These parents taught their kids how helpful Police can be in an emergency a little too well!
Part of teaching our kids about safety and dealing with emergencies includes how to call the Police or other emergency services for help. Unfortunately, what some children fail to distinguish is what is an emergency in the eyes of the Police, and not just their frustrated little toddler brains.
Here are some of the better gems we’ve heard:
- “I remember when I was young, my brother called the Police because Mum put salt on his eggs. Even though he asked her to. I don’t know what he was thinking they would do.”
- “My son proudly called me at work to tell me he’d seen a prowler take something from the front step, so he had called the Police (Mum was in the shower apparently.) It was a basket of shirts, and the ‘prowler’ was lady from an ironing company who had been by to collect them for ironing. Despite trying to undo his call, we had an Officer around 11pm that night.”
- My son developed a phobia of water when he was around 12 months old, so shower time was always fun. But it all escalated a year or so later when he bolted into the study as we were trying to get him to wash, picked up the phone and called 000 because we were ‘torturing him.’ That was not a fun conversation to have.”
- “My son didn’t make a phone call, but we had a particularly bad morning that culminated in my ten-year-old, who not being allowed to take the front seat (safety first!) as he wanted, stormed off down the road refusing to get in the car. We drove ahead for a few hundred metres so he could blow off some steam walking it off – it was a very quiet street. When he caught up to us, sat in his seat, complaining bitterly. He declared leaving him like that was not ok, and I had to take him to the Police so he could report me. Just so happened we were driving past one at the time, and as luck would have it, there was a free parking space right out the front. I drove in and encouraged him to go and report my ‘crime.’ Needless to say, he declined to do so.
- “We had a random stranger call the police ON our kids once – they were fighting out the back, and just as I’d gone to break them up (you know how you go to the loo for two seconds and all hell breaks out?) one pulled the other's hair hard enough to pull chunks out and they screamed bloody murder. A random passer-by looked over at our yard (he couldn’t see in to see what caused the screaming), and ten minutes later, I had a knock at the door and there were two police officers standing there. Awkward, but I am grateful they rang – it’s good to know people still care!”
It's important to teach your kids what the Police are really there for
The last one is a great example of what the Police are there for – to protect the public. But it’s important that we not only teach our children when and how to seek their help, it’s just as important NOT to teach them Police are there to parent or punish them. So if you’ve ever told your children “the Police Officer will come and take you away” when they are behaving poorly, it’s time to stop.
“No Police Officer would want to be used as part of the discipline process for young children. Mum or dad telling a naughty child that they will take them to a Police Officer can destroy any positive relationship between a Police Officer and a child,” says Bernie Durkin, Executive Manager of the Community Engagement Division, WA Police.
Sarah Jessica Parker (mom to three son James and twin daughters Marion and Tabitha): “As a working mother high heels don’t really fit into my life anymore - but in a totally wonderful way. I would much rather think about my son than myself.”
“I can confidentially say that no Police Officer would want to be feared by young children, and in fact, they would want the opposite. They would hope that they would feel comfortable with a Police Officer and not be afraid to approach or speak to them if they wanted help.”
As well as dealing with criminals, Durkin says policing is far broader than many realise. Police are required to preserve peace, protect life and property and assist with community safety. How does this apply to children?
As a friend of your children’s mental health, I worry about how the skewed message that all strangers are to be feared pressures parents, who are already devoted to their children’s safety, into feeling they must prepare their young children, even their preschoolers, to manage in a world where stranger danger headlines books, public service announcements and videos as though it were an inevitable fact of daily life.
“Say your child got separated from you at a large community event such as the Royal Show or a sporting event. They should be trained from a young age to look out for a Police Officer to assist them if this ever occurred,” says Durkin. If you’ve been using Police Officers as a ‘big stick’ with your kids, however, in the above scenario, your child is more likely to feel reluctant to seek out a Police Officer, which could ultimately increase the chances of the child’s safety being further compromised.
Set Smart Limits
In short – they’d rather hear about their homework woes than overhear you threatening your kids with Police intervention! Though ideally, they’d just love you to teach them the many important jobs Police do in their day to day role and give them a little Spiderman-worthy respect.