Beyond Stranger Danger: 6 Off the Wall Tips That Can Save Your Kid’s Life”

  1. krishna says:

    very useful tips Natasha. I am going to India soon and scared to death for my 7 year old who is a social butterfly.

  2. Holly B says:

    I once heard instead of telling your children, “don’t talk to strangers” instead teach them that talking to strangers can be ok. But NEVER walk with a stranger.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      This is a great tip Holly. I think kids have such a hard concept with “don’t talk to strangers.” I like this more specific approach. Thanks for sharing this idea.

      • Angie says:

        I had a son who never met a stranger he didn’t like. I tried telling him if he didn’t know them, they were a stranger and so he’d just go introduce himself, telling me now he knew them. My response was that he was welcome to do that so long as he was close enough to touch Mom or Dad. If he was further away than that, he should check with us first. That did the trick. By the time he was old enough to question that, he was also old enough to understand a bit more critical thinking. I hope this helps someone. It certainly helped us.

        • Natasha Daniels says:

          Thanks Angie!

        • Sabrina L says:

          I was lie that as a kid, and did the exact same thing, so be more specific. Introduce the formal introduction. They only “know” someone if you say, “Johnny this is Bob, he is moms friend. Bob this is my son, Johnny.” And then they shake hands or wave. Kids can learn this concept at about two or three, and understand it. And kids at roughly eighteen months can be taught to shake hands, from my experience in the child care centers I have worked in.

  3. Samantha says:

    Thank you for this great article!! So important!

  4. Debbie W says:

    Our daughter is seventeen and works in a children’s resale boutique. We don’t feel comfortable when when she closes alone, so we always pick her up. We arrive about 30 minutes early and text her that we are there. If she texts back, “ok,” that means she alone in the store, no need for us to get out of the car. If she doesn’t text back, that means someone is in the store, and we go in. If she texts back, “fine,” we know there is something wrong and we will call the police. We chose “fine” as the code word that something is wrong because when a woman says things are “fine,” you KNOW they are not fine. lol

  5. Barb says:

    My grandma told me that in case of someone trying to rape me, there are 2 things I can do (other than fighting, which I’m not great at). Although she talked about rape, I think these 2 ideas could be used in any dangerous/unsafe situation, including kids abductions: 1. Most people don’t react to screaming, but shouting “help! FIRE!” will get people’s attention. People pay attention to fires in the neighborhood. 2. Pick up a rock and throw it into someone’s window. Yes, you’ll probably have to pay for the window afterwards, but hey, it will get people’s attention. SO…that’s my grandma’s tips.

  6. Tamar says:

    I was wondering how you might suggest bringing up the topic? I have a 4 year old; she is not one to go off on her own (which I am thankful for) but am wondering when is the right time. Thanks!

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      That is a good question Tamar. Sometimes with my kids I have pretend class where I sit them down and I draw on their white board. I make silly cartoon stick figures to explain my point. Perhaps something like that might work? My kids love when we have “class” and I get to discuss some difficult topics during those times.

  7. Jen says:

    watch what info you put on your vehicle. no one needs to know how many people are in your family, what kind of pets you have,what your family is into (star wars figures) what school they go to, sports they play, or grades they make. As a point one day i pointed out to a friend the back of a car. Within 10 minutes on the computer i knew everything i would need to know to track a kid to school, narrow an access window(sport practice), and how to strike up a convo with a kid to seem like i know the family. And i suck at technology

  8. Christine says:

    At what age would you start this? My son is 3.5 when he is with me I don’t let him out of my sight but he does have sitters and others who watch him occasionally. You can never be too cautious. He does think it’s funny to hide in the clothes racks at stores where the worst runs through your mind for .01 second you can’t find him.
    He completely shys away from people he doesn’t know but after he sees us being comfortable with new people (could be old friends that are new to him) he begins to warm up with time. How would you suggest bringing this to an already shy child with out causing alarm to all new people?

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      That’s a great question Christine. I think it is good to plant some seeds when kids are very young – without scaring them. My toddler is super friendly. I tell her people she doesn’t know are called strangers. I let her know it is okay to talk to strangers when she’s with a grown up she knows (like mom or dad), but she should never talk or go with a stranger when we are not with her. Maybe something like that would work for your child?

      • Lauren says:

        I’m sorry I may have missed it, but when should we start this? My daughter is 2! Thank you!

        • Natasha Daniels says:

          Hi Lauren,
          I think you can start saying things like, “Stay with Mommy” and “Don’t walk off with people you don’t know” at that age. You are just planting seeds for those concepts – and that can’t hurt. I think as a child’s level of understanding grows – you can start having a more in-depth conversation about it. The age will depend on each child’s level of understanding.

  9. D says:

    Natashia I would highly advise against a “code word” you don’t want your child engaging with a stranger at all. You want them being very difficult prey. I would highly recommend the book ‘The Gift of Fear’
    This book outlines how predators operate and how to teach your child to respond in dangerous situations. This is too important an issue to give bad advice on, please read this book.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Thank you for your input and the book recommendation. Unfortunately some of us might have an emergency situation where a co-worker or a colleague has to pick up our children. In those situations that person would be a “stranger” to our children, but not to us. In those instances a code word would help keep our kids safe.

