Indoctrinating the Children – Survival Style

So I went to my daughter’s first grade parent-teacher conference the other day, sat down at a kid-sized desk with the teacher and she starts off by handing me THIS:

And says, almost apologetically, that “we’ve been asked to hand these to parents” as she shrugs. It’s a juicy sized 8.5×11 foldout informational piece on earthquakes in Maine. What, you didn’t know Maine is prone to earthquakes? Well, we ain’t no California, but check the historical Maine earthquake map action that manifests itself when you unfold this bad boy of a publication:

No, this post isn’t about earthquakes in Maine – it’s about … the children. Indoctrinating the children, making them SURVIVAL children, like in Lord of the Flies. Maybe not quite that far, but in raising two young children, any logical prepper must ask – how do I teach the children? And at what time?

Prepping, when viewed as a lifestyle, leaves little room such questioning. You tend the garden, you take the kids with you and they learn by default (as an example). Prepping, when viewed simply as getting some food/water/gear stored up, might be approached a little differently when speaking to kids. What do you say to the child that asks, “Dad, why do we have so many buckets of food in the basement? My friends’ parents don’t have this much?”

Do you say:

A)  You can’t handle the truth,
B)  Because you kids eat too much,
C)  Prepping – duh, or
D)  Because an apocalypse could happen, and when it does, we’ll be ready; but your friends and their parents – they’ll be dead.

There is no right answer. It depends entirely on the child’s age, situation and state-of-mind. One kid may handle the notion of invading hordes of zombies just fine while the same notion keeps another kid up in fear for nights on end. But surely there must be some guidelines on when to talk to a child about prepping. Guidelines that YOU can give ME.

For example, talking to your kid about having flashlights and spare food in case the power ever goes out can happen at any age. But most of us don’t prep for mere power outages. We prep for a grid-down situation, EMP-style where everything goes downhill and societal order collapses. When do you tell your kid about just-in-time delivery and what it would mean if trucking stopped?

When do you teach your kids how to shoot a gun? I remember growing up with my single shot 20 gauge and a full ammo can sitting in my bedroom closet next to my Star Wars figures. What age is too young? Massad Ayoob offers some insight on this in his article, Of Kids and Guns.

How have you talked with your kids about TEOTWAWKI? How did you do it without filling them with fear?

– Ranger Man

BTW: Since new SHTFblog security features have been installed on the site, the amount of spam comments needing has dropped significantly. I’m opening up all old blog posts to comments. I had installed a 20 day limit before the post’s comments automatically closed. That cap has been lifted.

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18 comments… add one
  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. April 18, 2012, 8:41 am

    Definitely hard topic to begin – scaring my children is the last thing I want to do. I don’t think they could handle full bore SHTF scenarios, so I keep it simple.

    We live in hurricane country, so stressing how we should make sure we have some supplies layed up in case we lose power for a couple of days / week gets the idea across. Last year, lost power due to that early February freeze for several days – they HATED that (Dad – its so BOOOORRRRIING! 8^). We cooked on camping stoves, read some books by kerosene lamp (not easy, especially for Olde Eyes Guerra ) but it did make them aware of how things change with just the simple loss of electricity.

    Make a game of it. Voluntarily take a weekend or day and turn off the power. Camp out in your living room and deal with it, teaching and experiencing while its still fun.

    • Odd Questioner April 22, 2012, 7:08 pm

      This solves it, right here.

      I’m kidless, but the answer would be a pretty simple “because I believe in us being prepared, just in case something goes wrong.”

      For the little kids, you point out natural disasters. For the middle kids, you point out power outages and such. For the older kids, you sit them down and detail for them what you think might happen, and all of the reasons you’re prepping.

  • JeanneS April 18, 2012, 8:59 am

    By the time I was full-scale prepping, my kids were in their mid teens and their biggest concern was that their friends didn’t find out what nutbars their parents were. But living in the seismically-prone Pacific Northwest, our family — and most everyone we know! — has always been “prepping” for earthquakes & volcanoes (and extremely aware of floods in many areas; my mom & sister have each been flooded out of their homes twice!), so it’s never been a problem to teach kids in age-appropriate ways, “Here’s what you do if the ground shakes,” and “Here’s what to do if you’re outdoors & encounter volcanic ash in the air,” etc. It’s no different than putting a life jacket on a kid every time they get into a boat, or doing fire drills in your home, or reviewing the rules about not touching dogs you don’t know before you go to the park. You just impress upon them that this is important for safety, without making it something to be anxious about.

