Parenting Controversy - Which side of the fence are you on?
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Where’s Your Child At In The Primary School Pecking Order?

By Cecilia On September 15, 2011 6 Comments

pecking orderAnd here I was thinking that we were living in a classless society. Apparently not… 

A few weeks ago, I asked my daughter who she had played with that day at school and she shocked me with this reply:

"Middle class girls."

Me: Ummmm, pardon?

Here's how the rest of the conversation went…

J: "There's a pecking order at school and I'm middle class."

Me: "Oh, really. What makes you middle class?"

She then proceeded to rattle off the names of the "popular" girls, followed by those deemed to be at the bottom of the pecking order.

Me: "Who made all this up?"

J: "I don't know, that's just how it is."

Me: "So, are you happy being middle class?"

J: "Yeah, the popular girls are boring. They don't play, they just wander around at lunch time."

Me: "That all sounds a bit silly to me. Can't you just be friends with everyone."

J: "No, you can't be friends with the popular girls if you aren't one of them."

Me: "Who says they're the popular girls anyway?"

J: "They just are. There's a big group of them."

Me: "Are they mean to you?"

J: "No, they just don't take any notice of me."

Me: "Whatever, as long as you have some nice school friends to play with."

J: "I do." 

pecking orderYou expect this kind of philosophy to permeate high school peer groups, but when did talk of a pecking order hit primary school playgrounds? When did social status become a concern for our young chicks?

Should we parents now be stressing about where our seven year-old sits on the social ladder?

Has your child ever mentioned a school pecking order? If they haven't actually vocalised it, do you see the existence of a pecking order among the kids at your child's school? If your child admitted to being below middle class in the school social order, would you see this as cause for concern or would you brush it off as nonsense?



Private vs Public School – Is Private Better In Primary Or Secondary Years?

By Cecilia On September 5, 2011 2 Comments

private vs public schoolsIf you had to choose between private vs public school for your children in either primary school or high school, not both, which way would you go?

A mother of two young boys who attend a private school now recently told me that her and her husband had decided not to send their children to a private senior school. In her opinion, it would be a waste of money. She went on to explain that she believes sending a child to a private school in their formative years is far more important. Her reasoning was that once children have a good moral grounding instilled in them during their years at a private primary school, they'll be fine attending a public school when they're older.

I understand her logic, but I'm on the other side of the fence with this one…

If I had to choose between sending my daughter to a private school in either her junior or senior years, I would opt to send her to a decent public primary school and a save the private education for her senior years. Why? Because the grades she achieves in high school are much more important than those she gets in primary school in that they *may* determine her future career, and I believe that she has a better chance of excelling at a private school.

Having attended one myself, I'm not naive enough to think that she would be entirely sheltered from bad influence among private school kids, or that there is less of a possibility that she may get into some serious mischief. Having said that, I honestly feel that she is more likely to be predominantly surrounded by a higher achieving, less troublesome group of peers at a private secondary school.

Besides, it's my job to cement in the good values long before she gets to high school.

That's my stance on the value of private schools vs public schools for young children and teens. Which side of the fence are you on when it comes to public versus private schools for junior or senior years? Would you prefer for your child to attend a private school sooner, or later?

PS: Another friend of mine once told me that she can stand in a room full of adults and accurately identify which of them attended a private high school based on how they speak and act. Is it that obvious to you?



Bad Dates – Cougar Mom’s Disastrous Online Dating Stories

By Cecilia On August 30, 2011 No Comments

cougar mom online dating storiesCougar Mom has been on a bit of dating rampage lately hoping to pin down Mr Right. Alas, she's had no such luck.

The upside of her online dating escapades of late is that she did manage to briefly pin down a couple of hot young Mr Right Now's. The downside is that she's come away with several bad dates under her belt and two particularly creepy online dating stories to fill me in on, which I will share with you now…

First there was "B" the smooth-talking, cash-flashing salesman who boasted about his $125k + commissions job and talked up the ocean view apartment he had just purchased locally. Not to mention the house with a pool he'd set his two twenty-something sons up in, as well as the house he recently bought in the next suburb for his dear old mother to dwell in. Sounds impressive, right? It was right up until she laid eyes on his tiny little Hyundai hatchback. The car didn't fit the man. She smelled a rat. A quick Google search, followed up with a phone call to a local real estate, revealed that "B" had rented that ocean view apartment six weeks ago. Cougar Mom has zero tolerance for BS so he bit the dust immediately. ("B" = Lying Bastard!)