      Also – I talk about using a code word for when kids are at sleep overs or when you are out with your children and there is a safety risk in the area. Code words would be great for situations like those outlined above.

  10. Valarie says:

    I always told my kids if someone is trying to drag you away, wrap your arms & legs around their ankle & bite their legs & scream. They can’t throw you in a car if you hold on tight !!!

  11. gina says:

    Wow…these are all helpful tips for i am a mom of an 8 year old girl…i do always tell her never ever talk to a stranger n walk with them,,never accept things specially candy or food from those she doesnt know..
    Thank you for a very useful infos..goodluck n keept it up!

  12. Valerie says:

    On a different, but related, note, sometimes predators try to engage children by telling them that they need help. (Directions, finding a lost puppy, etc.) I’ve told my kids that grown-ups don’t need help from kids. (Grandparents/teachers being an obvious exception!) I tell them that if a grown-up, especially one you don’t know or don’t know very well) asks you for help, you run to me/Daddy/Grannyma/adult in charge and ask us to help the person. If it’s legitimate, they’ll welcome the help. If not, then they’ve saved themselves. We repeat this and role play about it often.

  13. Jessica says:

    Any advice for a mom with 3 year old twin girls who fear nothing and are almost overly social and a 2 year old son? My hands are literally full and I’m so worried about these things!! I don’t even hire babysitters, it’s all family or close friends. My girls run off and have serious listening issues. I feel like I’ve tried everything. When 3 toddlers are darting in different directions or hiding from me because they think it’s funny… My anxiety goes through the roof! I rarely work (I’m a nurse) and I think school might help but with the way things are today… Even that makes me nervous. My kids are strangely beautiful, not just saying that because I’m their mom. People are constantly approaching me & gushing… Telling me about modeling and tv and especially with the identical twins.

    There have been times they go outside without telling me. Since then we’ve gotten alarms on all doors & windows. I couldn’t even go to the bathroom or put a load of laundry in! No matter how many times I tell them, they just do what they want. Advice please! Sorry for the novel!

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Wow you do have your hands full with twins and a 2 year old! I know when I had two little ones so close in age I would always have one strapped into a stroller. You can also teach your kids red light, green light and tell them whenever they hear red light they have to freeze. If you play it for fun around the house – they are more likely to freeze when you say it in public. The good news is they will all get a bit older soon and that issue will resolve itself eventually!

    • Mother of three says:

      I sympathize with your anxiety! I have found a silly solution to being able to get my three toddlers to listen to me: I watch episodes of Cesar 911 that fit the behavior issues I’m dealing with my kids, and i apply the lessons he teaches to my parenting. Like in public when they’re all excited , his lessons about being calm and assertive have made a huge difference for me and my kids!! It works at home too. It’s kind of silly to suggest, but it has helped me.

  14. When my girls were little we had a few rules that were drilled into their heads. 1. The car doesn’t start until all seat belts are on. 2. When we are getting in or out of the car it must be off. 3. When getting in and out of car they must have 1 hand on the car until we could assist them (under 5 or 6 years usually) as sometimes we are buckling one, loading or unloading etc and not always both parents were there. Keeping their hand on the car assured the parent they were in site and close. Finally the biggies. I must always see and hear you at all times when we are not in our home. Park, library, store, etc, I must see you and hear your normal voice (not yelling from 25 feet away). If you are in danger with an adult, you scream “this is not my mother/father) over and over while kicking and knocking things over. Bite, don’t let go if you can. I was always afraid at peewee games and such that if they were snatched (major fear for us because they were 1 and 3 when we adopted them) and were yelling as they were being carried away that no one would pay attention because there were dozens and dozens of kids and adults. It may seem a bit far fetched but we didn’t know what their birth parents looked like. Anyway, I love your list! We are now raising my 1 and 3 year old grand children. I love your ” all rules out the window” plan. We had a code word too but used it for strangers, love the idea for if they are calling us from a friends home and such. Brilliant! Read all the comments and loved them too!

    Parenting should be easier at our age (late 40s early 50s). But oh Lordy, it is a challenge. All the smiles, giggles, hugs and kisses are worth it. Love this blog! Thank you so much.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Thanks Tangee! What a great list of family rules you have! I love them. Sounds like you have a big heart too 🙂 ♥️

  15. Tina says:

    Great tips! What are some code words that people are using with their kids?

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Thanks Tina. In my family we try to pick something that wouldn’t sound too bizarre, but is a word we wouldn’t normally use.

  16. Michele Spirn says:

    Great article. So helpful. I will pass it on to my son and daughter-in-law.

