The Best Way to Teach Kids About Police?

This post was originally published at Technically, That’s Illegal.

My recent career as a mother has really changed my opinions about a lot of things.  I am determined not to raise my kids in a paranoid manner.  I cringed at my youngest today.  He was crawling around the library carrying pieces of their puzzles in his mouth.  Of course, this is normal behavior for a 9-month old child, which is precisely why I am sure that approximately 2.3 million other infants have done the same thing.  I have to tell myself that I’m fairly certain that none of those infants have life-threatening contagious diseases that I need to worry about.  I just let him go about his business as a baby.  He’s still alive at this moment…some four hours later.  Some people don’t even go to the library because they fear public germs.

Did you know that this fear of germs is more prevalent in the United States than other countries?  I haven’t done extensive research, but I do know that mysophobia is common in America.  I had some friends a few years ago who moved to the U.S. on student visas.  They told me that the people who greeted them as they entered the United States for the first time would shake their hands, say, “Welcome to the United States,” and then wash with hand sanitizer.  How much snobbier does it get?  If that’s the message us Americans send to others — that they are probably diseased and we’re not — why bother shaking their hands at all?

Anyway, I am determined to teach my kids about acceptable and unacceptable forms of communication and touch so that they will feel comfortable talking to most strangers.  If I am successful, they will know how to handle the unlikely event that someone does mean to do them harm (rather than avoiding all “strangers”).  This is the philosophy espoused by Free Range Kids, and I am indebted to them for their continual coverage and encouragement on these issues.

So, what about cops?  I was raised with Sesame Street.  They showed me “the people in my neighborhood,” one of them being a friendly police officer.  The meme then and now is that we should trust the police, especially in the case of emergencies.   Here you can see Sesame Street promoting the idea that a police officer could help a young child find their way home.  Unfortunately, in this day and age, the police officer would probably dream up some charge for the mother or father that happened to somehow lose track of their kid.  If you don’t believe me, check out this article about a woman facing child endangerment charges for making her son walk to school.  Or, this one about a guy who was also charged with child endangerment for riding with his kids on his bike down a one way street (for a very short distance).  Then, there’s this one the parent who was reported to CPS for allowing her child to ride her bike to school.  These cases occur all the time.  What was normal (yet still unnerving) in the late 1970s (a child getting lost), is now grounds for criminal charges.

So, how to I reconcile my increasing distrust of the police with my desire to raise my kids not to be paranoid and worried all of the time?  I still don’t have an answer for this. My kids are still quite young.  I’m hoping my mind comes up with a solution to this problem as time goes on.  I assume my stance will generally be to ignore the police as much as possible.  But, that’s becoming very hard to do with a 2-year old who is obsessed with their cars, lights, and sirens.  Welcome to cognitive dissonance.



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