My book Smiling Crocodiles is a tale about a little forest fairy, Rosalee, who finds herself face to face with two smiling crocodiles. She listens to her intuition to stay safe and protect her forest friends.
Teaching protective behaviours to children is tricky, mainly because we don’t want to frighten them of the dangers, nor give negative messages about the world. I believe protective behaviours starts with having a healthy relationship with your child, even behaviour modification starts with building/giving trust and demonstrating healthy attention.
Attachment is the psychological term for the relationship between a child and parent (significant caregiver). It is the fundamental model of how children learn to love themselves and others around them. It becomes an internal model of how we do relationships… what’s normal, what’s healthy and what hurts. Being protective starts with where those boundaries exist, what’s okay, what’s not okay and being confident to feel vulnerable and to be assertive.
The second fundamental principle is ‘intuition’. I’ve defined it as: a deep feeling that something is true. That might be you feel peace that you are where you are meant to be, it might be a deep love feeling that the person you are with is someone special. Intuition can also tell us when something is wrong. Our rational thoughts may tell us everything is alright, but our intuition is the sum of all our subconscious experiences sensing that something deserves our attention, even though you can’t see it. It is an inner protective mechanism and it is a skill to be able to notice and listen to it. It is different from anxiety. Anxiety comes more our heads telling us negative messages.
Here is a story of where I didn’t listen to Cooper’s intuition when he was 4 years old. I was in a hurry on our way to kindy, so I’ve thrown his shoes in the bag and off we went. We parked and hoping out of the car, Cooper insisted to put his shoes on. I admit I was quite frustrated already by then, I convinced him it’s okay, he’s only going to take them off when we get in anyway. So what happens… I open the front Kindy door and it slices through top of his big toe. I remember thinking, if only I had of respected his wishes, his little toes would be all safe. Perhaps it was just a coincidence, but it was certainly a lesson in not rushing.
So the core of protective behaviours:
- Your body belongs to you
- Your private parts are special
- No one can touch your private parts without good reason
- Listen to your intuition (internal warning alarm)
- Say no (we don’t keep secrets in families)
- Go somewhere safe
- Tell someone you trust
- Make a list of who you can tell
- Problem solve difficult situations
- Practice assertive skills
- ADEQUATE SUPERVISION