  17. Rosy says:

    Good tips! I’ve seen a lot of people asking how/when to bring it up to their kids and it made me think of our Chitty Chitty Bang Bang situation. My son watched movie (he was about 3 at the time, I was surprised he liked it so much!) and in the movie there is a man who tries to lure the kids away, and succeeds, with promises of candy and ice cream even though they were told not to go outside. Perfect scenario set-up for this topic! My son asked lots of questions about why he was taking kids and why the kids shouldn’t have trusted him. He loves to play pretend, like most kiddos, so it was easy to add some role playing and practicing in there and over the next few weeks and months, if I saw a story or video that pertained to the topic, I would show it to him and go over things again. We talk about everything and try to encourage him to ask us questions if he wonders about something. Sometimes I wonder if we are stifling his adventurous side, but then just this week he told us about a situation he was in at a cousin’s house where the 9 year old was not acting very safetly and he thought about doing it, too, but then considered the consequence and decided not to. He’s 4 1/2. That makes me very proud of him. Thank you for the reminders, I think we need to have a refresher course on this topic!

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      What a smart kid you have Rosy! Sounds like you are doing a good job at keeping him educated 🙂

  18. Darcy says:

    We have a really old Child Safety DVD that my kids have watched. The best thing we’ve learned from it is to teach them instead of yelling Stranger Danger. . As loud as you can yell “This is not my Mom! This not my Dad!” I really thought this was a great thing for children to yell in a bad situation with a stranger. Just another suggestion.

  19. Elizabeth says:

    thank you for these reminders! it’s hard to strike the balance between paranoia and stupid naivety! but you list good, practical things to remember!

    these are a few other things we do with our 3-8 year olds.

    1. our rule is that, in public, the kids have to stay where they can see ME, instead of “where i can see them”. and if they break that rule, then they are holding my hand for the next 15-30 minutes, no matter how old they are.

    2. they take karate classes at a place whose main objective is personal defense for kids. just a month or two here and there to refresh their memory (we have four kids, we couldn’t afford it full time!). they are taught to break a grown-up’s hold in ways that grown-ups don’t expect, so they surprise the grown up and have a chance to run away. after her first lesson, our angel-faced three year old daughter came into the kitchen and yelled, “back off! i don’t know you!!” at me. it was awesome!

    3. we live in Orlando, so although we don’t go every week to busy places, we go often enough…but EVERY TIME, before we leave the van, we go over “back off, i don’t know you!” and making sure they understand to always stay where they can see me…and like you said, we made sure they know they hit, scratch, whatever it takes to get away. it’s down to a minute or so speech so we aren’t (hopefully 🙂 just making them paranoid, but they all know it and day most of it with us.

    4. at homes where there are older children either i don’t know well, or am just uncomfortable (if we go at all), there is no playing in bedrooms. anyone’s. and when we have play days here with more than one family, there is no playing indoors, only outside. the kids, at this point, don’t know why, but they don’t have to!

    also, it isn’t just about getting into a car with a stranger, it is not going anywhere with them…into the woods where a mama kitty has her kittens hiding, which happened to a friend in her apartment complex when she and her sister were young. we make it a game sometimes, and ask things like, “if a stranger came to you and said they have the best ice cream sundae ever, do you follow them?” everyone yells, “nooo!” “if a woman tells you she has a box of sweet baby kittens in her car, do you go with her?” “nooo!!” and we hit on every kids’ weakness, even getting silly, but they get the point.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      These are such awesome tips Elizabeth! Thank you so much for taking the time to share them with everyone.

      Another tip I read after I wrote this article was –
      If you are going to a busy place – take a picture of your kids before you go. That way you have an updated picture of what they looked like that day.

      • Elizabeth says:

        i totally forget that one when we go out and need to start remembering. one of my girlfriends always dresses her kids in same color when they go to Disney so she can spot them easier in a crowd. so if she’s missing one, she doesn’t have to think of what they’re wearing, she just looks at her shirt or one of the other kids’ 🙂

      • Su says:

        When I took my kids to the zoo, I would also take a picture of their shoes. A stranger may put a different coat or a hat to cover their appearance, but they forget to change the shoes.

        • Michael says:

          Thanks for the tip, Su. I’ll be sure to bring a spare pair of shoes with me when I intend to steal a kid from the zoo 😛

  20. Tatiana says:

    My mom would always tell me to throw up or mess my pants if I could, as a last resort. Sounds gross, but that’s the point. Nobody wants bodily fluids all over them. Even a predator.

  21. Katie says:

    My kids took a karate class and the instructor showed them how to get out of a grasp is someone grabs them. He has them clasp both hangs together (like they are praying) and then yank down instead of away. Then they yell “fire, fire, you’re not my daddy” and run. They practice and think it fun not scary but talk about the seriousness of it.

  22. Nicole says:

    I work with cub scouts and teach my boys about tricky adults instead of strangers. Also teach them to yell deep from the gut instead of scream. Often a high pitched scream is heard as play or tantrum where as a yell from the gut sounds more like danger to any adult listening.

  23. Beverly says:

    These are all great tips. I run thru scenarios with my kids when we’re in the car. We make a “what would you do” game. Like if a man asks you to help find his dog, someone says they know your mom, etc. I’ve always told them that a grown up , esp. one you don’t know, shouldn’t be asking a kid for help. I also tell them if someone is trying to take you throw yourself down on the floor, make them drag you. We all know how hard it is to manage a kid whose thrashing around on the ground.

  24. Lars says:

    Thanks for all the good info.
    As a dad, I would also tell my kids to find a dad with kids if they feel unsafe.

