Stranger Danger: Teach Your Kids How to Fight Off an Abductor by @SafetyMom


It’s every parent’s worst nightmare – a child goes missing or is abducted. The thought sends chills up my spine. It makes me a little crazy when I read the statistics that “only” 115 children are the victims of “stereotypical” kidnappings. These are abductions carried out by strangers who either killed the children or held them for ransom.

That might seem like a small number, but for any one of those 115 families it’s devastating. As a mom who lost a child to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, statistics don’t really mean much. I was in that small minority. And, similar to childhood abductions, you never think it’s going to happen to your child but unfortunately it can.

Would Your Child Know What to Do If This Happened?

A 9-year-old was almost abducted as she walked home from school with her friend. A man pulled up in his car, got out and grabbed the girl who was walking a few feet behind her friend. The girl began kicking and screaming until the assailant dropped her, got back into his car and sped away.

A few months ago an attempted abduction was caught on video surveillance camera at a Walmart in Georgia. A man came up to a 7 year-old girl whose mother was just a few aisles over, picked her up and tried to take her out of the store. Fortunately, she too screamed and kicked until he put her down and fled.

Both these stories highlight the importance of frequently discussing stranger danger with your kids and also – here’s the important part – teaching them what to do if someone does attempt to grab them! All too often, experts focus on not scaring kids too much by talking about the consequences of abduction but rather how to prevent one.

Don’t get me wrong, these are important points such as never leaving them alone for an instant in a high traffic area, reminding them not to speak with people they don’t know and not allowing them to wear clothes or something else with their name on it. But this is synonymous to talking to them about drowning prevention but not practicing what to do if they indeed are drowning.

What I mean is, kids should be enrolled in self-defense courses at a young age and they should be taught how to fend off a potential abductor and inflict some serious pain. Statistics show that of those children who are abducted and ultimately murdered, 74 percent are dead within three hours of the abduction.

It’s hard to remember that the abductor is most scared of being caught. When he says, “stay quiet and you won’t get hurt,” exactly the opposite will occur. It needs to be instilled into kid’s heads that they must scream, shout, kick and anything else as this is their best chance for survival.

I had the opportunity to speak with Marc Klaas, the father of Polly Klass who was taken from her bedroom and eventually murdered. As Marc says, the most important thing is keep fighting to prevent from being taken from your home. Once you’re away from your home your chances of survival diminish greatly.

Yes, abductions by a family member or someone else the child knows are a much greater percentage of the abductions. In these instances, it’s hard for a child to understand that going off with this person is equally dangerous.

Set up a code word set up with your child and remind them it’s not OK to go off with anyone, even their uncle or babysitter, if they don’t say the code word. If someone other than you is picking them up from school and this has not been pre-arranged, tell your child to refuse to leave the principal’s office until you have been called and it’s been approved.

When should you start having these conversations and giving them self-defense lessons? As soon as possible. Abductions happen at any age.

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About Author

Alison Jacobson is a life coach for women who are ready to move past their fears, rediscover happiness on their terms and courageously transition out of unfulfilling marriages and careers. Visit her at


  1. I beg to differ.  I raised three children and am now a grandparent.  The research and paper I did while in University suggested that the damage Stranger Danger training leaves is farther reaching.  This well meaning training does not give young children any effective skills to fend for themselves, but it does guarantee that many will become fearful and anxious in their daily living.

  2. I like this article and Alison is right on!  When I talk on childhood abduction I frequently cite the NISMART-2 study in which less the 1/2 of 1 percent are your stereotypical stranger abduction liker we saw with Jessica Lunsford and Polly Klauss. As Allison mentioned, who cares what the stats are if its your child. Children do need to be taught what to do in stranger situations. If your parents, teachers or self defense instructors don’t share this valuable information, who will? Allison is very much on with this topic and I will take it a step further in stating the the predator has 2 fears, getting caught and getting hurt. Without being redundant I agree with what she says here. Man vs Woman is overwhelming. Child vs Adult is beyond overwhelming, thats all the more reason we need to educate and empower them. The comment on the bottom cites that type of training may traumatize the child. It very well could, if in fact you have sought out he wrong instructor. 

  3. Alison PentlandAllisonSo many have such a difficult time looking outside the box. I agree that the wrong approach by the wrong instructor will cause this effect. However, proper instruction by educated and well minded instruction will minimize or remove your concern. I am not talking about your local traditional martial arts school but your well educated and trained professional that has spent time studying the type of crime. I recently spoke with Inside Edition and recreated the Walmart attempted abduction.
    Steve Kardian

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