• March 10, 2017
Instructors Jessie and Debbie Hart combine self-defence, social skills, and silliness in their children’s classes. Photo: Paige Janssen
A West Auckland Taekwon-Do class is urging concerned families to take a new approach when preparing children with self-defence.
Reported abductions in West Auckland and a sex offender being released in Hobsonville have galvanised parents into action, with some enrolling their young children in self-defence classes.
A public group called Keep our Children Safe West Auckland has been created, and community meetings have been held with police.
However, concerned parent Tamaki Leeland, in a Facebook post, said this was not enough.
“We may get to the stage of having to buy tasers and weapons for our children if something doesn’t change,” she wrote.
Co-instructor of Hart Taekwon-Do (TKD) Barry Hart said parents need to prepare their children for situations through safety education, and while the idea of stranger danger is good in theory, it does not safeguard children.
“Unfortunately most of the children abused are not abused by strangers,” he said.
In classes, children from the age of three are taught about protection against adults both known and unknown, dealing with bullying, and health and fitness.
Parent Tracey Pacheco said teaching kids about self-defence is more than just the punches and kicks.
“They will sit down and talk about what can happen with strangers, what to do when they are approaching you, how to be healthy, how to communicate, what to do when you are feeling angry and hurt.
“You may say it is not relevant to them yet but these are the foundations they build upon. The building of these social life skills is really important as well as getting them to have fun.”
Head instructor Debbie Hart said safety education should not be taught in a fearful way, but in a way to raise awareness.
“The minute you start talking about strangers, you get fear, you get kids asking what is going on. You don’t want that. You don’t want them to be scared,” she said.
“Confidence is 99 per cent of it. Walk with your head up and your shoulders back.”
New Zealand police have steered away from the stranger danger concept since the late 1980s.
Instead, in a statement they encourage parents to talk with their children about keeping safe and put in place family safety guidelines.
They also advise children to “remove yourself from the uncomfortable situation, no matter where it is from”.