    But I personally don’t think kids should really be made aware of certain details of your preps — like just HOW much you’ve got — until they’re old enough to understand OPSEC. You don’t want your kid innocently announcing to the playground that “My Daddy has lots of guns, and we’re going on vacation for a week” and maybe one of your kid’s little classmates repeats this to their relative who’s been convicted of burglary!

  • momengineer April 18, 2012, 9:18 am

    I agree with the above. For us, I relate it to the natural disasters that happen in our area- notably tornadoes. Didn’t yall have a bad snowstorm up in Maine (with lots of power outages) last year? Relate it to that. That way, you reassure them (mom and dad have got this covered) versus freaking them out (there is going to be an EMP and we are all gonna die or live like pioneers!) That is as far as it goes with us- they do ask “why so much food?” and I say its to take care of family in case we are without power for a long time again (it was a week outage last april). They know not to talk about what I have stored…and i have to trust that they don’t (since I can’t completely hide what we have stored)- they also know not to talk about what we paid for our last vehicle, family matters of sickness, etc…so it’s more about keeping ALL family business private, versus some big, bad prepping secret (which would make it more tempting to share, imho)

    Likewise with the gun issue. They know we have guns- everytime we visit my parents on the farm, we take them and go shooting in the back fields. They have bb guns that they practice target shooting with. Not interested in “real” guns (aka our guns)- but we stress proper gun handling with the bb guns- so they get in the habit. Stress safety, blah, blah, etc.

    Honestly, all of these issues are like any other aspect of parenting to me- its like the “sex talk”…you can’t limit the transfer of information in one big huge talk. It is something that is best taught in small bits and pieces, over the course of everyday life. (and by the reference to sex, I mean that the information becomes available when the child is curious, and in age appropriate ways). hope that makes sense

  • irishdutchuncle April 18, 2012, 9:47 am

    yeh, what momengineer said. couldn’t have said it nearly as well myself.

    i’m surprised about the earthquakes there. a “winter storm” has always seemed like the most common sense event to be prepared for, here in the “east”. (forget neuclear war/ TEOTWAWKI)

    the correct answer is:
    E) A full tummy helps children stay warm and happy when it’s bad weather outside.

    • irishdutchuncle April 19, 2012, 2:33 pm

      … and casually leave the earthquake pamphlet lying around, where the children can find it. (and look at, when they’re curious…) conversely, don’t leave anything lying around, that you wouldn’t want them to see. lock up all your serious prep stuff.

  • Cold Warrior April 18, 2012, 12:15 pm

    The most deadly events in human history have been political in nature. 100 million deaths from Marxism in the last century alone.

    As an old fashioned American, I understand that our Founding Fathers viewed Government as something to be watched, so as to preserve our God given rights.

    We, as a country, are entering into a very unstable time, much more dangerous than anything else a family could face. If we do forget what human nature is, who we are in God’s eyes, and what role Government should play in our lives, we will survive. Start with the basics.

    • Cold Warrior April 18, 2012, 1:54 pm

      If we DO Not forget, (my error)

  • Jason April 18, 2012, 1:49 pm

    An excellent post Ranger & you bring up some great points with regards to children.

    Your illustration of having a 20 gauge shotgun in your room at such an early age was perfect. There was nothing wrong with that in fact, it was quite normal, but today??? If some parent under the age of 40 in any reasonably sized community witnessed that, it would probably be a call Child Protective Services & (they’d) show up with a Michael Moore type film crew in tow.

    After the police reports, showing the gun receipt, explanations to the D.A. social services morons that you are not Muslim, you then need to find your child who was placed in the Foster Care maze. Then come home to the remnants of a burned cross on your lawn for teaching a child such a thing!

    So what changed?

    The definition of parental leadership changed & moved away from spanking a child to reasoning with them to gain their friendship, agreement & respect. Excuse me, did Jason actually say – to gain their respect??!! You’ve got be be out of your freaking mind! But sadly, it’s true, just look around ….

    As many of you are aware, I am a born again Christian & do believe in Biblical instruction. I am not an “in your face” type and simply adhere to that proven wisdom. There is a scripture that has been taught to kids for more years than I care to count, without objection I might add, that says “obey your parents in ALL things” not the things they agree with or are what progressive thinking is about.

    I grew up calling adults sir, ma’m, Mr., Mrs. etc, never, ever by their first name. If any adult reprimanded you for doing X, you listened & obeyed – at least temporarily however, that instruction became relatively embedded. It was a simple, unquestioned respect.

