Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Talking to strangers? Rewriting the rules of childhood

Long before Leiby Kletzky was gruesomely murdered in Brooklyn after the lost 8-year-old asked a man he didn't know for help earlier this month, I made sure my three kids knew my cell phone number my heart. Even the 4-year-old can rattle off the digits, but Leiby's death changed everything I thought I knew about stranger danger.

We teach our children not to talk to strangers, but — as in Leiby's case —sometimes they have to. After all, if they're lost, how are my kids ever going to be found unless they first approach a stranger to lend them a cell phone so they can call me?

 Perhaps, I realized — even as I wincingly told my kids that a boy my oldest child's age had been killed by a stranger — that “don't talk to strangers” truism needs to be revised.

I didn't tell my kids about Leiby's fate to scare them. I used it as an excuse to talk to them about strangers and how to interact with them. Because it's inevitable that they'll have to. My children don't have their own phones, so if they were ever lost, they'd have to ask a stranger for help. Look for someone in uniform is a tough concept for a 4-year-old to grasp; to her, a uniform could be a princess outfit. In fact, when recently discussing a fire escape plan for our family, I explained to her that although generally she shouldn't leap into the arms of muscular men she doesn't know, if one comes stomping through her house in the event of a fire, she shouldn't run and hide. It was all very confusing.


  1. josh werblowsky m.d.July 26, 2011 at 9:11 PM

    There is an updated report by the RCA at www.rabbis.org which,in my opinion is of important interest.

  2. The vast majority of people are decent and many people constantly rely on the kindness of strangers.

    Most likely this murderer was trolling -- looking for lost children. The odds that a child, on his own, would approach the very sort of person capable of doing this is statistically impossible.

    If a child needs to ask a stranger, teach them to ask a woman -- someone who looks like she could be a "mommy".

  3. Alternatively, there is ample reason to believe that this was NOT a case of 'stranger abduction'.

    Most objective people viewing the several videos available out there conclude the same thing. The obstacle that people are having is concluding that people really shouldn't believe everything they read.

    Why the authorities are hiding this fact from the public is an interesting chakira....and I hope that we can find out the real truth about his case someday.

  4. The NYC Police Chief and the Brooklyn DA both unambiguously state it was a stranger who never met him before and there was no sexual abuse or previous victims.

    Your conjecture compared to the NYC Police and DA is meaningless.


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