  25. Lauren says:

    I have a 3-yo boy who is VERY outgoing and likes to talk to everyone, and I really want to help him learn about what is safe and what isn’t; we make sure we can see each other when we’re out, he keeps his hand on the car when I’m loading his little brother in, etc, but I don’t think he really gets it, no matter how many times we talk about it (though some things are becoming more habitual, like holding my hand in a parking lot, keeping his hand on the car). He also has an extremely short attention span. Do you have suggestions for helping me teach him? He loves to run and explore, and I LOVE that about him, but he will run off anywhere and it makes me very nervous.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Hi Lauren – many kids at this age do not get it. The key is ongoing discussion to plant those seeds. Most kids will start to understand these concepts as they get older.

      In the meanwhile, you can play red light, green light at home. When you shout red light he has to freeze and when you shout green light you unfreeze him. When you are out in public and he is running away, you can shout “red light!” Toddlers are more likely to respond to that because it is part of a game.

      Hope that helps!

  26. Stephanie says:

    When we were kids, my mom would pretend to grab us from behind asking us kids what would we do? We’d demonstrate the kicking and screaming we would do. On Dec 1, 1985, I was grabbed and sexually assaulted at knife point (where he cut my face) in the park behind my house. When he was caught in Feb 1986, he said he ran away from me because I screamed and yelled too much. I have done the same exercise with my own two girls. Hopefully I can save them the years of courts appearances and therapy I endured. These are great tips.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      That’s a powerful story Stephanie. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. It just goes to show that those skills can definitely save lives.

  27. Bridgette says:

    This was a great article. I’m always giving my kids pep talks before we go out to crowded areas. I’m just so paranoid that someone will snatch them up before I even notice that they are gone. I’ve used your tip about making a scene if someone tries to abduct them, but the tip about using a code word is new to me. I really love that concept because my young daughter tends to think everybody is her friend. I’m definitely coming up with a new code word this week. Thanks for the great article and tips. I’d love to link to this in my blog.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Thanks Bridgette! I am glad you found the tips useful! Feel free to link the article to your site. The more people who read it – the safer kids will be ♥️

  28. gransims says:

    these are all great ideas, and it is true that most people who grab, hurt, rape children, do know them. It is a proven fact. Be extra careful when in large groups. You must know where your children are to protect them. So sad to say, but the world we live in is NOT safe!

  29. The Dad says:

    Nice article! One of our biggest fears as parents is that a stranger might abduct or harm our child, but that fear prevents us from thinking rationally about child saftey. On the flip side of that, many of us are prone to ignore our instinct when it tells us something is wrong about a specific person or situation because acting on that would be rude or cause problems. The facts are that most people in this world are not out to harm our kids, and children are far more likely to be abused, molested, or kidnapped by someone they know than by a stranger. We shouldn’t teach kids to automatically be afraid of strangers, we should teach them how to understand when they are in danger and how to react to it. This post reminded me of a very good book on the subject called Protecting the Gift. I have a review of it here:

  30. Kell says:

    What a great article. Came across it on pinterest!
    When me and my sister were kids in the late 80’s we would always walk to a park a few blocks from our house, unsupervised, there were a row of houses behind the park, an older man came out calling for his dog one day, he asked if we could come out from the park and help him find her, if it wasn’t from my mother who drilled safety precautions into my head we probably would have followed him. He was an older man with white hair like our grandfather, very unassuming. You cannot be too cautious especially now a days. My son is 4 and he has a horrible habit of “disappearing” in public, he also cannot grasp the idea of anyone being “harmful” he loves everyone. These tips are a great start for me to work with him. Thanks for the info!!

  31. Tina Steele says:

    I still remember the code word I had with my parents when I was a little kid. I like the advice about being destructive – it’s all about doing what gets attention. We tune so much out.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      We do tune so much out – I agree! That is why it is so important to teach our kids how to make a scene.

      For some of us it doesn’t come naturally. Once I had a river accident and my leg was stuck in a rock. No one saw me – even though there was a huge crowd on the riverbank. It was not natural for me to scream and I had to force myself in order to get help.

  32. Lisa says:

    These are some great tips. I’ve known I needed to talk with my daughter about these things but haven’t really known how to broach the subject. I have at times told her, the store is very busy now so you have to stay right next to mama, or told her she has to hold on to the cart but that’s as far as I’ve gone. She doesn’t play outside alone so that’s not an issue. I also don’t want to scare her and create an anxiety issue. I remember as a young girl when we were going to a larger city to do some Christmas shopping and my mom unintentionally scared the crap out of me just trying to warn me of potential dangers/strangers.

    I think it is unrealistic to tell your kids not to talk to strangers, talking to strangers is part of everyday life, the checkout person at the store, the waitress at a restaurant, etc. are most likely going to be strangers. Our rule with our daughter is that it is okay to talk to strangers if she is right beside us. Not only that but everyone is a stranger until you get to know them…none of us would have a single friend if we didn’t talk to a stranger at some point in our lives.

    I also appreciate that you point out that “stranger danger” while real is MUCH less likely to happen than sexual abuse by a family member, family friend, neighbor, teacher, coach, etc.