When you're a single parent, bad first dates almost always equals no next dates. When you've got children to consider you tend not to be liberal with second changes. But getting men to take no for an answer on their second date offer isn't always easy.

Which brings me to Cougar Mom's next online dating horror story…

Cougar Mom knew five minutes into their coffee date that "S" wasn't the guy for her. Politely she endured his company for the next 25 minutes and then made a hasty escape. Unfortunately, that 30-minute coffee date was enough to convince "S" that Cougar Mom was the missing link to his happiness in life. And he didn't hold back in letting her know this. What followed in the next 48 hours was 87 (I kid you not!) 87 text messages proclaiming his adoration of her and attempting to pressure her into a second date. She started out politely replying to his messages, but by the mid-seventies she'd had enough and asked him to please stop texting her. She ignored the rest of his messages and thankfully hasn't heard from him since. ("S" = Creepy Stalker)

Oh but it doesn't end there friends…

The weekend just past, Cougar Mom organised a Saturday night dinner date with "W" who lives 1.5 hours drive away. He asked her for nearby accommodation recommendations so that he didn't have to drive home after their date (Read: hoping he'd get lucky that night). Whatever, all good. All good until she got a phone call at 6am on Saturday morning from "W" letting her know that he had driven up here at 4am and was now sitting by the ocean 5mins away from her house! (WTF? Who does that?) At that point I would have hung up the phone and never answered that creepy dude's calls again. But ever so politely she agreed to shower and then meet him for coffee at 7am. (Ummm, alarm bells are now ringing! Did she really expect this to get any better?!)   

Anyway, to cut a long story short, not only was this guy even more scruffy looking than his beat up old car, he was as boring as bat shit and too cheap to buy her a coffee (after hauling her out of bed at 6am, c'mon!). Cougar Mom used the escape line of having to leave to go do a personal training session at the gym, to which he responded, "Well if there's a chance of some romance later, I'll hang around here til you're done. Wadaya say?" (Personally, I would have said *EXPLETIVE* NO!) Cougar Mom politely replied "No thank you, I'm not up for any romance today." Thankfully, she hasn't heard from him again either. ("W" = Creepy Weirdo)

And that's the end of the latest in a very long line of Cougar Mom's horror online dating stories.

The worst part is that this is just one month's worth of her dreadful online dating stories. Stories of Cougar Mom's countless bad dates over the past two years could comfortably fill an entire blog of their own. Man, that's so sad.

Do you have any bad date stories to top these? Any shockingly bad dating stories friends have shared with you? 



Banned Books – Maggie Goes On A Diet & Norwegian Wood

By Cecilia On August 27, 2011 2 Comments

Kiddy dieting, lesbian sex and homosexual orgies, oh my!

What a week this has been for controversy over books deemed inappropriate for kids. Banned books stricken from children’s reading lists this week include Maggie Goes On A Diet for its eating disorder inducing possibilities, and Norwegian Wood for its promiscuity inducing possibilities.  

Norwegian wood by Haruki MurakamiThis week a New Jersey school yanked Haruki Murakami’s novel Norwegian Wood from its summer reading selections list after multiple parents complained that it was far too risqué for young teen readers because of its graphic depiction of a lesbian sex scene between a 31-year-old woman and a 13-year old girl.

Nic Sheff's New York Times bestselling memoir of addiction and recovery, Tweak (Growing up on Methamphetamines), was also scrapped from the school's reading list due to complaints from parents over its description of a drug-fueled, homosexual orgy.

While it’s understandable that literary “classics” are being abandoned in favour of newer, more cutting-edge books that better fit the contemporary reading interests of our kids, the age-appropriateness of these explicit modern tales has become a major cause for concern.

Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council told Fox News that he’s wasn’t surprised by the controversy surrounding these books, saying “Here we see the intersection of parental values being offended, the hyper-sexualisation of our youth and the homosexual agenda being pushed.

