I have just had what I would call.... a horrifying experience at my local grocery store. Standing in an aisle, looking for a coupon in my organizer, a little girl comes skipping down the aisle about 20 feet away from her mother. I glance over and notice that she's trying to skip the "cracks" in the flooring so I say "you do that very well!" and go back to my coupons. This child got halfway back to where her mother was, and the mother says "Maribell (or whatever the child's name was, I couldn't understand because I wasn't really paying attention) you know you don't ever talk to strangers". Seriously!? As I walked by this paranoid mother, I politely told her that her daughter didn't speak to me, that I spoke to her. The mother said "she knows she isn't allowed to talk to strangers" and laughed uncomfortably. Again, seriously!? Perhaps a 40+ woman at the store with no make-up, a large coupon organizer and a froo-froo purse looks like someone you're not allowed to say hello to as you pass by with your parent NEXT TO YOU.
Now don't get me wrong, we have 5 grown-up (ok, 2 are mostly grown-up) children who have been taught to be safe, cautious and are successful people. But, please, what kind of paranoia results in guarding your child from accepting a polite 'hello' at the grocery store? Statistically, studies point to trusted adults in a child’s life (parents, step parents, relatives, babysitters, coaches, ministers and priests, teachers, etc.) as overwhelmingly responsible for child sexual abuse and abduction in the US, rather than the rare "stranger danger" situation which is so hyped and promoted. And adults are much, much more likely to be murdered by a lover or spouse than a stranger. According to the NSPCC, "assaults involving contact by strangers are very rare".
This situation I found to be just flat out rude. And honestly, a disservice to the child. It's no wonder we live in a world of selfish, care only about ourselves people.
Teach your children to be safe, yes, absolutely. No question about it. Teach them to never, ever go with a stranger. Teach them to be in a little shell with no contact at all with people? Teach them to ignore the polite and kind word when you're nearby? I'm going to say heck no!