Have You Told Children Not to Talk to Strangers? Why You Must Change That!

When a Child is Lost They Must Find One of the Millions of Strangers That Will Help Them

For every stranger who would harm a child, there are millions who will not.

After years of telling children not to talk to strangers, Gavin de Becker recommends teaching children how to find a safe stranger for help.

The goal is to change the children’s focus off strangers and on to behavior. For every stranger who would harm a child there are millions who will not, so strangers are not the issue.

Mr. de Becker says, “I suggest that you pursue opportunities for your [child] to communicate with strangers in appropriate environments. Children thus learn what feels comfortable and what does not.”

“Such learning can be aided by a parent who watches a child communicate in a restaurant or store and then discusses the encounter afterward,” explains de Becker.

Ask the child, “What did you think when that guy stood so close? I thought he seemed strange; I wasn’t comfortable with him.” Or, “I felt safe with that man at the next table who talked to us; did you”

Mr. de Becker explains, “One mother I know regularly encourages her seven-year-old son to approach strangers, giving him small challenges such as, ‘Can you find out what time it is?’ or ‘Can you get directions to the nearest frozen yogurt place? Then she stands back a bit and observes as he selects a person to ask. Afterward, they discuss why he chose who he chose, how the exchange went, if he felt comfortable with the person he spoke with, if that person was comfortable with his approach, and so on. Her son has safely rehearsed all kinds of encounters with people.”

“Could it be that this boy who actually approaches strangers in public is less likely to be a victim than someone taught never to talk to them? Absolutely yes,” concludes the expert.

Have you told your charges not to talk to strangers?


  1. Gavin's books are great and I had to buy two copies of each book, one for myself and one for my bosses. In his books he explains how to predict violence and what signals to recognize and learn to avoid them. I like that he says that in certain danger situations you can trust your instincts to get them out of it.I think the idea of finding the right stranger is so important! Lifegaurds, police officers, security gaurds, nurses, teachers, are all people kids can ask for help!

  2. Good point. We should beware of adult strangers that approach a child to get directions or to see their cute kittens. No adult needs to approach a child or ask a child for directions. But once lost it may be wise to get help from people that can help. When we lost a charge at an amusement park the lifegaurd helped find us, which was a good stranger.

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