Practical tips for parents

August 12, 2005|by KRISTIN WILSON

Here are some tips provided by martial arts instructors and social service workers to help educate kids on being safe and what to do when they feel threatened:

  • Be aware of where children are playing and who is watching them. Teach children to be aware of their surroundings and to recognize areas and situations they should stay away from. Teach children how to get to a safe place quickly if they feel unsafe.

  • Let kids know that they should scream and make as much commotion as possible if someone is threatening them. Even if an attacker has a weapon, make sure kids know they should always try to get someone's attention.

  • Don't scare kids into believing every stranger is a bad person. Do role-play with children to help them identify what adult behavior is appropriate and what is definitely inappropriate.

  • Create a password system. Passwords can be a very useful tool to give a child security that the person who is talking to them is supposed to talk to them. They are also helpful for guardians such as day-care workers who might not know all the people in a child's family, says Jonathan Burke, owner of Apex Martial Arts in Orlando, Fla.

Develop a password and instruct children to ask for it if they are unfamiliar with a person who says they know them. The password system can be used when a child gets lost, Burke says. Teach children how to send a page in a store by asking for help from a store security guard or clerk. Instead of paging a name, have them page a part of the password.

  • Try this self-defense move called the "Wrist Turn with a Palm," found on Burke's DVD, "Cardio Defense." If someone grabs you, strike them with the palm of your hand by hitting them in the mouth and nose area, Burke says. A strike to that part of the face is painful and often makes the eyes water. Also remember that the thumb and forefinger "is the weakest part of anyone's grip," Burke says.

  • Teach children who are "safe" people. For example, teach them to identify a security guard in a store, or a teacher in a school.

  • Believe kids when they tell you that someone makes them uncomfortable.

  • Don't put a child's name on their clothing, book bag, lunchbox or anything that would be visible, suggests Mike Bolding, owner and master instructor at the Allstar Martial Arts centers. Abductors are often more successful when they can call out a child's name.

  • Talk with adolescents, especially girls, about different things they can do if someone makes them feel uncomfortable, says Barbara Feldman, owner of Blue Heron Martial and Healing Arts. Give teens the tools to feel that they can defend their personal space if they need to.


Many martial arts studios and training gyms offer self-defense courses. Some are geared especially to children or teenage girls. Here are two that offer such classes:

  • Blue Heron Martial and Healing Arts, Charles Town, W.Va. Call 1-304-725-3756.

  • Allstar Martial Arts. For Hagerstown studio, call 301-733-1900. For Martinsburg, W.Va., studio, call 1-304-269-9559. On the Web at

There are also multiple videos available that teach basic self-defense techniques. Jonathan Burke, owner of Apex Martial Arts in Orlando, Fla., just released a DVD, "Cardio Defense," which teaches self-defense moves while giving a heart-pumping workout. Burke says the videos would be ideal for parents to watch with children. For more information about the DVD, go to

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