Why we should tell our kids about tricky people and not strangers

I was listening to a podcast about juggling motherhood and a business and something was mentioned about tricky people. It was completely irrelevant and not discussed further but it hit a nerve so I decided to look into it. It turns out everything we knew and have been telling our kids about strangers should be revised because tricky people are the new strangers. 

Reading up on the subject of  tricky people vs strangers many aspects of it made sense. By using the word ‘stranger’ to teach our children about certain dangers we are essentially inserting fear into their lives.

Why? Because everyone you or they don’t know IS a stranger. And that means ALOT of people. In short, that means that our children are basically walking around, scared of everyone.

Recently, Georgie got separated from me in a big busy shop. He freaked out and it wasn’t pleasant not because he couldn’t see me or find me but because he was scared a stranger would snatch him. Two things occur to me now: What were the possibilities of that happening? Is it worth the fear I have instilled in my child? I mean, where is the positivity I am meant to be sharing with my child?

So here’s what made sense to me about tricky people vs strangers:

  • Most danger doesn’t come from strangers. Most times abuse, kidnapping and other forms of violence towards children come from someone in the family or very close to the family. Not always but most times.

Also this:

  • Children tend to have an image in their head of what a stranger looks like. They look scary and sound scary. Probably what a stranger would look like in a Hollywood movie aimed at six-year olds. Think homeless and scruffy. But that could not be further from the truth. There is a much bigger possibility they are going to be charming and friendly and kind. And clean and tidy.

And last but not least:

  • Tricky people ask kids for help. Doesn’t this make sense too? They either ask for directions or offer sweets and toys or need help looking for their lost puppy.

So back to the day Georgie got scared because he couldn’t find me and what I now hope had happened. And what we should be telling our kids and how we should be explaining the concept of ‘bad’ people.

  • As far as abuse goes the first form of prevention is knowing your child will never keep a secret from you. An abuser will ask a child to keep the abuse a secret. If your child is old enough to understand explain to them that secrets should never be kept from you.
  • Again as far as abuse goes, you should know who your child is spending time with and what they’re doing. This mainly includes sleepovers and unsupervised (by you) playdates. I’ve been hearing many parents say they no longer agree with sleepovers because they feel uncomfortable. That’s ok.
  • The last thing regarding abuse and preventing it is teaching our kids about their bodies. Tell them what each body part is called and that anything that is covered by underwear or a bathing suit is not allowed to be touched by anyone. Teach them that they can say no to a hug or a kiss if they feel uncomfortable. Especially in the society we live in where people are obsessed with kissing and hugging we must step back and realise our child does not have to kiss every single relative they meet. 
  • The first thing Georgie and I talked about shortly after getting separated in the shop was this: don’t panic. Just find another mummy. Find a lady who has children with her and ask her to help you. This way your child is building confidence and learning how to receive help from a stranger.
  • All kids over the age of four should know their parents full name and even their phone number.
  • Finally and most importantly, teach your child that safe adults never ask children for help! If they are asked, they should just say ‘no’.


For more information on ‘tricky people’ check out the Safely Ever After website run by Pattie Fitzgerald who came up with the concept.

Also this article was a good one.




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