  33. […] Beyond Stranger Danger: 6 Off the Wall Tips That Can Save Your Kid's Life […]

  34. MIA says:

    A great thing to discuss with young kids is not keeping secrets. Use the term surprises for fun family things that you do not want them to spoil (presents, parties, etc) but predators target susceptible children that will not tell an adult things (usually test them out first). Sadly this scenario is also more likely than a child randomly getting snatched in a public area.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Thank you for your input. You are so right. That is much more common than a stranger abduction. Good advice!

  35. Lana says:

    I tell my kids that police officers and firefighters are good and I point out what a police officer and a firefighter look like. I tell them to pay attention to their badge, radio and their safety belts. I also make it a point to not tell “strangers” about my husband’s job, our schedule or my kids interests. I never post my children’s names or birthdates online so that no one can find information that way. Also, I pay very close attention to who is around me in the store, my daughter was targeted by a sex trade at a Target once. I noticed the discrepancies by paying attention to who was around me and that they were trying to talk to my daughter and not me. I didn’t go into the parking lot alone and I’m glad I didn’t. I was later informed that these people wait for your child (I have three children very close in age) to run ahead or walk around to their side of the car to snatch them and run.

  36. Tish says:

    I’m Tish, mother of 3 and grandmother of 4, and you are helping me to learn more still, so thank you. It’s a scary world, and there are new dangers our children face every day.
    Teaching all day long is good, but drills are best. and I was glad to see you mention it. Simple drills that are kept casual, short, NOT SCARY (or you’ll end up with a paranoid child), and serious. You don’t want them to associate a dangerous situation with fun time. Seek out opportunities in your daily life, like at a grocery store, to talk a minute about, “Now remember, what do you do when… ?” Then, every once in a while drills as dangers change, and kids forget.
    Also, learning home phone numbers with a song is useful for even the very young.
    Thanks again for teaching this old girl new tricks. I’m all over your site, and really enjoying ☺

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Thanks Tish! I am glad you found the article helpful. You bring up some great reminders 🙂

  37. Leighann says:

    My dad always said if someone was to try to kidnap us or get us to go with them somewhere to scream your not my mommy/daddy help!! Make a scene and fight back. If they say they have a gun or show you a gun- don’t stop bc they are more than likely going to harm you with it later.. After they have done what they want with you

  38. Amy Delaney says:

    I’ve got two girls and was talking to my cousin about the fact that I can’t wait until they’re old enough to believe in fairies and that I’m going to make a letter box so that they can write letter to the fairy and the fairy (me) can ask them how school is etc- obviously I’ll do this anyway but you never know if there’s something that they wouldn’t want to tell you but can confide in the fairy- my cousin is training to be a infant/junior teacher and is going to bring this in to class, she said that she’ll get them to write about what has been a good part of the week and what has made them sad that week, I know it’s a silly idea but U never know if a kids friendship in a fairy might let out their secrets of abuse at home xx

  39. Sam says:

    Great article! My six year old is a very cautious and sometimes scared child. I always struggle with how to bring these things up without totally scaring the heck out of him? Once he even said he had a dream where I was kidnapped … so anything about kidnapping and what not makes him very afraid. Any suggestions?

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      That’s tricky Sam. My middle child is the same way! I think keeping it brief and not going into scary specifics can help. Sometimes just focusing on the rules (e.g. You should only talk to people you don’t know when I am right here with you etc) – can help. Also you can talk in generalities. Such as, “If you need anyone’s help – these are the people to go to first.” Hope that helps a bit 🙂

  40. Stephanie says:

    We recently had an incident where we live where a 6 year old girl was lured into a school bathroom by an 11 year old girl, and viciously beaten, choked, and had her head slammed into the toilet. I had to talk to my kids about not going into a SCHOOL bathroom alone, especially with another child who has previously threatened them. Our school has scheduled bathroom breaks, where the entire class goes, but the kids can also go at their own will. My son, in particular, has a bad habit of running off to the bathroom without the teacher noticing. No more of that.

  41. Lori says:

    There are two girls in my life one is now 15 the other is now 5 both have been serially abused and both had their mothers tell them that what they were saying was bad. Both of their mothers were in denial, and both times it was mom’s boyfriend. The 5 year old said it was a secret that was only between her and mommy. The 15 year old being out of the abusive situation for a few years and being close to the 5 year old told her one day that short secrets are good ones you keep them for a little bit to surprise someone usually but forever secrets are bad ones. The 5 year old really held onto this idea and it has kept her safe a few times since then.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      That’s a sad story Lori. I am glad that has kept the 5 year old safer! I always tell kids if it is a body secret they should always tell. If anyone touches or hurts their body and tells them not to tell anyone – that is a sign that they SHOULD tell!

  42. Jess says:

    Love these points thanks Natasha!!

    We teach our daughter that we don’t keep secrets, only surprises – surprises like birthday parties, gifts, etc that people are supposed to eventually find out.
    Though if someone asks her to keep a secret from mum and dad then it’s very important she tells us and we will keep her safe.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Sounds like great parenting to me Jess :-). I think educating kids on how to NOT keep body secrets is so key.

