Ever since becoming a parent, the attention I pay to parents being able to defend their children has obviously heightened. I have had it on my mind to write a book about this for quite sometime. In fact I have already began laying out the outline (which I have already changed 5 times) and expanding on it a little bit. Now, I just have to stop dragging my feet and do it.
What many don’t realize is that, when you talk about personal protection of self defense for any age group, it goes well beyond physical skills. Don’t get me wrong, physical ability is a HUGE part of the formula. However, personal protection also involves mental preparation, emotional preparation, know how to treat common life threatening medical issues, awareness, etc etc…
So when we discuss protecting ourselves or protecting our kids, we have to be more holistic, in our approach.
In 2017 (according to the CDC) the top five causes of death in ages 1-9 were unintentional injury, congenital disease, heart disease, homicide, and cancer.
When we hit age 10 suicide begins to creep in and replace congenital disease.
This trend then holds out all the way through age 44.
Now, if the kids are already born, then we don’t have much control of congenital disease other than the measures to take afterwards. I am not a doctor, I cannot speak as well to those specifically.
That leaves cancer, heart disease, unintentional injury, suicide, and homicide.
Now, I am not here to tell you exactly how to raise your kids. I am simply highlighting the main causes of death, and then attempting to focus on what we are in control of. So let’s take a look.
Unintentional injuries, are well… unintentional obviously? Or are they? Honestly, it depends. However, a lot of managing these situations comes to risk management, proper obedience, teaching respect, setting boundaries, and enforcing those boundaries. It’s very basic math. The riskier a situation is, the less focus on safety, the more likely things go bad. Teaching respect (for both people and situations), boundaries, etc… helps to lay out the rules. Your kids don’t know, unless you teach them.
That said, if you shelter them from risky situations, you are doing no good. A child that has never seen a firearm is more likely to end up injured/dead from a firearm, then a child that was properly introduced to them, how they work, the rules around them, and how to use them. Children are curious by nature. If you don’t show them how to handle situations, then who will? Do you want them to find out from someone else? Or on their own?
Exposing them to the situations is the best way to educate them on what to expect. Show them how to build things, how cooking works, introduce them to people, how to treat people, things to avoid. It can be frustrating for sure, but the earlier they are exposed to these things, the better they will adapt, the more aware they will be, and the safer they will become.
Now, in the event that an accident happens, because let’s be real, they do. You aren’t off the hook. As a parent, you should have to ability to do all practical medical interventions needed to keep your kids alive. Have you taken CPR/First Aid classes? Were they age appropriate for your children? Caring for a toddler is not the same as an adult. Have you taken trauma care classes to learn how to stop massive bleeding in children? Do you carry the appropriate tools to do so? Are you physically fit enough to pick up a heavy object that feel on your child if needed? What about the ability to physically carry them to safety if needed? Or the the mindset to stay as calm as possible to communicate with responding medics/fire and help them get to your child faster.
These aren’t optional skills… these are required. You are responsible for your child’s care until others can show up to help. You do not want to be sitting their watching your child die, waiting for medics if there is anything possible you can do to help them.
You can’t be there all the time. Does your babysitter have these skills? What are policies and procedures at your daycare?
Things to think about.
Cancer and heart disease can come down to uncontrollable circumstances for sure, but if we focus on what we are in control of it comes down to managing them or attempting to prevent them by making healthy choices for your children when it comes to nutrition, activity, and environment. Suddenly the decision to constantly feed your kid pop (or soda, or coke pending on what region you are from), candy, and other junk starts to mean a bit more than just “taking the easy route.” It starts to be about keeping them alive.
I am not saying they can’t enjoy life or you need to be keeping them from everything. Instead, make smarter decisions most of the time. My kids love ice cream, they enjoy chocolate, and other goodies, but they don’t get them everyday and more importantly they actually like veggies, and different types of meats and seasonings. My wife makes it a point to introduce them to different foods and let them explore their pallet. We don’t force them to eat strict, we simply make them try everything and decide what they like. Teach your kids to enjoy real food. Educate them on why bad foods will kill you in the long run… it is important to mention that diabetes is not far down the list.
We want to protect them right? Stop looking at these decisions as convenience or inconvenience. Being nice or being mean. Being their “friend” etc… It’s our duty to make the hard decisions and prepare them to live healthier lives, create good healthy habits.
In 2017, 517 kids between the ages of 10 and 14 took their own lives. Let that sink in for a second. The fact that a child that young even considers that as an option, is terrifying. Emotional/Mental health is complex. There are so many fields of thought on the area. I don’t expect every parent to understand the vast complexity to a T. That said, it is our job to understand just how important this is. When age 15 hits, that number jumps exponentially.
The ground work for this starts younger than we like to imagine. Every families situation is different. Every parent is different. Every kid is different. It is unfair to try to lay a cookie cutter approach to this… or any of these for that matter. From my research and experience, I look at a few basic areas.