When it comes to choosing good books for teens, where do you draw the line on what’s appropriate for them to read? Would you ban books like these from your teen’s reading list?

I’m still on the fence with this one.

Now moving on from (possibly?) inappropriate sexed-up books for teens, to the controversial dieting-related story book targeted at tweens…

Maggie Goes On A Diet by Paul Kramer Maggie Goes On A Diet, set to be published in October, shares the story of 14 year-old Maggie who struggles with obesity and being teased at school because of her weight, then manages to shed her excess pounds through diet and exercise.

It is the book’s suggestion that popularity comes with being thin, along with the potential for the book's message to trigger eating disorders in young readers that has parents and commentators livid, and calling for the book to be banned.

Popular mommy blogger Catherine Connors of Her Bad Mother was quoted by The Daily Caller as labeling the book “horrid,” saying that it sends a terrible message to kids, particularly girls.

Kids should be talked to and taught about making healthy choices, but DIETING? No,” she said.

Parenting blogger Mir Kamin of Woulda Coulda Shoulda had this to say about the book:

“I’m all for kids being healthy, but what’s the takeaway from this book? I’m guessing the author intends for it to be ‘getting healthier is awesome.’ But right off the bat I can see young kids instead getting, ‘Being fat is bad and totally your fault,’ ‘You’re not worthwhile until you’re thin’.”

Author, Paul Kramer defended his book for tackling the issues that many children face today, telling ABC News:

“My intentions were just to write a story to entice and to have children feel better about themselves, discover a new way of eating, learn to do exercise, try to emulate Maggie and learn from Maggie's experience. Maggie is accepting that kids can be mean and she has decided to do something about it, to take things in her own hands, try to change her own life, try to make herself healthy by exercising. She does want to look better. She does want to feel better and she does not want to be teased."

I’m siding with the author on this one in that I think the message of this book is more “thinspirational” than it is damaging. For obese children who are being teased at school by a peer group entrenched in a culture that promotes being thin and beautiful as equating with success and popularity, the damage is already done. This book provides an accurate depiction of their REALITY, and for some overweight kids, it may very well be the inspiration they need to lose weight and feel happier as a result.

Dieting down to a smaller dress size may not guarantee living happily ever after, but ask anybody who has lost a significant amount of weight – young or old – if it made them feel happier and improved their life and you’ll hear a resounding YES.

The “eat well and exercise to successfully lose weight” ideas in this book echo the kind of sensible advice recommended by health experts, so I think banning books like this with a potentially healthy message for children would be an absolute shame. Do you agree? Or do you think this book sends a dangerous message to children?

As for banning books from your child's reading list in general…

How severely do you police what your children are reading? Are school banned books unwelcome in your home as well? Would you let your young child read Maggie Goes On A Diet or your teen read Norwegian Wood? Have you let your kids read any other banned childrens books?



Good Parenting – Stay At Home Moms vs Working Moms

By Cecilia On August 26, 2011 4 Comments

working mom guiltThat woman you saw sobbing in her car stopped at the traffic lights this morning… her heart just broke when she reluctantly relinquished care of her crying baby and distressed toddler to a child minder in order to go to work and earn barely enough money to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.

She cried the whole way to work. She can’t help but feel that as a working mom she’s missing out on a lot. Too much. It crushes her to think that someone else is experiencing all the special moments with her children while she toils away at a job she doesn’t enjoy. Every day she carries around with her enormous working mom guilt about not spending enough time with her young children. This isn’t good parenting she thinks to herself. It doesn’t feel right. She hates being away from her children, but financial constraints dictate that can't stay home with them. She has no choice.

Sadly, this all too common scenario is played out in many thousands of minivans, SUVs and sedans morning after miserable morning. With house prices and the general cost of living now being so high, in most families, both parents need to work in order to make ends meet.

Women used to be trapped in the home. Fast forward two generations and now they are trapped in the workplace.

Some want-to-be supermoms choose to work, and are fine with putting their children into care to carry on advancing their rewarding career. But for working moms forced into the workforce out of financial need, putting their kids in care to go to work spells daily devastation.

working mom guilt

When it comes to the stay at home moms vs working moms debate, many commentators argue that one parent ought to stay at home as working mothers (and fathers) have less time for good parenting.