    Today, kids are openly defiant & many have no qualms to get in your face while hiding behind the “I am under 18, so you cannot hit me” or “my parents will sue you” lunacy.

    This is the overlay with which we parents of younger kids must BATTLE daily because it is mainstream, not the exception.

    I disagree that there are no right answers for kids & believe that that thought is a function of our indoctrinated, more liberal society. As an example, would you reason with your child if he/she was standing near poison oak or a rattle snake? Obviously not.

    Next, the last thing you ever want to do is create anxiety in a child because they do have the tools to deal with that input – think about it, adults can barely cope with anxiety. Those of whom are divorced with younger kids must never “bad mouth” the other parent (although it is quite tempting) because it creates “splitting” – devastating position for a child, forcing allegiance towards one & opposition of the other.

    In the mind of a child, they can only comprehend both parents being equally valuable so, to put your ill feelings out to the developing mind is just plain stupid. Get a grip & shut up. It may be a bitter pills to swallow but it beats the longer term problem of an unruly & confused child.

    Prepping is a way of life. The minute you become a “nutbar” in mentality, motivated by the latest end of the world thoughts or motivations, that fixation trickles down to the little ones because they are followers. Conversely, if it’s an everyday part of your life & use prudence by rotating food items or what have you, it isn’t an issue. Also, why don’t kids ever question why grocery stores, Costco, Walmart or wherever have shelves stocked to the brim with a decade’s worth of food, are they the ultimate prepper?? No, because it is considered normal >> by the parent <<< to be socked up. I understand they are a retail outlet but my point remains – it is considered normal.

    I live in Earthquake country & if my child was given a hand out like you received, I'd smile, say thank you & be done with it. Me personally, I'd never go into any detail about the potentials of that kind of disaster. I'd lightly touch on it & move on.

    Kids want swings, bicycles, dolls, tree branches they can make guns & swords out of & watch America's Funniest Videos – not information about the rise of socialism, solar flares & EMP, planes flying into buildings, cities running out of money & closing our borders from the brown influx. Heck, that is difficult for the best of the adults to handle.

    About sports …. it is supposed to be about fun & learning fundamentals, not thinking about negotiating eight figure contracts & endorsements. It is call "Little League" for a reason.

    Children need leaders & role models & need to be groomed age appropriate. Put away the iPad, stop text messaging, talking on the cell every waking moment, taking kids to the office for "a quick minute" & be present with your child when they are with you – it will save you a lifetime's worth of hassle. Besides, children are the only legacy of any redeeming value.

    Life is shorter than you think ….

  • AilimD'SilverFir April 18, 2012, 4:34 pm

    I was one of the very YOUNG children hoping for disasters. It was the one time my peers would listen to me, as I was not in the “popular” crowd. I never realized my family was Preppers until I hit 20 some, we just did what we did. Growing our own food, raising chickens for eggs, cattle for meat and milk, those were all part of being a farming family. One year we moved to our own property finally, and dad said we had to make a decision, no electricity or no plumbing for a year because we could only afford one at the beginning, we went with out electricity. Dad turned it into an ADVENTURE, not a problem….(Thats called good parenting btw)….and that year when school got closed down for 5 days, because the roads were closed, and power was out, we returned to school only to find that our class mates had been cold and hungry. Thanks to mom’s canning, and extra basics put away and our handy dandy wood stove, it was a VACATION to us kids! We didnt think it had been bad.

    All that I am trying to stress, is that it is how you have raised your children, and treat the situation that makes them think things are normal or not? Its up to the PARENTS to be PARENTS. Nuff Said

  • Patti April 18, 2012, 7:37 pm

    My strategy has always been to give age appropriate info and leave it at that. They are usually satisfied. If they still have fear, however, you have to deal with it. Sometimes a child’s fear is an opportunity to talk about trusting God. Sometimes dealing with a child’s fear means giving the child a more “adult set” of information.
    When my husband told our son that “Mommy makes a lot more money than Daddy”, my 7 year old started to think. He realized that mom was his primary caretaker, and his ride to hockey, golf, scouts, and Church as well. He began to look pale and when I asked him what was wrong, he said, “What will happen to me if you die?” I tried to reassure him for several days. He kept asking more pointed questions. I finally realized he really wanted to know everything. I sat down with him with my will and my life insurance and gave him all the details. Then he was fine. Never brought it up again. If they need the whole truth, be sure they get it from you.