  43. Leanne says:

    My mom taught me all of this as a kid – bless her – but she also taught me to be leery of police officers, fire fighters, etc. They should also be able to tell me the code word or have some proof of their profession. Any one can have a fake uniform or badge.

  44. Anna says:

    Because of what I’ve read in the past, I am careful to train my daughters and son (6, 3, and 2 yo) that they are not required to give family members hugs, kisses, and sit on their lap. In particular, an uncle has been persistent asking my daughter for affection and I had the worst gut feeling when I saw him holding her at a family party (I had turned around for a second). She was 5 yo at the time and I knew something wasn’t right. Since then I’ve told both my husband and mother in law about my suspicions and we watch her like a hawk. Thankfully, we haven’t attended family gatherings since then for various reasons. I had to beg my husband to let us get out of a family camping trip where he would be. Finally, we bowed out. It caused some tensions but I am so alarmed that I don’t care if someone gets offended.

  45. Amber says:

    this is more for older children and adults but, when you are being attacked like raped yell fire nobody wants to acknowledge that someone is hurting someone but everyone wants to watch the fire

  46. Carmen says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I will definitely be implementing these tips at home.
    I read a great article a few months ago talking about children keeping “secrets”. It described the importance of teaching children not to keep secrets at all. I explained to my 5 year old daughter that if someone asks her to keep a secret that she needs to tell me right away, because secrets are something that someone doesn’t want you to tell anyone else and that’s not ok. But a surprise is always meant to tell people. We have made it a rule in our house that there are no secrets, only surprises. I am hoping that this will alert her of a red flag if someone were to ask her to keep something a secret from us. She already tells her friends that she can’t keep secrets. I know it isn’t a foolproof system, but it is another barrier that we are able to teach her and protect her.
    We also talk about being honest with mommy and daddy for two main reasons: health and safety. If something is going to harm her or cause a safety issue, we need to know about it right away. I want to start preparing my daughter for future situations that might effect her health or safety and having a good idea of what that means is so crucial. I tell her over and over that she must always be honest about things like this and that she will not be in trouble for telling me. I remind her in little ways as often as I can, in ways that aren’t related to anything scary, but just to remind her of why we have the rules we do. I ask her constantly if there is anything she needs to talk about with me, whether it is something that made her happy, sad, scared, mad, etc. Sometimes she says there is nothing, but more often than not she will start to think of things and start opening up to me which is a comfort I want her to be familiar with.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Carmen, your daughter is lucky to have you as a mom. Sounds like you are doing an amazing job!

  47. woodsi says:

    Great article! When I was a student I used to catch lifts with strangers using a website to contact them in advance as I couldn’t afford trains to visit my boyfriend. I was obviously extremely sensible about who I took lifts from, and always sent their reg number to my boyfriend as a precaution. We had a system of codes too- I had to text him every 30mins after getting in the car with my location and a code word, which changed with each text so that it couldn’t be copied if anybody was to go to so much trouble. If he didn’t receive the code word, he was to panic! To this day if I’m walking home on my own at night I prepare a long text starting with the code word and listing everything and every person i pass. The idea is that if I become uncomfortable or feel as though I’m being followed, I just have to press ‘send’ and he’ll know my most recent location as well as have descriptions of anybody I passed so that they’ll have a clue where to start looking for me! Again, not foolproof but it can’t hurt!

  48. Antonie says:

    Please check out We teach workshops and offer printed materials (both free and for purchase) designed to teach kids about safety without scaring them. Our “stranger safety” and boundary-setting techniques teach skills like Checking First with the adult in charge before talking to or taking anything from a stranger, even if the stranger knows your name. It’s a wonderful resource for any family, even those families that aren’t located near one of our centers.

  49. […] comes to your children you can never be too safe. I know these are good tips. Check out this link. They go beyond stranger danger. Which is something My four year struggles with. He’s so […]

  50. Miranda says:

    Great article! I decided to have this talk with my 6 year old son just now. First I asked him what he thought a stranger was. He replied “someone we don’t know.” Oh! That’s right! So I asked him what do strangers look like? He said “like us”. So I think they taught them this lesson at school already 👍

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      I wish all schools covered this topic and body safety. It could make a world of difference.

  51. Rachel says:

    Instead of saying stranger danger we say tricky people that applies to friends, family, or strangers. I have taught my oldest to ask me or my husband for permission before going anywhere with anyone. The only sleepovers they are aloud to have are with my in laws. We have a rule of no sleepovers with friends. We do play dates so I am there with my children and I know what is going on. We also have safety body rules and we have them hung up in the bathroom. I got the safety body rules from a tutorial on pinterest. Thank you for the information now I can teach my children how to keep themselves even more safe.

