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Smart Hearts for Kids
A lesson for parents and their children

by Pam Coronado


Who is a stranger and what do they look like? A stranger is simply a person you do not know. They are normal people, so they look just like normal people.

Are all strangers dangerous? Nope. You probably have been taught not to talk to strangers, but I believe it's more important to learn the difference between nice strangers and dangerous strangers. In fact, from now on, I'm not going to even call them dangerous strangers, I am going to call them kidnappers.

Are kidnappers always men? No. Women can be kidnappers too.

I know how to tell a kidnapper, they look creepy and scary, right? Nope. They can look like normal people too. The only way to tell a kidnapper is by the way they act.

How do they act? A stranger might say hello to you while you are standing in line at the grocery store with your mom. It's okay to be friendly with a stranger like this because you are safe with your mom next to you. The older man who lives down the street might wave to you on the way to school while he is watering the grass or sweeping the driveway. He doesn't want to hurt you either. It's okay to wave and say hello. In fact, if you were ever being followed, this would be a good house to run to for help.

Kidnappers act differently. They might come up to you when you are alone and start talking to you. They ALWAYS try to get you to go away with them. That's the easiest way to tell a kidnapper.... they want to go somewhere with them. That is not okay. This is the person you need to say "NO" to and get away from as fast as you can. I will tell you more about their tricks to get you to go with them in a minute.

Is there another way to spot a kidnapper? Yes. If someone you don't know starts being very friendly and they seem really nice, but you get this funny feeling in your stomach or suddenly feel goose bumps on your arms or neck. That's your heart telling you to be careful. Kind of like your own built in smoke alarm. Your heart is very very smart about your safety. Be sure and listen.

Wouldn't it be better to just stay away from all strangers? Usually, that is a good idea, yes. But what if you get lost and need some help? You may have to ask a stranger to help you find your parents. You must remember that there are many more good people in this world than bad people.

Shouldn't I ask a police man or security guard if I get lost? Well, the problem with that idea is that there might not be a policeman around. It's a bad idea to go off to far looking for one either. Security guards can't always be trusted as much as policemen.

Well, then who do I ask for help? If you are in a store, you can ask someone who works there. If you are at the fair or Disneyland, you can look around for someone who works there or for another mom who makes you feel safe and ask her to help you.

Going to School:

Try not to walk to or from school alone if you don't have to. Find a friend to walk with or a sister or brother. If you feel scared walking to school, tell your parents that you don't feel safe. If you ride the bus and you are the first one at the bus stop each morning ask the person who takes you to the bus stop to wait with you. Tell an adult you trust when you feel frightened. It's important to work something out with your parents so that you can stay safe and they can still get to work on time. Maybe your parents can meet the people who live in a house close to your bus stop and ask them to let you sit on their porch until other children arrive. Maybe your neighborhood can arrange for adults who are home to be outside while children are walking to and from school each day. Also if your bus driver makes you uncomfortable, be sure and tell someone this.

Tricks and Lures:

What did you mean by kidnappers use tricks to get you to go away with them? Oh yes, kidnappers can be very tricky people. But kids are much smarter than them. Once you know the tricks you won't be fooled. Besides you have a smart heart helping you to stay safe.

Will you teach me the tricks? Absolutely!
1. The Goodies Trick: That means the kidnapper will offer to give you something if you go with them. They might tell you they have pokemon cards, money, candy or even a new puppy to give you if you just follow them to their car. This is a trick. How many times have you been walking down the street with your dad and he sees a kid walking alone and says "look at that cool kid. I think I'll give him a dollar"? No way!! The only reason someone who doesn't know you is trying to give you stuff is to trick you into GOING WITH THEM. And remember what I told you about people who try to get you to go with them? That this must be a kidnapper.

What do I do if someone tries this trick on me? Say "NO". If this person tries to keep talking to you start yelling and hollering like a crazy person. FIRE, FIRE, FIRE and run home or to school or a friend's house as fast as you can. They will probably be running away scared too! Remember that kidnappers don't want to get caught, so if you make lots of noise, you will scare them.

