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In the decade since dropping my daughter off for her first day of kindergarten, things have changed. Yes, Columbine took place in 1999 while I was still in college, and there was even a school shooting way back in 1840. Even so, things have changed.

Despite living in good areas in different states during her school years, we’ve gone through three legitimate lockdowns involving active shooter threats and one report of a “man with a gun.” Then there are the bomb threats and general mayhem.

My theory? People are out of control. We live in an age of entitlement and participation trophies with little-to-no consequences for the vast majority of kids. Then there’s the mental health crisis, which I can tell you is real. Child psychiatry remains an undervalued and poorly allocated service, much to the frustration of the doctors themselves.

Some schools started in mid-August while others didn’t start until today. In the spirit of back-to-school I asked some experienced people in the industry to weigh in with advice for kids of all ages. Here’s what I heard . . .

“Keep your eyes out of your phone and be aware of what’s around you.” – Michael Kusenko, Precision Rifle Shooting competitor

“Speak up. If you see someone being bullied or something wrong, tell someone.” – Rachel Fry, long-time gun owner

“Playground: If you can’t see the teachers or monitors on the playground, they can’t see you if you need help. No one has the right to physically touch or harm you. It’s okay to protect yourself when you need to; violence isn’t a bad thing or word when applied appropriately.” – Ben Holsen, firearms instructor and owner of Kinetic Solutions Training Group

Firearms instructor Ben Holsen of Kinetic Solutions Training Troup

“That is your child; not the school’s, not the state’s. Yours! It’s up to you to educate and prepare them to negotiate life’s hazards.” – Warren Wilson III, owner Defensive Training Services

“[Parents should perform] real-time risk assessment of classrooms, concealment versus cover training, window positions, escape routes, rooms with two doors, the kind of stuff most of us do without thinking about it.” – Mike Hartley, long-time gun owner and Second Amendment activist

“My daughter is 15 now. Besides situational awareness…if she doesn’t feel safe, say in a school lockdown, she can leave. We will deal with the school later. Our police station is less than 1/2 mile from the school, so [I feel] running to the station is a legitimate option. One good thing is most [gun owner] friends’ children know what a gunshot sounds like. I think a lot of children don’t, so they don’t understand if it’s right outside their door.” – Chad Wallace, Firearms Insider

“Like my grandpa always told me, ‘always wear shoes you can run in [and] fight in.'” – Jeff Carroll, retired LE

“Many [parents] don’t think about posting back-to-school pics with their school info out there. I’ve seen many posts and can tell what schools people send their kids to. This could be a recipe for disaster if the wrong person sees it. Stranger danger would know what the student is wearing, what they look like, and can say ‘your mom/dad told me to come pick you up from school today.’ People post a ton of info about their kids online [including] their whereabouts.” – Beth Baca, Board Member 1 Million Moms Against Gun Control

“Parents, teach your kids that while they’re at school, all the rules of who can do and say what to them still apply! No one has the right to hurt them or touch them without their consent.” – John Correia, Active Self Protection

John Correia of Active Self Protection

“Advice from a teacher’s perspective: tell your child to drop their stuff! Belongings are not important if there is any kind of crisis. I have seen way too many [kids] waste time trying to gather up stuff before leaving.” – Em Diti, firearms instructor at Armed Citizens Resources

“A child has no defense mechanisms which is exactly why I think a trained adult should be armed to protect innocent kids.” – Ken Whitmore, prior service Marine

“The child has to know they may get in trouble with the school [for taking their safety into their own hands] but they won’t get in trouble with you, the parent.” – Josh Amos, prior service Marine

“Always have a recent pic of your kid – haircut, etc. Put tracking [apps] on their phones. Put a tracker on them [such as] in a book bag. [Tell them] do not pick fights with gangs. And if the time comes to fight for your life, don’t stop, don’t give up, no matter what.” – Jamie Everts, gun owner, retired US Air Force

“Walking to and from school keep at least one earbud out so you can hear what is going on around you.” – Ben Holsen, firearms instructor and owner of Kinetic Solutions Training Group

“We tell our children – [ages] 16, 8, and 5 – to obey the school’s rules, but also to use situational awareness and good judgement. If something wrong, uncomfortable, or terrible happens they should: Avoid. Escape. Defend – in that order, every time! And that might mean they need to run or fight when they’re ‘supposed’ to be quiet or hiding. [Also] our kids know where our designated meetings points [are] should this ever occur.” – Beth Alcazar, Associate Editor at USCCA

“[When advising children to escape/run] make sure the child understands all threats are not INSIDE the building.” – Em Diti, firearms instructor at Armed Citizens Resources