  52. […] are from the Department of Health, PLEASE remind your children of the danger of strangers.  Click here for some excellent tips – although it says it’s for toddlers, it’s good advice for […]

  53. […] That and do some research on teaching your kids safety, especially regarding getting lost, touch, stranger danger, etc. All of this is terrifying to think about but when you’re prepared you don’t have […]

  54. […] Here it is: Beyond Stranger Danger: 6 Off the Wall Tips that can save your Kid’s life. […]

  55. Chris says:

    I have a child whose father has supervised visitation, so for me strangers are far less scary than relatives. My child has never been told no you can’t go with your dad. We have a simple rule to cover everything. She may never leave with anyone whether we know them or not, unless we arranged it first. For emergency situations that someone unexpectedly has to pick her up from school she knows she has to call mom from the office to make sure. She has refused to go with grandmother until calling me when her ride had a flat tire. My younger children don’t have the same problems but still have the same rule. Stranger danger has always been a silly concept to me, because kids decide a kid they just met on the playground is their new best friend. So no one picks up my kids without my expressed approval.

  56. […] Beyond Stranger Danger: 6 Off the Wall Tips That Can Save Your Kid’s Life […]

  57. Joanna Hickman says:

    I love the information in your blog! I work for a non profit called the Jefferson County Community Partnership. We have a program called The Parenting Network. Part of my job is to write a monthly newsletter that we send out to our parents. I’m always looking for new information. With your permission, I would love to share information withing your blog with our families via this newsletter. I would properly site and credit you with the article. Would this be agreeable to you?

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Hi Joanna,
      I am glad you find the site informative. Yes, feel free to share with your newsletter families.

  58. Natalie says:

    You’ve made some great points. Thank you! I recently read an article about teaching kids about “tricky people”. Generally someone who wants to kidnap or do harm ifomes across as a nice person… The article indicated to teach your child that a tricky person will not ask a child for help when there are other adults around. If an adult asks for help, do not go by yourself but get another adult.

  59. Lara says:

    Thank you for the tips. I have a 2 and 3 year old so going to crowded places can be challenging. I tell my 3 year old before we get out of the car, “You need to keep your eyes on Mommy the entire time. Don’t let me out of your sight.” That way, I am watching him, and he is watching me.

  60. Julie says:

    Great advice! I have nephews and their parents are good, but I still sometimes read stuff like this in the off chance they ask me.

    One of my brothers told me to yell out FIRE if I was being harassed, physically abused or raped. He said fires are more dangerous to everyone and an immediate threat. He said some people will ignore someone screaming rape or other things because it could be fake.

  61. […] I wrote an article on teaching kids concepts beyond stranger danger. Several people left comments about this great book called The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker […]

  62. MZ says:

    My mama always used to tell me, “if it feels weird, it is weird!” It really helped me learn not to ignore my gut instinct, because it always knows best. It’s gotten me out of some tricky situations before, and to date, is still the best stranger danger advice she’s ever given me!
    I’m also a big fan of code words. I still remember the code word that we used when I was a child. When I was in college, my friend group implemented a code system into our social situations. When we’d be in a situation that made us uncomfortable and we’d really want to leave, we’d say, “I really wish this outfit had pockets…” Then exchange a glance, count to 30, and leave. It was inconspicuous enough that no one would assume it was a code, but we totally knew.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      I love the idea of friends – especially teens and college students having a code word with each other. What a smart thing to do. I will definitely teach this to the teens I work with in my therapy practice. Thanks so much for sharing!

  63. Eleanor says:

    I tell my son (6) that if he loses us when we’re out and about the first thing he needs to do is stand still and shout really loudly for us. This does 3 things; firstly it helps us find him as hopefully we’re not actually too far away, secondly it lets people know that he is lost and may be able to help and thirdly it makes it less likely that someone will try to take him as no one wants to quietly abduct a child who is already shouting for parents!
    We have other techniques in place but this is the first thing.

  64. Sharla McClary says:

    I have told my 7 year old of someone grabs her to sit on the floor and act like a crazy dog. Hard to pick up a kid when they are throwing their arms and legs around. I have told her to lick the palm if someone puts their hand over her month. I have told her to yell Stranger danger since I have seen a child scream this is not my mother (she was) when he was having a temper tantrum. I like the code word will have to teach her that one. I now have to work on my 3 year old son to do these things.

  65. Emily says:

    This is great info! We love to see well informed people sharing safety and security tips because that’s what we’re all about! We’ve got an article that I think you might like about how to teach your family to use their own cell phones as safety tools, check it out : The more safety tips we share with each other the better!

  66. May Bee says:

    Natasha! What an important and scary post. Daily I struggle with the world’s state into which my sweet girl was brought into. Not that danger isn’t everywhere, but it’s especially prevalent for girls I feel. I can attest to a lot of dark characters that have shaped and shifted my whole core for better and worse. I struggle with layout and plan of attack when it comes to the subject of educating my little one without completely destroying her innocence and love for the world. That’s not what I want. This post of yours made me rethink things a bit and realize that things don’t have to get so ugly in our conversations. I was also afraid of the whole “in one ear, out the other” thing but these are such great examples of not only how to teach little one’s street smarts but how to actively carry them out. I hubly thank you for the time you took to share this with us. I will do my part in sharing it with my beloved readers and friends. Thank you again and if you ever have a moment, please, stop by or get social with me (I’d be so honored) at and

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      I am so glad you found it helpful May! It can be a tricky balance trying to keep our kids safe, but not scaring them to death. I have three anxious kids and it is a juggling act to say the least. Your site looks awesome! I will be sure to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter!

