As my son gets older and is interacting more with the world around him, I have been trying to figure out ways to make ‘situational awareness’ a part of his life from an early age. Growing up, my dad didn’t have any particular method to make me pay attention to the details of the world around me as far as I can tell, but he did always pay attention to small details about people. He always pointed out accents, mannerisms, posture, and mood of people we interacted with. My mom always played ‘which of these things is not like the others’ in children’s books, but nothing as it related to other people. ‘I Spy’ in the car was always a popular game in the van. The groundwork was laid, but only as a way to pass the time.
In my adult life and especially after I adopted personal defense on as my primary pursuit, I was able to focus this attention to useful details that seem to allow me to see situations unfolding before others are aware of it. For instance, I notice details about vehicles, odd characters in crowds, I see friends in crowds before they see me, I notice things that are strange and otherwise out of place, or when a person’s focus changes to me in a crowd. This isn’t to say I’m a ninja, my filter is just tuned to catch a lot of this stuff. I want the same for my son because I feel it could save his life.
I was recently reading Sentinel, by Patrick McNamara, which is an outstanding book in which the author uses his military and PSD (personal security detail) experience to frame personal protection for a family. It’s a great book, a quick read, and worth the cost (especially the Kindle version). His style of writing is very to the point and has an obvious military flare, which I sort of dig. In it, he highlights a game that you can play with your kids to teach them to pay attention to small details as it relates to the world around them. He calls it The Awareness Game.
Everyone plays ‘I Spy’ with their kids. Usually it’s looking for innocuous things such as colors, numbers, cars, buildings, and so on. Instead of that, ask your children to note small details about the people, things and places you see. Here’s some examples:
- What state was on that red sport car’s license plate?
- What color were the security guard’s shoes? Did he have a gun?
- Is this the same car that was parked here when we arrived? (as you exit the store)
- What color was the truck that we parked next to?
- What was the last mile marker we passed on the highway?
- How many kids did that momma have with her in the grocery store line?
- What was strange about the old man asking for money?
- What was the waiter’s name tonight at dinner?
- What floor did we just get out on? (exiting an elevator)
Asking these types of questions will (should) put your child’s focus out into the world instead of in their immediate surroundings. They might not always answer correctly, but if they start putting importance on seeing details it can only help them. If you make it fun they will probably start to challenge you back, keeping you on your toes. You’re building a teammate from the ground up.
The efficacy of this game is purely hypothetical for me at this point, as my son is still talking baby talk and not potty trained…but I will be playing this game with him as soon as he’s ready. I want to streamline the learning curve for him and give him the tools to live in condition yellow starting early. This isn’t just about spotting bad guys. The ability to recall details like license plates, phone numbers, a person’s description, the address of a building, a flat tire on the family car, etc, is a useful skill that can help your child avoid minor inconveniences, and possibly save his/her life. Let the games begin!
Protect the Brood,
Defensive DaddyPS. Check out the Amazon Store or just do your regular shopping through this Click-Through. You won’t pay more, but I’ll get a few pennies to keep the blog rolling. Thanks.