“Don’t go into a place you can’t get out of – cheating to [get out or stay out] is okay.” – Tom Walls, former LE and firearms instructor at Firearms Academy of Seattle

Tom Walls, firearms instructor at Firearms Academy of Seattle

“Keep your hands to yourself. Mind your own business. Don’t tattle unless it’s life-threatening. Don’t spread rumors. Be compassionate for weaker kids. Stand up to bullies.” – Tim Crawford, retired police Sergeant and US Army veteran, gunsmith

“I have something to add I always make sure I teach my kids: I don’t let them say [anything] condescending or mean-spirited. That ultimately is part of the problem. Some people are just flat-out broken and legitimately damaged at birth. Most people, though, lash out because they are taught they are worthless. It all begins with valuing human life and treating people with respect. Kids can be mean. My kids will not be. My children will be taught to stand up for themselves and not to back down when they are right. [Remember] compassion and empathy are not cowardice or weakness.” – Ken Whitmore, prior service Marine

“Let your kid know you love them every day.” – Bobby Gillespie, prior service US Army, 11B

Obviously advice varies by the child’s age and maturity, but one thing remains true: teach your kids to be fighters. Teach them to form a fist and throw a proper punch. Train them to use secondary self-defense tools as they get older. Teach them and tell them how to watch for a magazine change and methods for diverting a gun’s aim or hindering firing if they have no option to run, but are faced with the moment no parent wants to imagine. Teach kids about firearms safety and how to operate different platforms.

Use a safe word for pickup by having children memorize a simple yet unique word all safe adults in their lives will also know and use as a password with your child should they ever need to pick your child up in an emergency situation. Make a plan for a meeting point; make an escape route plan with older kids.

Teach your children to be solution-focused, careful thinkers. Mold them into problem-solvers and leaders rather than mindless followers.

Tell your kids surviving a life-threatening emergency means keeping themselves alive, not going back for their friends. Use the airplane analogy: if the plane is going down you have to put your own oxygen mask on first. You must be alive in order to help others. If this sounds selfish to you, well, we’ll agree to disagree. I want my daughter alive.

Preparation is not paranoia, it’s simply wise awareness and readiness. Paranoia implies unjustified, baseless fears; readiness is a rational way of preparing for incidents that could occur in your child’s life. There is no reason to scare your child. Assess their maturity level as they grow and work with them accordingly. All kids are different but all kids can be taught to fight and survive.

The potential advice is endless. As I sit writing this my daughter is back in high school for her first day back after summer. She’s a sharp kid. She knows that although I am less than two miles away I can’t reach the school fast enough if something happens; she knows LE is miles away, too. But you know what? My daughter is a fighter.

What words of advice would you give parents and kids going back to school? What do you tell your own kids?

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  1. Home school, or at least internet based correspondence school. Then they’ll be protected instead of at the mercy of “people” like Randi Weingarten, Scott Isreal and Scot Peterson.

    • I’ve found that removing a child from the system to homeschool them is also a fantastic lever to use against the system. When you take them out of school, the school loses money. Twice each day they take roll call, and that roll call represents the amount of funds the school district gets for that day, X $ per student present, per half day.
      This is why they are so adamant about attendance. Its why they want your child there until noon, even when they come down sick while in school in the morning. They care nothing for your child, s/he represents only dollar signs to the administration.
      Take them to home school, the school district loses money. A powerful lever. Until I did so, the principal had no respect for me as a parent whatsoever. Would not listen to a word I spoke. Would not answer the simplest of questions, except with some iteration of: what the hell do you know, I’m the one in charge here. The moment I showed up with the paperwork to homeschool, the entire administration almost literally threw themselves at my feet to suck up. I brought my son back the next year(We don’t have school shootings in Montana, but we do have lots of ignorant government sheeple. It is important for kids to learn social interaction. Not easy to do that at home), and they couldn’t have respected me more. From then on they were all nice as pie.
      Everything is about money. As always, your ‘dollar'(FRNs) is your only real vote.

  2. Good advise, but how about: Let’s not project our darkest most irrational fears on our kids. Walking, biking or driving to school is far more dangerous than attending school, but that’s not a reason to stay home, curtains drawn.

    Sure, keep your wits about you, do all of the things mentioned above to be a good human, but let’s not instill fear in our kids that bears no rational resemblance to the actual risks of growing up. Look at the actual causes of death in kids according to the CDC.

    Cancer and car accidents are the leading causes of death in school age kids. By far.

    • The advice is in addition to, not instead of, the classic parenting that addresses most of the content on the chart.

      As one deeply involved in such matters, I can tell you the normalcy bias is alive and well with the parents and teachers regardless of what you might think.

