'Most people are good people. And we want our girls to be outgoing and have conversations with people,' she explained.
Parents often tell children not to talk to strangers or not to take things from people they don't know. This is instilled in them from a young age to avoid getting into any sort of danger. However, a mom on social media thinks differently. In a video that's gathering quite a bit of attention online, she says that she teaches her daughters to identify strange behaviors instead of the traditional "stranger danger" method.
Life coach Marcie Whalen explains in her Instagram video why she asks her daughters to be wary of strange behavior instead of stranger danger. "Most people are good people. And we want our girls to be outgoing and have conversations with people," Whalen says in the viral clip. "And so instead of talking about strangers, we talk about strange behavior."
Whalen explains that she believes it is much more beneficial to teach children how to recognize strange behavior since kids are most often abused or hurt by people they already know. "My girls understand what to look for, whether it's in somebody they know really well or somebody they don't know at all," she continues in the video. "It's categorized as strange behavior and therefore the red flags go up."
For example, Whalen's children know that if an adult asks them to keep a secret from their mom and dad or asks them to go somewhere without their parents - that's strange behavior.
According to National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), less than 1% percent of child kidnappers are non-family people. Callahan Walsh, an executive director told TODAY that he completely agrees with Whalen. "At the National Center, we don't teach stranger danger, either. We know that child safety is much more nuanced than just a rhyming phrase," said Callahan. "There are inherent flaws with that strategy."
He said that one of the major problems is when a child is asked, "What does a stranger look like?" They almost always describe strangers as someone who is "ugly" "mean" or "monster-like." Also if a child is abducted, it is most often a trusted stranger such as a woman with children, a security guard, or a store clerk that will come to their aid. "You want to have conversations with your kids about trusted strangers because those trusted strangers can help rescue them," Callahan said.
What Whalen calls "strange behaviors" are referred to as luring tactics at NCMEC. "We've seen that time and time again where someone will ask a child for directions and then grab them," Callahan said. "Same goes with, 'Hey, I've got candy in my car,' and 'Help me look for a lost puppy.'" He added that 80% of kids are able to get away by kicking, screaming, and drawing attention to the situation.
Whalen has garnered more than 648,000 views since uploading the video on Tiktok. Comments are still pouring in about the issue. "Stranger behavior teaches kids to recognize when they feel uncomfortable & to look for help. Trust your gut, if it feels strange, it probably is," wrote one person. Added another, "In fact, ‘Strangers’ can often help if you find yourself in need of help!"