But what if they chase me anyway and try to grab me? They probably won't. But if they do, start waving your arms around in big circles while you are yelling FIRE, FIRE as loud as you can. Now how are they supposed to grab you when you're waving your arms around like that? Besides, they will decide you are just too much trouble!! And you know what? Once you learn all of these safety rules. You WILL be WAY too much trouble for a kidnapper and too smart for them too!!

2. The Game Trick: A tricky kidnapper might ask you to play a game with them. They might offer to give you a piggy back ride or play ball on the other side of those bushes. While it may seem fun to be getting all of this attention, you don't know this person and they are trying to get you to go somewhere with them. That's what a kidnapper does.

3. The "Can You Help Me" Trick: Sometimes someone you don't know might ask you to help them find their lost puppy. Or they might drive up next to you and ask for directions. They might even ask you to help them carry stuff to their car and offer you money. Uh oh. Your heart should be beating faster and telling you this person is trying to get you to go somewhere with them or get you close to their car. Sure sign of a kidnapper!! Don't fall for this trick. It's okay to be rude and say "no". Adults don't need your help anyway. If they really need help they can ask another adult.

What's so bad about going to their car? Remember that a kidnapper can only hurt you if they can take you away somewhere. The best way to do that is in a car, right? So don't go to the car and do half of their kidnapping job for them! No way.

What if I am walking and a car pulls up next to me and I can't hear what the person inside is saying? It doesn't matter what they are saying, BACK UP. No matter what, do not go any closer to the car. In fact, it's best to run away.

Where do I run? Run toward the back of the car. That makes it hard for the driver to chase you. The driver will have to turn the car around before they can chase you, by that time you can be long gone. Run home, or the closest house where someone is home or to school. If you are really feeling brave, you can take a peek at the license plate in the back of the car and help police catch the kidnapper.

4. The Friend Trick: Some kidnappers are really tricky. They might call you by your name and pretend to know you. They might even say their know your mom or dad and tell you it's okay for you to go with them. hmmmm. This might seem confusing at first but if you stop and think for a minute. Here is a person I don't know, even if they are telling me they know me and they know my name, and they are trying to get me to go away with them. Yep, it's a kidnapper all right. Maybe they saw your name on your backpack, or lunch or clothes.

How do I know they don't really know my mom or dad? This one is easy. Ask them for your parents name. Better yet. Ask them for the password.

What's a password? You know how computers have passwords? You should have one too. Make up a secret word with your parents and give it to only the people who you are allowed to go with.

5. The Emergency Trick: This one is a dirty trick. A person you don't know might run up to you in a big hurry and tell you that your mom or dad has been hurt in a car accident and they sent them to come and get you and take you to the hospital to see them. Yikes. This is scary. It's important to stay calm and ask for the password.

What if they don't know the password? Simple. DON'T GO. Say "No" and get away from this person quickly.

6. The Authoritarian Trick: What's an authoritarian? It's an important person like a policeman or security guard or someone with a badge. Some kidnappers will dress up in a fake uniform with a fake badge to try and trick you into going with them. They might tell you that you have done something bad and that you must follow them. Remember to stay calm and listen to your heart. It's just another mean trick! You don't have to obey to all adults if you feel that something is wrong, especially adults you don't know. Smart Hearts kids are too smart to fall for this trick!

Fighting Back:

Every Smart Hearts kid is strong enough to get away from an adult. No matter what happens to you or what situation you find yourself in, there is always something you can do to get away. Always remember that you do not have to be a victim and you won't be.

What if someone jumps out of a bush or something and grabs me? There are lots of ways you can get away from an adult. First and most important thing to do is start yelling and hollering, remember? FIRE, FIRE, FIRE. If the kidnapper grabs you by one arm it's easy to get away. Don't try to pull away because that will just make you tired. Instead take your other hand and grab his thumb and pull it back so your arm can be free and you can run away.