    • And we prepare by taking precautions to mitigate those risks. This is no different. The best way to avoid all of these risks is to home school. No drive or bus ride or walk to school. No bullies. And no crazies can attack your children without you being present. It’s all statistics until it happens to you! Plus they’ll actually get an education instead of being indoctrinated in the socialist/communist/liberal/democrat way. Win-win!

      • You sincerely believe that very little harm (as you imagine it) will befall them if they never leave the imagined safety of mom and dad. But will you release them into the wild someday? Or try to keep them in their original packaging forever? (Spoiler: you can’t. You’re causing more harm than you are avoiding.)

        You have an obligation to RAISE your children, not to protect them from every possible thing. Raising kids involves risk- risk of harm, risk of disappointment, risk that they will make a mistake, risk that they will one day disagree with you. Maybe even exercise some free will and become a liberal! If you can’t handle that, I guess you have no choice but to keep them buttoned up in their little world.

        • And not only all that, but a child homeschooled through all the grades will never learn social interaction with others. Most will remain stunted children all their lives. As one with Seventh Day Adventist relatives(big on private country schools), I’ve seen it firsthand.

  3. School safety advice is don’t tolerate bullies, really?

    It takes shooting our kids to make us teach how to be decent humans?

    That makes it sound like the shooters were right.

  4. My theory is that when governments did little but police and military and the post office and DMV, they didn’t interfere with daily life. Sure, you had to waste a day once in a while with car registration and drivers licenses, but day-to-day, they left everyone more or less alone. You could mind your business.

    As government got more and more into our business with pollution control, car safety standards, affirmative action, endangered species, over the top land zoning, occupational safety, student loans, politically correct energy policies, proposition 65 cancer warnings in California …. the list goes on and on … we could no longer ignore government. Now it was in our face every day. Look at highways with all those ridiculous yellow arrows warning you that the road ahead might not be straight. You cannot get away from government.

    The more intrusive government gets, the more it is actually worthwhile trying to steer government instead of minding our own business. I’d say that line was crossed for the majority of us 20-30 years ago. Now we’ve got bakers forced to bake cakes or pay $135K in fines, florists forced to arrange flowers, and barbers who have to spend a year full time in school just to cut hair for a living.

    What is the point of trying to take care of your own life and mind your own business when half the population has their own ideas on how to do that, and they do a pretty darned good job of getting politicians to back them up?

    That’s why people don’t mind their own business; It is unprofitable and ultimately darned near impossible.

      • The 19703 and 1980s had crap cars from all the mileage mandates and pollution controls. As typical for government regulations, they were too complex and poorly thought out. There were many ways energy efficiency could have been handled, same for reducing pollution, but the methods chosen were the most bureaucratic possible.

    • 30 years ago? Try 85. 1933 is the year we got government induced famine because the 73rd congress and President Concentration Camp thought burning food would solve the great depression.

  5. “bomb threats” Not new. I suspect HS “bomb threats” originated with 60s hippiegen. Otherwise known as “get out of school early” card. Neutered school admin allow and facilitate the BS.

    • Yeah we had bomb threats at my HS circa early 70’s. And riots…RACE riots. And bullies. I think everyone should realize the world doesn’t revolve around them too. Man(or woman)up! The real world can be a harsh place. My son and brother home school and all the kids(my brother has 10!) are doing great in the “real” world. My kids are grown so it’s a non-sequitur(but both my younger sons NEVER had a non-relative babysitter).

      • I tend to think “man up” works across the board. 😉

        Agreed that people need to lose the narcissism. It seems out of control.

  6. Kids can be taught many things, including awareness, compassion, and courage.
    A lot of people discredit their own kids’ ability to learn and execute, so they CHOOSE to not empower their kids.

    And when kids fail due to the parents’ failure to teach, they blame anything else but themselves and their failure to teach their kids.

  7. My Dad told me one thing I still apply today
    “If you can’t pay anything else, at least pay attention”
    Another was “walk with head up, shoulders back and look like you know where you are going”

    My Dad passed away a long time ago but the wisdom he gave his children has stayed with us for the rest of our lives.

    And yes, was a member of the Greatest Generation.
    Experienced The Great Depression and Second World War.

  8. The media has parents whipped into a frenzy about the dangers of attending school. As noted above, children are more likely to be hurt or killed in car wrecks than by a school shooter. Helicopter parents carefully deliver and pick up their little snowflakes daily out of paranoia not real risk. The media has just made us more aware of what was there to begin with, so it seems that rapes, abductions and mayhem are rampant when they are not. Shielding the little angels will only make them more at risk when they finally leave the nest. Relax, let them ride their bikes to school or walk like like most of us did when we were growing up. The bigger risk is the tripe they are being taught when they get there.

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