My kids are average American middle-class kids. They need to know how to take care of themselves in a tough world. How do I help my kids become street smart? How can they learn what they need to learn?
Before a child can become street smart they MUST KNOW BOUNDARIES. They must know what their own personal boundaries are and how to express them and enforce them. Street smarts is about spotting thing that aren't right or don't feel good and you can't do that if you don't have a starting point - ie Boundaries.If you aren't sure about what boundaries are, check out Dr. Henry Cloud's books on Boundaries. He has lots, but the orginial "Boundaries, How to Say Yes, When to Say No," is excellent, as is the book on teenagers and boundaries. When you know what you will, won't tolerate or accept in terms of how people treat you, THEN you can work on street smarts. One of the things criminals, cons and bad people do is test you to see if you are a pushover, easy mark or victim. People with boundaries are tough to begin with because they can't be guilted or manipulated. Crooks tend to look for victims and people with no boundaries or weak boundaries. So, teach your kids boundaries!!! VERY IMPORTANT!!! Then you can move on to the next phase....introducing them to the world. Bank tellers learn to tell counterfeit bills from real money, not by handling counterfeit bills, but by handling REAL money. When you work with the real deal, be it money, jewelry, antiques or people, it's VERY easy to spot the fakes, and to know when something is off. I grew up in the mean streets of Memphis, fighting gangs, and saw three people killed in front of me by the age of 10. I learned street smarts like most kids - surviving what life threw at me. Have your kids take a good self defense class - martial arts of ANY kind. The idea is NOT so much to learn to fight (although that's important), but interview the instructor and see if they are "street savvy," or wise. Keep looking until you find one you think is good. Next, expose your kids to as many people and experiences as possible. This means flea markets, opera, sports, malls, greasy spoon restaurants etc. The goal is to have them see and experience a wide range of people. Spend weekends at a homeless shelter volunteering (but keep a VERY close eye on the kids and don't let them out of your sight. Make sure they know boundaries and to say no to unwanted advances.Have them interact with people as much as possible. As in...watch them, but have them go up to a person you think is safe and have them ask the person for the time. Start with women, mothers, etc and then move up to men, teenage boys etc. once they're comfortable. Have them place and pay for the order at a fast food restaurant while you watch from a few feet away. Work up to it of course. Have them purchase a bus ticket. Go with them and ride the public transportation system while letting them figure out the route and the bus. Talk about this and troubleshoot things. If they get stuck and can't figure it out, have them ask a stranger or the bus driver for help.Go people watching. Make it a game. Try to guess what different people do for a living. Ask them what clues they saw that made them think the person was a office worker vs construction worker. Talk about how people dress, sit and act. Get some body language books and read them together. The idea is to get them to THINK about what they're feeling, seeing and experiencing so they become comfortable with their environment whatever it is.Play the "energy" or "vibe" game. Sit or stand next to someone and see if you get a "vibe" that the person is good or bad or neutral. After you both "get a vibe," go somewhere at a distance and try to figure out why you felt that vibe. Was it the way the person dressed, or acted, or looked, smelled or responded to you? Again, this is all about awareness raising.Play the "what if" game. "What if our car broke down right now, right here. What would we do?" Role play different scenarios - like a stranger coming up to them at school, in the store, at a softball or soccer game and telling them they were a friend of yours and to go with them....what should they do? Who should they trust and why, or why not? Talk about the shows they watch on tv. Ask them what they would do in similar circumstances. The idea is to teach, expose, train and train and train. Practice all the time, everywhere.Street smarts is not knowing how to win a fight. It's about knowing how to avoid a fight, avoid danger and to keep out of harm's way by knowing when to shut up, when to run, when to leave a situation. Make it OKAY to be rude. Many women are raped and children kidnapped because their parents and society insist on "being polite" even when it feels wrong. I often refuse to get on an elevator or go into a store if something or some one in the area makes me uncomfortable. I've been yelled at because men were offended I didn't want to get on an elevator with them and we were the only ones there. Wise choice I made obviously!!! I don't mean rude in name calling, but that it's okay to turn and run if someone or something scares them or makes them uncomfortable. They don't need a reason other than it doesn't feel right.When we teach our kids (and ourselves) to trust our intution, then we become street smart. It's never too late to learan either. It's not rocket science, but it does take daily practice, being aware of your environment and learning what and who you CAN trust so you learn to spot the counterfeits. You're both going to make mistakes, but that's part of learning. Make it fun and it will become a bonding experience for you both as well. Good luck!