Let’s keep our children safe

str2_db_1106_4cols                                  Providing a safe environment for kids should be a top priority.

It is so depressing to read the news these days. What is going on? Why are so many of our children falling prey to psychologically disturbed people? Every day you read about children being kidnapped and abducted.

And these incidences don’t even seem to be planned. They happen on the spur of the moment. A man sees a child being unattended and the next thing is, he kills her. You have to be totally deranged to do something like that – to take a child’s life for no reason at all.

Just yesterday I was being interviewed by a magazine, during which the writer asked me: what is the most important thing for your children? I replied, without any hesitation: safety. What’s more, I don’t think it’s a big issue only in Malaysia, but all around the world. So what can we do as parents?

For one, we can be more vigilant, and not let our kids out of our sight in public places. But more than that, we can teach them how to look after themselves. An article I read online described what I thought was a pretty creative way of doing so by a mother.

While wanting her young daughter to be aware of dangers around her, this mother did not want her daughter to feel afraid of men or strangers, so that her child would not be affected psychologically, thus damaging her future relationships with the opposite sex. It may put her off love and marriage – which, in a way, is quite valid.

Taking a cue from the movie Life Is Beautiful, about a Jewish father who invents ways to keep his son happy in a concentration camp during the Holocaust, she decides to use a more gentle way to teach her daughter how to protect herself. In the movie, the father told his son that everything in the camp was just a game, with rules to be followed. If he didn’t violate the rules, he would get a tank. This white lie allowed the boy to live through camp with his innocence and happiness intact.

Likewise, the woman online used fairy tales we are all familiar with to teach her daughter the rules of self-preservation. Her daughter loves Barbie dolls, or any princess character. So, on her sixth birthday, the mother bought her a Princess Barbie, saying: “It’s not easy to be a Barbie princess, you must follow all the Barbie rules. Otherwise, no matter how beautifully you dress, you will not qualify.”

Of course, her daughter wanted to know what the Barbie princess rules were. “I will tell you a story every day. In these stories, there are different rules you can learn,” the mother replied.

One of her stories was The New Snow White. In this story, because Snow White is aware of the differences between men and women, and although she is a good friend of the seven dwarfs, she bathes and gets dressed separately, and makes sure her door and windows are shut before she changes her clothes. She also sleeps in her own room.

Also, this Snow White does not really eat the poisoned apple given by the witch. She secretly changes it for a good apple, and only pretends she has been poisoned. She changes the apple because she knows a princess cannot eat food given by strangers.

After hearing this modified story, her daughter commented: “I always knew Snow White cannot be so stupid to die again and again every time I read the story, otherwise the prince will not love her.” (How cute is that, I thought!)

Another adapted story was Cinderella. Why does Cinderella need to rush home by midnight? Not because she is afraid of losing her beautiful clothes and shoes, but because she knows that good girls should not be out until too late. And because she insisted, the prince was deeply touched not only by her beauty, but also her self-esteem and good sense, which were perfect qualities for the next Queen.

This wise mum has edited more than 10 fairy tales with her own imagination.

Through them, her daughter has learnt many different rules to be a princess. She did once ask: if a prince is supposed to protect his princess, why does she need to learn how to protect herself? The clever mum replied: the prince will only appear when the princess turns 20.

So the princess must first learn how to protect herself. She must learn how to live gracefully. If she doesn’t want to protect herself from harm, the prince will not marry her.

We don’t have to follow this mum’s princess method of teaching our children self-preservation, but we do have to find a way to get our kids to know all the rules of safety, and the younger they are when we start, the better. I, for one, will certainly try to do this for my children.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to read about this story of hers (in Chinese), check it out at http://peopleinsider.blogspot.com/2014/05/blog-post_221.html.

> Award-winning fashion designer Melinda Looi tries to marry consumerism and materialism with environmental consciousness. She believes her greatest creations are her children. Send your feedback to star2@thestar.com.my.



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