Communication: This is so important. Do your children feel comfortable talking to you? This starts at an early age. Do you encourage them to express their emotions? Do you reprimand them when they do? We can cut this off in the most subtle ways sometimes. If you dismiss them at an early age, or just assume you know how they are feeling or their “intentions” it can create a perception to them that their thoughts don’t matter or you aren’t interested in them. This communication allows you the chance to help them navigate their feelings and events. Remember, they don’t know what they don’t know, and at that age they don’t know A LOT. By keeping those lines of communication open and positive, you can actually help them learn. Again, this isn’t easy, but it’s important to be aware of.
Emotional Vulnerability: Do your kids know it’s ok to be sad? Angry? Happy? These we are so obsessed with being “happy” that we tend to feel shameful or embarrassed about emotions. We forget that suffering is part of life. Every suffers at some point to different degrees. It’s the way the world works. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, if you accept that, you usually come out the other end better off. That said, if you bury your emotions out of shame or attempting to be the tough guy, they are bound to pop back up and bite you in the ass later on. Letting your kids know that it is ok to feel feelings and express those feelings is really important. This doesn’t mean the feelings are “right” but you cannot work through them, if you feel you aren’t allowed to express them.
Accountability: In the last section I mentioned that suffering is part of life. That’s so important for people to get… people of all ages mind you. Without suffering there is no happiness. With the understanding that life isn’t fair and suffering is inevitable to some degree, we are faced with the reality that I get to choose how to react to any situation. No matter what happens in life, you face the circumstances and choose how to act. You are in fact in control of your own destiny. That’s terrifying to most, but realistically it’s so amazing. Letting yourself and your kids push responsibility off on others, will not only set them up for failure in life, but takes control of their life away from them. If I am not in control of my life, what’s the point of living when I am dealt a shit hand? Bad situations may not be your FAULT but how you act next is absolutely your RESPONSIBILITY. You must teach them they are accountable for their actions, whether good or bad, and if you make a mistake, you get to correct it… but only if you choose to. Either way, you are in control of what happens next. No one can take that choice from you.
This brings us to homicide. Think about that, we are talking about protecting your kids and we have had to get through four HUGE topics before even talking about the physical encounter of violence. If you want to protect your kids you have to cover two bases: your ability to physically protect them and their ability to protect themselves.
This means that your job is not only to prepare yourself for a physical situation but to begin to prepare your children both mentally and physically for one.
Let’s start with us. Being out of shape is unacceptable. Fact. If you are insulted right now, then you needed to hear that. If you have a physical limitation, so be it. However, you should be doing everything you can to be as fit as you possibly can be. Your desire to protect your loved ones is potent, but being too slow to chase down someone running off with your kids, to weak to fight someone to the best of your ability… these are things you can control. You can increase your odds by being physically fit. If you decide not to, then you are in fact limiting your potential to protect those you care about. That is on you and no one else. With this physical idea, should come fighting skills. They don’t need to be fancy, but by introducing yourself to fighting, you begin to build the physical skills and confidence needed to help survive this fight. Learn to punch, wrestle, tackle. Learn to be aggressive and violent in action.
Mentally/emotionally, are you truly prepared to do everything in your power to protect them? I mean everything? Have you sat down and thought about the limits to which you would go for them? Would you kill another human if it meant keeping them alive? Could you take a knife and push it through flesh, feel blood on your hands, live with the trauma? It’s important to sit down and think about these things. Prepare yourself. Violence is a part of life. Have you accepted this or do you avoid it? People do bad things. These things can happen to you. Have you accepted this fact? If not, than you need to start taking this into account.
After you have the physical and mental stuff in check, then you can begin to supplement that with “tools” such as firearms, knives, blunt objects, etc… DO NOT rely on these for safety. Rely on YOU first then ADD THESE to the plan. If you decide to pursue a defensive weapon, get training. Don’t just assume it will save you. It won’t. You need to know when and how to properly use it.
Now, that we have addressed ourselves, we need to start introducing these same concepts to our kids. Certain things are not appropriate to introduce at very young ages HOWEVER, most things are great to introduce early. My son is three years old and knows how to properly apply a CAT Tourniquet. He doesn’t know why just yet, but he knows how. At that same age he understands the basics of defending his neck against chokes as well. He didn’t learn these skills in classes or over hours of training. He learned them by me showing him twice how to do the tourniquet and making it fun. He then proceeds to ask me randomly to put on the “black twisty thing” and I let him. He learned the choke awareness by 3-5 minute mini bouts of wrestling I do with him just having fun. Not only is he learning what it feels like to have someone try to impose themselves physically and how to respond, but I also get to teach him boundaries, when to stop, when it’s ok to push, and build a respect for those situations.
The point is we can start introducing children to life saving skills at very very young ages. That exposure will set them up for success in the future not just physically but mentally. Exposure to these things is important. As he gets older, the lessons will increase in frequency, intensity, and seriousness.
I cannot be there for my kids every moment of everyday. In the event they are on their own and have to face violence, they need to know how to handle it to the best of their ability.
Parenting is hard. It’s the most frustrating and rewarding challenge ever. If you want to protect your kids, and I mean actually protect them, take these ideas into consideration. Make some positive changes in your life. Lead by example. Show them what it is to be strong, vulnerable, healthy, hard working, fun, respectful, daring.
It’s on you. No one else.
Be good, train hard, stay safe.
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