York County officials are using a narrowly avoided tragedy as a moment for parents to teach their kids about stranger danger.

This week in Rock Hill, South Carolina, a strange man leaned out of his car to repeatedly ask a group of young schoolchildren whether they wanted to see his puppy. Rather than approach the vehicle, the kids refused. One of the girls called her mom, who reported it to the police, according to WCNC.

While police are still looking for the suspect and trying to understand whether his intentions were harmful, the town is using the kids’ quick thinking as a teaching point.

Screenshot/WCNC

Trent Faris, a public information officer, jumpstarted the “stranger danger” conversation, saying that it’s important for parents to educate their children before the school year starts.

Child abductions can happen in a split second if a child is not properly taught how to protect themselves. Dearly previously reported on two boys who avoided kidnapping by alerting an adult when a strange man was making them feel “uncomfortable” by baiting them with “free hats and fidget spinners.”

Alerting an authority figure when something feels off is a growing parenting concept revolving around teaching children to be aware of “tricky people.”

The method is a take on “stranger danger,” where children are taught “which strangers they should avoid, and which are safe.” Creator of Safely Ever After, Pattie Fitzgerald highlights that an example of a “safe adult” is one who won’t ask a child for help.

Screenshot/WCNC

Mom, Jodie Norton, was relieved when her son reported to her that when he and his brother were approached by strangers, he opted out of helping them and said:

“Mom, I knew they were tricky people because they were asking us for help. Adults don’t ask kids for help.”

In addition to having a shared code word among family members to use if they are in an uncomfortable situation, Faris advises parents to relay to their children to avoid strangers at all costs. After seeing instances of strangers trying to convince children “they were sent by the child’s parents to pick them up,” Faris added:

“You need to tell them that if they don’t know them 100 percent — like your child has not had a full conversation with that person — they are not to trust them at all.”

With a new school year looming around the corner, it is important to relay safety tips to young children. According to WCNC, police reported that predators are known to lurk around bus stops.

As Kids Health reports, while “kids are rarely abducted from school grounds,” those who are reported missing have usually experienced a “misunderstanding with their parents about where they were supposed to be.”

Furthermore, avoid dressing children in clothing sporting their names, as they are more likely to trust those who know their names. In addition, it is important to teach children to:

Never accept candy or gifts from a stranger.

Never go anywhere with a stranger, even if it sounds like fun. Predators can lure kids with questions like “Can you help me find my lost puppy?” or “Do you want to see some cute kittens in my car?”

Know that adults they don’t know should never ask them to help or to do things for them.

Run away and scream if someone follows them or tries to force them into a car.

In the case of an attempted abduction, children need to know to fight back. Independent Journal Review reported on two sisters who may not have survived a trip to the woods had they not remembered their father’s wise words:

“Kick them in the shins and run and tell your parents. And scream like ‘stranger danger’ or something.”

Their quick thinking and refusal to be kidnapped without a fight saved them.

The Crime Safety and Security (CSS) website advises children to practice the “windmill” technique, which is:

[S]uddenly swinging the whole, straight arm from the shoulder in a large circle to break his grip.

Unpredictable movements prevent abductors from getting a good grasp on a child. In addition, according to CSS, children should, “thrash, fight, bite, and scream,” repeatedly. Potential kidnappers will fear a public space and will likely hide in the shadows once a child creates a spectacle.

Approximately 2,100 missing child reports are filed daily in the U.S., Kids Health reports. Teach your children how to protect themselves.

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