Building trust

by Jay Bender

With the holiday season in full swing, many of you will be spending considerably more time in stores, often with kids or grandkids in tow. And let’s be honest, most children would rather be doing anything  other than shopping with a grownup, which can lead to some frustrated outbursts or full-fledged tantrums. Dealing with upset children is one of the most challenging aspects of parenthood.

If you ask just about any cop, they’ll tell you about one parenting technique that usually falls a little flat: It’s when a parent uses you to frighten their children, often by pointing at a police officer in uniform and saying “If you don’t stop crying, that policeman is going to take you to jail!”

Now, a police officer must have a thick skin. We are often the target of vulgar tirades and threats, so while comments like this come with the uniform, there is a deeper issue here than some hurt feelings. When this happens to me, I usually will take a moment and talk directly to the child. I always say “Oh, I won’t take you to jail. We only take bad people to jail, and you’re good, right?” That’s usually met with a shy nod and some sniffles.

I don’t take that time because I want to feel better, but because I think it’s vital that children see police officers as people to be trusted, not feared. Within minutes of the encounter, that child could become lost in a crowded store or mall, or they might need a police officer for an emergency. Do you think that child will go to a person they fear? Or a person they trust?


2 thoughts on “Building trust

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  1. SPD does an EXCELLENT job having a positive presence in our community, what with the Coffee with a Cops, Safety Town, DARE, hanging out at the schools (especially the high school), etc. My 7-year-old son LOVES seeing officers, regardless of the city we’re in, and always runs up and gives them a high-five. We have SPD to thank for that!!!

  2. Once, in a mall, my mom and I saw two cops walking towards us and my child. My mom and I both instinctively said, “uh oh, here come the police. You’d better be good.” The police officers simply said, “don’t make us the bad guys.”

    At first I was defensive and said “we’re not”, but then I thought about it for five to ten minutes after the encounter realizing, “he’s so right!”

    Never again will I talk about the police to my children in a manner that implies their little childhood attitudes are bad and that the police will come get them. Such an eye opener!

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