  67. Donna says:

    I always tell my grandson if someone tries to grab him and he is riding his bike or scooter to hang on to them for dear life. Most people who grab children off the sidewalk want something easy and quick. It’s not easy to carry a child and a bike and they will not fit into a car at all.

  68. Liz says:

    Prevention is important… but so is learning what to do if the worst case scenario takes place and your child is actually abducted. Things like learning where the latch in the trunk is to open the trunk from the inside or how to kick out the tail light. How to enable the GPS on a cell phone and memorizing mom or dad’s cell number so if there is access to the abductor’s cell they can call mom or dad and then mom and dad have a cell number and the police can track the GPS on the phone. It’s also useful to learn how to get out of ropes and vulnerable areas on the body so that a larger person can be incapacitated (there are classes that teach these skills). But most important is teaching a child how to focus on what is around them so that they can identify where they are at if they gain access to a communication device and so that they can remain calm and look for opportunities for escape. The number 1 thing that survivors of abduction have done is remain calm, panic prevents the kind of thinking and stratigizing neccessary for escape

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Some good pointers. Thanks Liz. I have taught my kids about the latch in the trunk on newer cars. I think knowing their parent’s cell number is also key for all kids too.

  69. […] so bare with me. Develop a code word with older children (7+ years old) that indicates when your child is feeling unsafe or […]

  70. lupita says:

    With my oldest daughter I have been vigilant about discussing these things (12yr old). However, my middle child (5yr old) has Down Syndrome and can I just say that this topic terrifies me with her. I’ve heard that people with disabilities are more likely to be abused. And I know that she juat doesn’t grasp these concepts. I don’t know how to teach her to avoid these situations. She is starting achool this yr & knowing that I can’t protect her all the time is nerve racking.
    What advice do you have for teaching kids with special needs?

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Hi Lupita,
      That is a great question. I think to some extent this would depend on the child’s level of cognitive functioning. I would recommend talking in simple terms. Give them directions on what they should do without the scary reasons why. For example – no one should ever touch your private parts or ask for you to touch their private parts. If that happens tell me right away. Giving them simple rules to follow will help them stay safer.

      I hope that helps a bit!

  71. Ray Terner says:

    Thank you for great tips, we used them in shorter visual version on our site with link to you We love your blog

  72. Pixie says:

    My parents taught me about stranger danger. One of my earliest memories was when I was 3 or 4 years old. We were at a zoo and I had climbed the fence and was looking at these baby pigs. The mom pig came after me and a man (who was just being helpful) snatched me up real quick so she couldn’t bite me. I turned around and screamed,”you aren’t my dad!” It got people’s attention, but luckily my parents saw what had happened! Now I have a daughter of my own and I am definitely teaching her stranger danger. Thank you for the article. It has great ideas!

  73. […] website Anxious Toddlers – dedicated to giving parents support, advice and guidance – has provided a list of […]

  74. […] child safety topics on Anxious Toddlers. We recently talked about teaching our kids safety tips beyond stranger danger. This was a hugely popular article because as parents, we all strive to keep our kids […]

  75. Teddy says:

    When I was a kid my told me that if someone tried to grab or abduct me to yell either, “Help! Rape!” or “Help! Fire!” because those would be the most likely things to get attention.

    I don’t recommend teaching them to say, “You’re not my mommy/daddy!” because my brother did this as a kid, and people just ignored him assuming he was having a tantrum (he was). It is better to have them say something less expected, in my opinion.

    Something like, “Help, he/she is going to rape me.” Or “Help! Fire! Fire! Fire”

    You could also have them shout “pedophile!” or “child molester!”

    Those should turn heads.

    Along with lots of waving and moving around if they can.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Hi Teddy,
      Good point. I guess it depends on your child’s age and their comprehension level. I feel uncomfortable teaching my four year old to shout rape or pedophile. Fire could be effective – although I worry people would be even quicker to dismiss that because it would look like a child goofing around.

      I know I would turn and take a closer look if a kid was screaming “you are not my daddy.” Although your brother did it, I don’t think that is a common thing to yell when you are having a tantrum.

      For adults – I think yelling rape or fire is awesome advice!

      • Antonie says:

        I mentioned earlier in this thread the organization I work for, Kidpower. We actually do not teach people to yell “Fire,” because when people hear that they don’t look around for someone being attacked – they look for the quickest escape route to get themselves to safety. We teach children to yell “NO” directly at an attacker, and to then run to the nearest place where they are likely to get help while yelling, “I NEED HELP!” For older kids, teens and adults, we use more descriptive language like, “Call 911,” or “I’m being attacked.”
        For more information, please go to!

        • Natasha Daniels says:

          Thanks Antonie for your insight. I agree with you. You offer some good advice. I also checked out your organization and it looks like a great resource! Parents should definitely check it out.

  76. […] do anything to get away. But I realize now (after reading a great article over at Anxious Toddlers here) that a child screaming and shouting could easy be interpreted as a tantrum and ignored. It’s all […]

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