With regard to mothers who work out of desire rather than necessity, some critics go as far as saying women who work full-time with children at home are the most selfish people on the planet, arguing that if you can't be there for your children, you shouldn’t have them.

Harsh comments like this are the reason working moms are always fending off guilt… worrying that they aren’t spending enough time with their kids… concerned that child care is screwing them up… hoping that they won’t someday wind up complaining to a therapist that their mommy didn’t pay enough attention to them.

working motherAs a work at home mother, I was fortunate to escape the trauma of being forced to leave my daughter at child care, but I have still gone through the gamut of guilt over not being able to spend as much time with her as I would like. This is especially true during the school holidays when she begs me to play a game with her or take her to the park, etc.

However, one of the greatest luxuries working from home grants me is the flexibility that allows me to attend special events at my daughter’s school, such as sports days, plays, mother’s day morning teas and volunteering as a reading group helper.

I am especially grateful for this privilege when I see how upset some of the other kids get when their working mothers aren't there to watch them. It breaks my heart every single time. So I make a point of giving them a pat on the back or a hug and telling them what a great job they did.

These days too many mothers are stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to working and doing what’s best for our kids. One parent really ought to be able to stay at home with their children if they desire to do so, and it saddens me that this is becoming an increasingly impossible scenario for families to enact due to financial pressures.

On the flip side, I do believe that you can have two parents working and delivering good parenting to their children. Each family has their own unique way of surviving and thriving.

What’s your position on the stay at home moms vs working moms debate? Do you think two parents working equals a lack of time for good parenting? Are you suffering with working mom guilt?



Jours Après Lunes, Hailey Clauson & Urban Outfitters – Sexualisation of Children Again!

By Cecilia On August 20, 2011 2 Comments

As if the hyper sexualised images of 10 year old model Thylane Blondeau published in French Vogue that I discussed in this post last week wasn't enough to get our collective maternal blood boiling, this week's disturbing sexualisation of children news is sure to raise your temperature. Or at the very least your eyebrows. And certainly not in a good way.

Jours Après LunesFirst came the launch of Jours Après Lunes, a line of lingerie specifically for young girls aged between 4 and 12 years old. Blending lingerie and lounge wear to form 'loungerie,' the controversial underwear line features a range of panties, bras, along with camisoles and t-shirts with lace edges and ribbon bow detailing.

Worse still, the risque photographs promoting the line feature scantily-clad, provocatively posed young girls with voluminous up-dos and full faces of make-up. Who in the world thought it appropriate to doll a 4 year-old up with a Brigitte Bardot style bouffant hairdo and publish photos of her wearing a pearl-encrusted triangle bra?

Jours Après Lunes kids lingerie
If anyone is thinking of browsing the Jours Après Lunes catalogue and gifting my daughter a piece of this kiddy lingerie for Christmas, don't bother.

It'll go straight in the rubbish bin.

I'd like to be able to end this post now, but unfortunately, news of unsettling sexualisation of children didn't end there this week…

Yesterday, the modelling industry penchant for over sexualising young models hit the headlines again with the news that parents of 15 year old model Hailey Clauson are suing Urban Outfitters and photographer Jason Lee Parry for printing seductive images of their daughter on t-shirts.

hailey clauson urban outfittersHailey's parents are suing for $28 Million in damages arguing that, in the image to the left, Hailey is posed in a blatantly salacious manner without a bra, revealing portions of her breasts, with her legs in a spread eagle position making her crotch area the focal point of the image, portraying her in an inappropriate sexually suggestive manner, and claiming they did not give permission for this photograph to be used on t-shirts.

As a community, we need to follow in the footsteps of Hailey's parents by standing up and saying "No, this is not okay!" Because if we don't, this disturbing sexualisation of children is going to continue, and it's going to get progressively worse. Hell, I could already maintain a weekly column on the issue.

I urge everyone who finds these types of overly sexualised images of young girls offensive to to write or email the company or publication distributing them and voice your concern. Also, blog about it and discuss the issue via social media to raise awareness and rally support.



