Teaching Your Child To Never Open The Door For Strangers

I’ve talked before about how important I feel it is to teach our children about the dangers of this world, from not going along with a stranger, to being able to escape the house if there was ever a fire.

It is our job to empower our children with the knowledge they need to help themselves as much as possible.

girl looking through a peep hole

But it’s a scary world out there, and as a parent it’s your job to do everything you can to protect your children.

Among the most important things you can teach them is how to deal with strangers. This is because one of the most dangerous things a child can do in the home is answering the door for someone they don’t know.

In this article, we will discuss why it’s so vital that kids to never, ever open the door for strangers, and what they should do if someone comes to the door.

What is at Stake

It’s important to teach your kids that they should never open the door for strangers because it can be very dangerous.

If a bad guy is at the door like the proverbial big bad wolf, your child could be in danger of being kidnapped or hurt.

There have been so many cases over the years of children being abducted after answering the door for a stranger. No matter the context, it’s just not worth the risk.

This is because criminals of all stripes, including child molesters and kidnappers, increasingly knock on doors for false pretenses as a way of gaining immediate entry to the home or making a “soft pass” prior to committing their crime later.

This criminal reconnaissance is for the purposes of gathering intelligence that will help them target entry points, belongings or even people for their nefarious deeds.

Most worryingly of all, there is a definite trend of predators dressing up as deliverymen, police, utility workers and other “friendly” uniforms that might lull an adult, to say nothing of a child, into a false sense of security.

Evil has ever resided in the world but today the stakes are higher than ever, which is why it’s so important that you work with your children today so they know what to do, even if you are at home with them and especially if you are not at home.

The Basics of Stranger Awareness

One of the things we’ve taught our kids is to NEVER open the door for a stranger. To help them discern who is behind that knock at the door we have installed a child height peep hole.

So, if a man comes to the door claiming to be Daddy, they will be able to check before unlocking it.

They feel smarter knowing what to do, and I feel safer knowing that if I’m in the bathroom and somebody comes to the door, the children know not to open it unless they can see for themselves that it’s their Daddy.

Anyone else who comes a knockin’ can wait for me to answer.

The single best thing you can do to prevent tragedy is to constantly drill your child that they never, ever answer the door when there is a knock unless mommy or daddy is right there with them.

They don’t try to answer the door, they don’t run to the door, they don’t try to talk to anyone through the door: they only come and get mommy or daddy. They should know to never let anyone in the house unless they are with an adult.

Obviously, teenagers and young adults might be afforded more discretion and responsibility as their age and maturity dictates.

You should also warn children against talking to anyone who attempts to ask questions through the door. Any adult who would do so with a child is raising every kind of red flag!

If, for whatever reason, you are not at home to handle the situation all children, of any age, should know to call 911 as soon as possible in case of a suspicious person loitering at or near the front door.

Teaching your kids how to call for help in this way is important, as inexperience can lead to mistakes that might affect response time of the police.

Even if it turns out to be a false alarm, that’s okay. The police will sort things out; it’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to the safety of your children.

Leverage Security Systems to Your Advantage

While it’s always important to teach kids to be aware of the situation and take the necessary precautions when unexpected visitors knock on the door, you can also use technology to give you and them an extra layer of protection and avoid anxiety.

Home security systems are more affordable and advanced than ever before, and they can give you some much-needed peace of mind when it comes to the safety of your family.

Many home security systems now come with features like doorbell and exterior cameras, motion sensors and smart locks that can provide a high-definition, panoramic view of whoever is at the door.

This is a great way to keep an eye on who is coming and going from your home, whether you are at home or out. You won’t need to use a peephole, peek out a window or any other such things.

It is also a great way to reassure kids that they can always safely check and see who is at the door, and if it is a member of the family or a trusted adult.

If you have a home security system, make sure to include the kids in a safety drill and provide them with access to the app so they can see for themselves how it works. This will furthermore give them a sense of ownership and control over their safety, which is important for kids of all ages.

child by the window

Verifying Friends and Family in an Emergency

In addition to having a plan for unexpected visitors, it’s also important to have a plan for identifying trusted adults and other friends that they might not necessarily see often. This is especially critical in the case of people who might come over when you are not at home with your child.

You should sit down with your kids and make a list of people who are allowed to enter the house when you are not there.

This list should include their names, phone numbers and picture. It should also include a code word, a special password that you will share with the trusted adult.

Once you have made the list, go over it with your kids so they are familiar with it. Take extra time to make sure they understand the code word so they won’t forget it. It is a good idea to help your kids pick passwords they are likely to recall, but are otherwise hard to guess or fake.

In the event that someone comes to the door and claims to be a trusted family friend or relative on the list, your kids can quickly verify their identity by asking for their name, looking at the list and then asking them to provide the code word.

Impress upon your children in the strongest terms that no code word means no entry!

If the person at the door cannot provide the correct code word, your kids should never open the door for them, no matter what. If they are insistent or become aggressive, your kids should call 911 immediately as outlined above.

While it’s impossible to predict every possible eventuality or interaction, having a general plan for your kids to handle know and unknown visitors with some codewords in place is a great idea.

This will help give you peace of mind and keep your kids safer and more prepared in the event of an actual emergency.

