My favorite radKIDS drill is this:
Ok kids. School is done for the day and you are waiting for a ride home. When the ride gets there, it is a friend of your parents that feels icky to you. Do you have to ride home with that person?
This brings a resounding NO! from the kids, who have repeatedly been given permission to have their own feelings about the adults in their lives.
But the person is on your approved list of possible people who can pick you up after school!
We don't have to!
Ok then. The school principal is walking past you right now. We are going to have you tell the principal you have a problem. But the principal checks and says the person is on your list and you have to go with them. If you feel unsafe who is the most important person right then?
They know they are, because we have told them that if they have an emergency then nothing is more important. And they love knowing this. It empowers them to get their needs met. So then we teach them the super glue drill. They tell the principal that they can't go with that person and they sit down and wrap their arms around the principal's legs and refuse to let go until they are assured they don't have to go with that person.
The kids love this drill. They beg to do it again. And yet I have not heard of any kid using that technique just to be funny or disruptive when they didn't need it.
I cried the first time I saw the drill when my son was taking the class. This is what it looks like when you empower kids to feel safe. You give them an understanding of how to navigate the adult world of "stop making a fuss over nothing." You give them permission to be a pain in the ass.
radKIDS was put together by a police officer who was tired of showing up to a crime scene and finding kids who had been abused. He started with an idea that is the antidote to child sexual abuse: you don't get to. We all tell the kids this. Nobody gets to hurt you. Nobody gets to trick you. You don't get to hurt anyone one else UNLESS they are trying to hurt you and then YOU CAN STOP THEM. And we teach them how to stop them. We give them strikes which counter the typical grabs that predators use on kids. They practice them for 10 hours and at the end they get to practice them on an instructor dressed up in a red man suit.
You might think the class is scary for kids. We ask them questions like "what is your radKIDS plan if someone puts you in a car?" We send them home with homework to develop two routes out of their bedroom in case of fire. We show them how household chemicals often look exactly like tasty beverages. We let them practice what to do if they come across a gun. We give them language like "good touch" "bad touch" and "uncomfortable touch". We ask them "what if you tell someone and they don't help you?"
In one of my classes we were talking about radKID plans. A boy who had been a little too funny and distracting raised his hand and seriously told me that he sometimes has dreams where something bad is happening and he can't speak or move. It's sometimes like that. The ones who goof around have the big questions. It was like everyone stopped breathing waiting to see how I was going to answer him.
I told him I have those dreams sometimes too. "But what if that happened if someone was really trying to hurt me?"
The reason we spend 10 hours having the kids practice dialing 911 and crawling under a blanket of smoke to safety and running from the tricks that we use on them to give them the experience of saying no to manipulation is to let their bodies have an understanding of what to do instead of freezing. This is what I told him. All the kids in the class understood that and they were possibly the best trained group of radKIDS I have seen yet. They were so excited to do the simulation. They were really engaged in cheering for the other students. They want to know when they can come back.
I think kids worry about this stuff without us talking to them. We don't help that at all when we talk about staying away from strangers. Complete strangers are very rarely the perpetrator of sexual violence against children. When you give kids the permission to talk about the scary stuff and you give them the tools to make their own plans you give them the ability to feel empowered. When you tell them if their safety is at stake they can make as big a scene as they need to make, you take away much of the ability of predators to work in secrecy. When you give them the language to discuss how a sexual predator makes them feel they have the words to tell you if someone is hurting them.
You do something else too. You begin to undermine the idea that kids are at the bottom of a hierarchy. We know how much we value our kids, but they often have no idea that they are encouraged to make a scene if they are scared. We know that if they get into a dangerous situation we don't care if they ditch their backpack, but they are weighted down with the worry that if they ditch it their parents will be mad at them.
Even though no one wants to talk to kids about a subject like this, our silence empowers the predators. radKIDS gives the power to the kids. radKIDS training is available to kids from pre-school age through 12. I encourage you to tell all the parents of children you care about about the program.