Fetal Twin Reduction – Ethical Debate Over Killing Off One Of Your Unborn Kids

By Cecilia On August 20, 2011 4 Comments

fetal twin reduction abortionThink the abortion debate couldn’t get any more complicated? Well, now that women pregnant with twins are killing off one of their kids in-womb for no medical reason, it has…

This week, an article in the New York Times Magazine drew attention to the increasing number of women having two-minus-one abortions – opting to abort one fetus in a perfectly healthy twin pregnancy because their preference is to have only one child.

The article, titled The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy, profiles several couples who chose "reduction to a singleton" from healthy twin pregnancies in order to avoid overburdening themselves financially or emotionally. It shares the story of a woman named Jenny who became pregnant with twins at the age of 45 through IVF, and then chose to terminate one of her two healthy fetuses. Discussing her reasoning for opting to undergo selective reduction during her pregnancy, Jenny told the New York Times:

"Things would have been different if we were 15 years younger or if we hadn't had children already or if we were more financially secure. If I had conceived these twins naturally, I wouldn't have reduced this pregnancy, because you feel like if there's a natural order, then you don't want to disturb it. But we created this child in such an artificial manner — in a test tube, choosing an egg donor, having the embryo placed in me — and somehow, making a decision about how many to carry seemed to be just another choice."

Firstly, it’s a little bit contradictory for a person to say that they wouldn’t reduce a naturally conceived twin pregnancy so as not to disturb the natural order, yet they are fully prepared to disturb the natural order by using IVF to conceive a child when the natural order has prevented them from doing so.

Secondly, it’s understandable that not all couples are emotionally or financially prepared for the journey of having two children at once, yet women going into IVF are made fully aware that there is a higher chance of them yielding multiple children.

It’s been established that when two embryos are transferred, the odds of having a twin pregnancy are around 30 percent. So if a woman has multiple embryos implanted and winds up pregnant with twins, she can't claim to be surprised by the results. So, if you knew without a shadow of doubt that you only wanted one child, why would you knowingly choose to transfer two embryos with the intent of aborting one if both "took" given that selective reduction puts both fetuses at risk, as well as the health of the mother?

Doctors regularly perform fetal reductions on women pregnant with multiples when complications arise. A suffering fetus in a set of triplets or quadruplets may need to be aborted in order for the others to survive. And that’s perfectly understandable. But selecting one healthy fetus over another perfectly healthy fetus for termination with no medical reason for doing so is an entirely different story; and an unsettling one at that.

It’s widely assumed that people who can afford IVF would have enough money to raise a pair of children. Which then begs the question of whether the driving force behind the decision of these parents to extinguish one of their twins is the self-centred notion that a second child would prevent them from being able to live the more luxurious lifestyle they want?

Aborting a twin for social reasons seems incredibly egocentric to me. Having and raising children should be done selflessly. If people are entering into parenthood on the selfish premise that it would be too inconvenient for them to deal with a second child, perhaps they should skip having a child altogether.

Personally, I cannot imagine killing off a baby that is there as a result of an intentional pregnancy, and that is growing in my womb cosied up with their twin. I wonder how these parents will be able to live with their decision after the baby is born, knowing that there was another just like him or her that they chose to do away with. I can’t help but wonder how these parents are going to explain their decision to the “chosen one”…

“By the way son, you were bunked in with a brother but we decided to whack your twin before he was born so that we could afford a boat.”

Well, maybe not in those exact words.

In all seriousness though, how is the kept child going to feel about it? Will they lament the loss of their twin brother or sister? Will they find it disturbing that they could very easily have been the unwanted twin that his or her parents chose to snuff out?

In my opinion, when you’re lucky enough to be blessed with a miracle through IVF, it seems ungrateful to decide that being blessed with two children is not the miracle you wanted, and then kill off what would have almost certainly been a perfectly healthy baby.

I can’t help feeling that two-to-one abortions are a perversion of the privilege that IVF affords would-be parents who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to conceive a child at all.  

Do you think it is ethical to reduce a pregnancy from two to one for social reasons? Is it the ultimate in self-centered behavior or simply a responsible parenting decision?



Dick & Rick Team Hoyt Video – Dad, When We Were Running, It Felt Like I Wasn’t Disabled Anymore

By Cecilia On August 14, 2011 No Comments

This video shares the extraordinary story of Team Hoyt, the father-son duo of Dick Hoyt and his son Rick Hoyt who haven't let Rick's disability stand in the way of them competing together in dozens of marathons and triathlons.