When are Kids Old Enough to Answer the Door Themselves?

Most parents want their kids to be independent, but there’s a fine line between independence and justified caution. So when is it appropriate to allow kids to answer the door on their own?

There are a few factors to consider before making the decision. The first is age. Generally speaking, kids under the age of 12 shouldn’t be left alone to answer the door.

This is because they may not be able to properly assess a situation regardless and could let a stranger into the house even when they think it is obviously safe. As kids get into their teenage years, their intelligence and observational skills improve rapidly.

Another factor to consider is maturity level. Some kids mature faster than others and may be able to handle answering the door on their own at an earlier age.

If you’re unsure whether your child is ready, you can always start by having them answer the door when you’re at home.

This way, you can see how they handle it and offer guidance if needed, and as always react to an emergency or bad interaction.

The last factor to consider is your child’s personality. If your child is shy or introverted, they may not feel comfortable answering the door on their own. In this case, it’s best to wait until they’re a little older or pair them up with a sibling who can help out.

Outgoing, social kids might well want to answer the door on their own at an earlier age. For instance, I loved answering the door for the pizza delivery guy when I was small! Mom or dad was always right there, of course.

In the end, there is no perfect answer to this question since every family and child is different. Parents have their own concerns, naturally!

Ultimately, it’s up to you as a parent to decide when your child is ready to answer the door on their own.

Use your best judgement after taking all of these factors into account. And if in doubt, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

A Knock at the Door Doesn’t Have to be Scary

While you can never completely eliminate the risk that comes with strangers knocking on your door, you can take steps to mitigate that risk by teaching your children about stranger danger so they know what to do in case someone knocks and also in case of an emergency.

And if you don’t have a home security system, now might be the time to invest in one and teach your kids how to access it. What other safety measures have you put in place for your family? Let us know down in the comments below.

9 thoughts on “Teaching Your Child To Never Open The Door For Strangers”

  1. Not really a stranger danger story but along those lines. We always told our kids that if they find themselves separated from us in a crowd they should go to a woman with a child and ask for help. Well we went to the zoo one day and my middle daughter, being eight at the time, lost sight of us for a moment. She employed our plan and asked for help from a family. The plan worked and they took her to the security office where we later found her. Our only flaw in our instruction was to tell her to give us a minute to find her. She stepped away from us for around thirty seconds, panicked then disappeared. My heart stopped for awhile until she was returned. Longest 30 minutes of my life.

    To bad we have to protect our kids from the bad out there but it is a must. Nothing takes the place of keeping a close eye on them.

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  2. Great post Kendra! It is sad that we have to teach our children to watch out for EVERYONE, not just strangers. Our eldest daughter knows that she is supposed to check out the window first before opening the door. But we also have a very hard to open deadbolt in place which makes me feel even better 🙂
    And my parents do the same thing Pat’s dad did. But they do it ALL the time. It really upsets my husband and I. Especially since my mother is a preschool teacher and regularly teaches her students about stranger danger…I just don’t get it. We just keep reinforcing in her that we don’t know them and you have to be careful of strangers.

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  3. We taught our kids not to ever open the door for anyone. I explained that anyone who needed to be in the house would have a key, so there was no need for them to open the door. This didn’t make my mother very happy when she had to wait on the porch while my kids got me from another part of the house, but it didn’t hurt her. 😉 For young children I think it’s asking too much for them to have to decide who is safe to let in and who isn’t. At the same time, we did teach them to talk to strangers, but only when Mom or Dad were there for back-up if it was needed. This way they learned when talking to someone felt ‘right’ and when it didn’t. (We live in the South where not speaking to strangers is considered rude.)

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  4. Kendra, I read also the post about strangers abducting the kids, but now in schools they changed the “training” programs to include people from the family and tell them where they should never be touched for instance. I know it’s very depressing to think of family as a potential danger but have you talked about that to your kids?

    Thanks! By the way I greatly appreciated the post on fire safety!

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    • Sophie,

      It is sad that we have to warn our kids to watch out for family members hurting them. I’ve explained that it is not okay for *anybody* (including friends and family) to touch the children on their “private” parts; only Mommy if something is wrong (not even Daddy) or the doctor if Mommy or Daddy is there and says it’s appropriate.

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  5. Amen! I agree. I also think this is good to teach our children regarding people they may see periodically…but who aren’t part of their everyday lives. (ie: postman, pro-pane driver, meter reader, etc.)

    I recently had propane delivered to my home. My dad of all people was present with me and my grand-daughter in the yard( this grand-daughter is being taught by her daddy and mommy about ‘stranger danger’) anyway, My dad was telling her to say hello to the man, but she didn’t know him and she ran straight to me. I think my dad was embarrassed a little, but I intervened and explained the situation to the propane driver (who incidentally was only filling in for our regular driver). She KNEW AT 2 YRS OLD…she didn’t know the man.

    Very good post and reminder!

    Pat

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  6. I agree that kids need the power of knowledge to make it through in this world we live in. Extreme sheltering can be so dangerous, IMO. They need to be equipped with the knowledge that will help them, not harm them. At our house, NO ONE gets to the door without being seen first and I really like that. In fact, most people will think twice about coming up our rough lane.

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