Practicing Safety Rules

Research shows kids are more likely to remember rules and skills if they keep practicing them. Here are some suggestions for how to do this.


Review your family’s private body parts rules frequently, and remind your child that:

  • It’s never your fault if someone else breaks the Touching Rule.
  • Never keep secrets about touching.
  • It is never too late to tell about a touching problem.


To practice the Always Ask First Rule, ask your child to show you what he or she would do in the following situations:

  • What would you do if someone you know offered you a ride home?
  • What would you do if you were in the park and someone you don’t know asked you to help look for a lost ball or a puppy or kitten?
  • What would you do if your coach wanted to give you an unexpected present?
  • What would you do if a neighbor wanted you to go to his house and have a snack?

Remind your child that the rule applies even if the person is someone you both know. As your child gets older, the rule can be adapted to “always check in” so you know where they are and who they’re with.

Use “What if?”

You can practice family safety rules by playing the “what if” game. Start with general safety situations, such as:

  • What would you do if your friend wanted you to play with a lighter?
  • What would you do if someone wanted you to hold a gun?
  • What would you do if someone dared you to jump in the river?

Have your children act out what they would do, actually saying the words that mean no and then telling a trusted adult right away. Have your children use their assertiveness skills (see below) and practice the words they would use to tell. Ask “What else could you say?” “Who else could you tell?” When your child is comfortable with general safety situations, extend the practice to include touching situations. Make sure the situations are concrete, and include people they know as well as people they don’t. Here are some examples to get you started.

  • What would you do if a bigger kid who lives in our neighborhood wanted to play a touching game with you?
  • What would you do if your cousin grabbed your private parts while playing a game with you?
  • What would you do if someone you knew and liked broke the private body parts rule?

Kids can come up with “what if” questions too. Accept any of their suggestions and discuss and practice what they should do. These ideas can help you learn what situations your child might be worried about.

Teach Assertiveness

Teach assertiveness at the same time as you practice “what if” situations—it will help your child resist unsafe situations more effectively. Assertive behavior includes the following:

  • Standing up tall with your head and shoulders up
  • Facing the other person
  • Speaking in a calm, firm voice
  • Using respectful words

Learning to be assertive takes time. Whenever your child is practicing saying words that mean no, encourage him or her to be assertive. Let your child know which parts she or he is doing well and which parts need more practice.

Is your child’s school teaching safety rules? Is the staff trained in how to recognize and report signs of abuse, and do they have the right policies and procedures in place to help keep kids safe? If not, recommend the Second Step Child Protection Unit.