Rick Hoyt has pushed his son's wheelchair in 85 marathons, and for Team Hoyt to complete the additional stages of the 212 triathlons they've competed in, Richard Hoyt has towed his son in a dinghy for the swim legs, then pedaled with Rick in a seat on the handlebars of his bike for the cycle legs.

This inspiring father-son effort to transcend disability began with the Boston Marathon back in 1992, and when technology allowed Rick to type, he told his father, "Dad, when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore."

Take a moment to watch the team Hoyt video below to see this truly inspiring father and son team in action…

Video from KarmaTube

Amazing! I hope the Hoyt team inspires you to achieve something special in your life, and in the lives of your children, even if there's a barrier that needs working around in order for you to do it.



Eden Wood, Thylane Blondeau And The Sexualisation Of Children

By Cecilia On August 8, 2011 10 Comments

Sometimes we parents don't give much thought to certain issues until they start repeatedly slapping us in the face. This week, my cheeks are pink from being slapped with images of sexed-up girls that are reigniting the debate about the sexualisation of young girls.

First came 5 year-old pageant princess and star of the television show Toddlers & Tiaras, Eden Wood, with her excessive makeup, spray-on tans, fake eyelashes, outrageous Las Vegas showgirl style outfits and provocative dance moves appalling Australian television audiences.

It's worth noting that sexualisation of young girls and the provision of eye candy for paedophiles aren't the only issues here. A 2007 study by the American Psychological Association linked premature emphasis on appearance with three of the most common mental health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression. NOT a road parents should be actively sending their daughter down.

Lands' End catalogue

 

Next came an outcry over the overly sexualised image of a lollipop sucking, hiked-up shorts wearing young girl in a suggestive, leggy, adult-like pose featured in this Lands End catalogue flogging school backpacks – which Momalog is  working hard to have pulled.  Factor in the two boys either side of her exchanging "knowing glances" and it becomes near impossible for any mother to deem this ad appropriate. Head on over there to support her cause if you too would like to see this disturbing advertisement axed.

Thylane Lena-Rose BlondeauAnd just when you thought the portrayal of young girls couldn't get any more provocative and inappropriate, along came the French Vogue fashion spread featuring 10 year old model, Thylane Blondeau, sprawled out on a tiger rug, wearing a full face of make-up, skimpy cutaway clothes and adult-size leopard print spike heels, staring vacantly into the camera. And another shot of her wearing nothing on top but beads covering her nipples. How in the world could that be considered an age-appropriate photo of a 10 year-old? It's so NOT!

To French Vogue I say this:

You are not marketing to paedophiles. You are marketing to women, many of whom are mothers of young girls. The idea of photographs of our daughters in these suggestive poses and in this attire (or lack thereof) being published in a glossy magazine horrifies us. These highly sexualised images are deeply disturbing. If the point of this shoot was to inspire us to purchase the featured products, boy did you miss the mark. These images are repellent.

The fashion industry's thirst for young child models has bordered on creepy for a while now, but this crosses the line to repugnant.

To the parents of these young girls I say this:

What are you thinking? Why aren't you protecting your daughter's childhood innocence instead of selling it?

The sexualisation of children – especially young girls – needs to stop. I don't want my daughter to view these kinds of images (which are becoming harder and harder to avoid) and think that imitating these sexed-up girls is appropriate. It's not. Even more importantly, I don't want young men thinking that this is what young girls are all about. It's not.

Which side of the fence are you on? Do you find these portrayals of young girls offensive?



Warning About Child Sex Offenders – Protecting Or Scaring The Hell Out Of Our Kids?

By Cecilia On August 1, 2011 6 Comments

child sex offenderSexual molestation of children is absolutely THE most vile thing in the world to me. When I hear stories of child sex offenders being "dealt with" by other inmates in prison, honestly, it pleases me. They are monsters and they deserve it.

What doesn't please me is that for every abhorrent child molester in prison, hundreds more are lurking around us, and among us, looking for opportunities to do unspeakable acts to our children that will result in them being emotionally and psychologically scarred for life.