What if he grabs me by both arms? Remember that his thumbs are weaker than your whole arm. As fast as you can, pull your arms toward his thumbs and he will lose his grip. Keep yelling FIRE, FIRE and run away.

What if he covers my mouth with his hand? Bite him! If he is close enough to cover your mouth then he is close enough for you to kick him in the lower part of his leg or stomp on top of his foot. As soon as he lets go... FIRE, FIRE, FIRE.

What if he tells me to be quiet or he will hurt me? You don't have to obey a person who is trying to hurt you. The reason he wants you to be quiet is so that no one will hear you and come to help you. Remember he doesn't want to get caught. So yell your head off!!! It's very important not to go with a kidnapper in their car.

When I am teaching a Smart Hearts class and I tell someone to be quiet or I will hurt them, the whole class starts yelling so loud they almost blow the roof off of the building.

What if he grabs me around the waist? Don't try to pull away because this will just make you tired. Instead drop down and twist. If that doesn't work, stomp on top of his foot as hard as you can if he is behind you. If he is in front of you, take your hand and make it flat, like a table. Use the part where you wrist and hand are connected and smash him in the nose. Believe me, he will let go. If he has a hold of your sweater or jacket, slip out of it and run and yell. The biggest mistake is being quiet.

What if I'm on my bike? It's important not to ride your bike around in the street. That makes it too easy for a car to pull up close to you, open the door and grab you. Stay on the sidewalk as much as possible and try to only ride with friends. The same rules apply as if you were walking and being followed. Go in the opposite direction the car is going. Ride to the closest safe place, jump off your bike and run inside. Remember to make noise too. I'm sure you know the word by now! If the kidnapper is walking and grabs your bike, jump off and run. Try to keep the bike between you. You can even use the bike to throw at the kidnapper so you can start running away.

In The Car:

Sometimes kidnappers are so fast they get you in the car before you know what happened. So now what? Remember that there is always something you can do to get away.

If the keys are not in the ignition yet you have a chance to grab them away from your kidnapper and throw them as far as you can. Now he has a big problem because if he goes to find the keys you can run away but he can't take you anywhere in the car without the keys.

What else can I do? If you have a chance before he puts the key in the ignition you can tear a button off of your shirt and stick it in the ignition slot. If you don't have a button, you can try a dime, or chewing gum. Even breaking a stick off in there would work.

What if the car is already running and he throws me in the back seat and drives away? Climb over the seat into the front and start honking the horn. I know it seems scary to get too close to your kidnapper, but it's your only choice if you want to get away. Pound on the windows if they are closed and yell help to passing cars. They won't be able to hear you, but they will be able to see that you are in trouble and will call the police.

Should I grab the steering wheel? I mean, what if we crash? It depends on how fast you are going. If you are going kind of slow like on a street with houses and cars parked at the curb then you should grab the steering wheel and crash into one of them. This will make lots of noise so people will come running out to see what happened. Then you can start honking and yelling that you are being kidnapped. You might even get a chance to jump out of the car.

What should I do if we are going too fast? Make a pest of yourself. Keep trying to honk the horn and make noise. Remember don't make his job easy. Make him wish he had picked a different kid!! If you come to a stop light with a car in front of you, jump down on the floor and press down on the kidnappers foot on the gas pedal. This will make you bump into the car in front of you. Once you get another driver involved, I know, that they will get the license plate number in case the kidnapper tries to drive away. Soon all of the police in the city will be looking for your kidnappers car. If he does stop, then you have a chance to get away.

What if he puts me in the trunk? Have your parents teach you how to kick out the back tail lights from inside the trunk with your feet. Once you do that, you can wave your hand out the hole. Someone will see that and call the police.

So remember your job is to make your kidnapper miserable. Show them that you are not going to do what they say and that you will not be a victim. You, after all, are a Smart Hearts kid!


Pam Coronado: infant safety specialist Pam Coronado is the mother of three school-aged children and a licensed private detective who specializes in cases of missing and abducted children. For more information about Pam, please use this link.

You can visit Pam's site at http://www.pamcoronado.com
or email her at IamPam@earthlink.net

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