    • Brad April 18, 2012, 10:34 pm

      Gotta agree with you Patti. Throw out a few “one-liners”. If they bite, teach them more. They want to learn. You’re their mom/dad. They STRIVE to learn from you. Tell them the facts (age appropriate) and explain further. If you have been raising them right( in my opinion), they will not be scarred, but will know that it is for their own good. Why don’t I point my .22 and my foot dad? Why did you get mad at me for pointing it at yours? Rules (ways of living) are rules (ways of living). Even if it means that buying extra beans are not cause we’re extra hungry.

  • KC April 18, 2012, 10:37 pm

    All three kids used to think I was insane until about two years ago, when the DOJ announced that they were going after certain groups in Louisiana because of what happened during Hurricane Katrina. Since they’ve seen the news with their own eyes, they all know now that I was right all along and the great recession of 2008 has now turned into the Greater Depression of the 2010’s. It’s most certainly going to get worse before it gets better or in other words, we seriously need a Libertarian in the White House and a Libertarian Congress, then it will get better.

  • Wendy Brown April 18, 2012, 10:42 pm

    That’s such an unpleasant word, really … indoctrination. It has such negative connotations – like we’re trying to brainwash our children into some belief system or other – and I know that’s not what any of “us” are doing ;).

    I do, however, understand your point. In my family, we’ve never approached prepping as “getting ready for the big one”, but rather as increasing self-sufficiency with the final goal of being debt-free and as self-sufficient as is possible in the suburbs. What we’ve tried to stress is that if we’re mostly self-sufficient, when things, like increasing gasoline prices or power outages, happen, it won’t matter, because we won’t be dependent on those things. By playing the self-sufficiency angle, what my husband and I are giving our children is control over their own fates, and that’s an incredibly empowering feeling – for both adults and children.

    The logic goes something like: if ‘something’ happens, and you’re self-sufficient, it won’t matter, because you’ll have the skills and supplies you need. If ‘nothing’ happens and you’re self-sufficient, you own a nice house in a desirable location, you have no bills, and you can retire while you’re young enough to still enjoy splitting wood ;). Either way, by “prepping” we win. That’s what we’re trying to give our children – the sense that they are in control, and don’t have to be manipulated by a corrupt system designed to enslave them.

    • Ranger Man April 19, 2012, 6:47 pm

      Indoctrinate was used in jest. My writing is often tongue-in-cheek.

  • TiredOldGuy April 19, 2012, 7:42 am

    As a new-comer to prepping, I think what really got me to open my eyes was my own curiosity. My father in-laws gentle nudging in the right direction. He didn’t try to scare the living daylights out of me, but truthfully answered my questions – giving no more than I had asked, but no less. Perhaps this is the way to go with children as well.

    P.S. Keep up the good work, and thanks for the posts on firearms – living in Australia means any talk of guns is Verboten.

  • Steve April 23, 2012, 11:21 am

    Children need to be kept innocent. Keep them away from doomsday type stuff. Not sure if anyone has seen the TV show doomsday preppers, wouldn’t recommend it honestly. The episodes I see have the children directly involved. There is almost no filter from the parents. I think thats so wrong. Kids worry about monsters under there beds. Do we really need to fill there heads with SHTF scenarios!!!

    With that said I believe in making my kids tough and smart. We go camping, fishing, hiking. We work in the garden, split firewood cook on camp stoves. This is “all for fun”. Its viewed as a game and or recreation. How to use a compass, how to navigate, clean and cook fish etc. This is all viewed as fun by the kids, and it is. But it also teaches my kids skills they need to know to be independent. Once they get a little older we will start shooting. I dont see a magic age to introduce children to fire arms. I dont have a number picked out in my mind. Once they display enough responsibility we will start with BB guns and cans. Just gave my boys there first pocket knifes (swiss army) and fire steels. They have there own tackle boxes and fishing poles. It helps teach them responsibility for the operation on there gear.

    Please people keep the kids away from the SHTF stuff. It can all be taught to them in a innocent way.

    • irishdutchuncle April 25, 2012, 3:30 am

      giving their children a childhood, was one of the greatest things the greatest generation did. (unfortunately we still grew up to be “baby boomers”) even during the “Great Depression” the children sometimes came away with some pleasant memories of childhood. (the child-labor laws are mostly a good thing. coal mines and textile mills are no place for kids…)

      there are still too many “strangers” lurking around. make sure the kids know to run away from them.


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