As parents, it's our job to protect our children from these sexual predators. Unfortunately, many parents think that if they do the basics like keep a close watch over their children in parks and other public places, and don't let them wander the streets alone, their children will be safe from falling prey to paedophiles. Sure, doing these things is a good start, but there is more to protecting our children from predators than this.

child molesterWhy? Because (as discussed in this myth-busting article about child sex offenders) the majority of child sex offenders aren't strangers lurking in the bushes or driving around in cars looking to kidnap an unsupervised child.

They are people you know. And they are not always adults.

They are people who regularly spend time with your child.

They are people your children have a trusting relationship with.

They master manipulators who know exactly what to say and do to charm your child into becoming a victim of their depravity.

Keeping a close eye on your kids at the park is not going to protect them from these types of sexual predators.

What can you do to protect them?

Discuss it with them at an age-appropriate level. Knowledge is power. Giving your child knowledge about the kinds of things paedophiles typically do and say to children during the "grooming" process is giving them the power to identify, resist and protect themselves against becoming a victim of abuse.

But therein lies the controversy. How much is too much to tell your child about sexual predators at certain ages? At what point does telling them enough to protect themselves cross the line to scaring the hell out of them?

Without providing any graphic details to her, I started discussing these issues with my daughter at the age of 4 – regularly. First saying simple things like: "Only YOU are aloud to touch your private parts." Then stepping it up to things like: "No matter what anyone says to you, even if they say don't tell mommy, it's very important to tell me if anyone tries to touch your private parts." Along with things like: "Sometimes bad men and bad ladies (emphasis on it's not always men) try and steal kids away, so don't go close to strangers in cars because they might try to pull you in and take you away."

If ever she put herself in vulnerable positions, I would re-iterate these warnings in an effort to get my "be careful" message through loud and clear. The most extreme step I've taken to get the safety message through to her was the day I discovered her sitting at the end of our driveway busily building a pretend campfire – with her back to the somewhat busy road we lived on at the time. It would have been incredibly easy for someone to grab her. And I decided to prove this to her.

I snuck around the other side of the house onto the sidewalk and approached her from behind. In a matter of seconds I bent down, spiraled one arm around her waist, covered her mouth with my other hand, hauled her up off the ground, took three steps backward, and then released her.

It all happened so quickly that she didn't even have time to be scared. The look on her face read pure shock. All I said to her was: "You're very lucky it was me who did that to you, not somebody else." Then I took her hand and led her inside the house.

This got the message through loud and clear. Fast forward 4 years and I know that now more than ever….

Last weekend, my 9 year-old daughter and her friend were happily playing school teachers out the front of our house at the top of our driveway. All of a sudden my daughter came tearing inside the open garage door, up the hallway and breathlessly informed me that a car had pulled up out the front. "Yeah, and…" I said as her bewildered looking friend caught up with her. "It's weird, come on!" she said dragging me up the hallway by the wrist to go and suss it out.

As we walked back out through the garage (my daughter hiding behind me, clinging to me) I saw a car with the rear passenger door closest to our driveway open, and man lurch back into the driver's seat and speed off without bothering to close the back door. Very suspicious.

My daughter's friend still didn't have a clue what all the fuss was about.

I asked the girls if he had said anything to them, to which my daughter replied: "Noooo, we were already inside." Which I could tell by the tone of her voice and the expression on her face really meant: "I wasn't sticking around to see what the possible child abductor had to say… What planet are you on woman!"

"Well, he could have been just visiting the neighbor or something, what made you come running inside?" I asked.

"He drove around the court once and then came back and stopped." she replied.

I was so proud of her at that moment for being aware enough to notice this, and for acting on instinct that something was amiss.

To those naysayers who would admonish me for being too profuse in the warnings I have given my daughter about child predators, I say this:

I truly believe that had my daughter's friend been playing alone outside that day, she would not have gone home safely to her parents that afternoon.

Parents, please take a moment to consider whether your child is informed enough to protect themselves against child predators. In the same situation as above, would your child end up inside with you, or in the back seat of a child predator's car?

Do you think discussing the risks associated with child sex offenders does a young child more harm than good? At what age do you think it is appropriate to begin having these types of discussions with your child?



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